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Unnameable 2

Unnameable 2


After the explorations with UNNAMEABLE 1, I could not progress to another performance without renaming it again UNNAMEABLE 2.

Bo Petersen joined me in exploring what this performance would mean. It ended with a narrative, a recorded rendition of my deepest words on Africa.

The Johannesburg performances of unnameable 2 were scripted by the Cape Town based dancer choreographer performing with Nobonke attached to her original parental ones: Magdalena Maria Johanna.

To quote the text written by Mama Nobonke van Tonder:

“Nobonke is my Xhosa name. It was given to me by my Xhosa family, they said it means “we are all together now”, or “complete”. Of course this name confused me badly and got me into lots of trouble. I made many mistakes … until I decided that Nobonke actually means “becoming” rather than complete. I feel much better now.”
“… “I never really considered dropping any of these names. They have served me well and I feel I have earned them. And besides, I do not distress the ancestors unnecessarily. ”
“Since as I have become completely nameable and will gratefully add any more names to my lineage. The only way to fully and actively embody all these names, at once … is to dance.”
Unnameable: Contact Sheet

(and further...)

With my name-dances I feel myself welcoming … engaging in

Murky and dangerous body-religions.

In Eurocentric persuasions of shape and sound. I engage with my foremothers who have a clearyes, no> and silence> on their lips.

And with women who write the body and her openings.

In these dances I call on the innocent and treacherous of the African legend.

I leap to abundantly African promises of fulfilled desires;


Between my powerlessness as white, South African and strongly afraid,

And my insatiable desire to mobilise my pioneering spirit. All over again.”

“Forgive me for disappointing you: In order for me to embody my world as the dancer, I am less and less capable of becoming this world. I cannot any longer become the violence of conquest, genocide, slavery, debt and bondage, extermination of indigenous cultures, poverty, military economies, the loss of any semblance of law and order, terror, the emaciation of the female body that >should> bear life. I cannot truly dance this.

My dances can therefore no longer be said to be inspired, or as expressions of art.

Like the musician who asks, what is the nature of the sound that would reflect the times that I live in, the dancer in me does not only ask, how am I to dance? But rather, am I still to dance? What and who am I dancing -for? Like the rain coming from a rain dance how will my dance be useful to you as my community, and my world if I am to be the dancer of today?

So I guess I hereby have to admit that the dance has become too powerful for me, the dancer. Often this admission is so unbearable that many dancers become spiritless, banal, they sell their souls, they destroy the only body they have, some spiral into intoxicated oblivion in an attempt to call on the spirit of the dance, or the ancestors - to dance them.

I’d rather dancers were a raging pack affirmed by their escalating dances immaculately contained in robustly disciplined bodies: dancing rebellions against inhumanity, against reckless waste, dancing the end of all times, invoking great acts of soul and courage and urging those who lead to become true warriors for one moment of honorable work, dignity and truth. My tribe of dancers would raise the spirit of justice as a revolution, and hopefully we would survive.

At the end of the day, my dances are my rites of passage that must be danced because I am changing so rapidly, that it is only by dancing that I truly know how… I am changed. My body must> encapsulate the spirit that has moved on.

Whether or not my body can sustain the crucial meeting point of the times I live in remains to be seen. But I am trying to find my self between the beginnings of the self and the chaos of my strongest feelings, as South African, as woman, white, strongly afraid.


My desire is for Africa to re-embody herself again. If this dance could restructure reality itself, expand and deepen the capacity to re-inhabit her body without shame, subjugation, without plunder or famine, but humbly, with great fear and wonder for all that she has delivered, only then would I call this dance a work of art.

With each step I take on this land, the fine dust of medicine settles into the mysterious festering of my own wound scabbed with Africa, upon Africa, upon Africa. This medicine prepares my body for that estranged and vital being human, called a South African. I am becoming a sprawling ghetto of medicine, the South African diaspora: the bow, the wound, the becoming because this is where I live and nowhere else in the whole world is the medicine, the becoming….this…strong.

I no longer ask what I can do for my country, but look at me, look what Africa has done: I am a language-less being, with a specific sense of life, a desire for a change most definitely unnameable, dissolving all false barriers to celebrate great and unknown continuities.


I find the shape of Africa pleasing to the tip of my fingers, gentle on my eye, uncannily balanced, a liquid consciousness. I have never heard the name Africa being said carelessly. Africa is the name that my ears only hear as the great neutrality between exuberance and disdain. With my love I instinctively protect all her possible meanings. I hear only that which bears an endless ribbon worn at the entrance of every household---humble and less humble. A ribbon for everything that we understand of Africa. The rest is still, unseen, unheard, unknown, unmoved…., unnameable”. (End).

UNNAMEABLE 2 was performed at the FNB DANCE FESTIVAL 2002.