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DEATH OF KHULEKANI QWABE (article first published : 2005-04-29)

The dance world has lost a fine dancer and choreographer with the death of Khulekani Qwabe.

The following is an extract from a speech made by Jay Pather, Artistic Director of Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre, at Khulekani’s memorial service speech.

“Khulekani was a profound artist and a warm friend. Like all artists he shared the demons and madness we all know of and fought his with quiet courage sometimes falling at most times flying. More than anything he had a palpable passion for the creating of dance and the teaching of it.

He was one of the founder members of the historic Phenduka Training Programme and Dance Company that spawned many of the current luminaries in South African dance. He went on to become a fulltime dancer with the Jazzart Dance Company in Cape Town. For Jazzart, he contributed significantly to all of its great early groundbreaking and intercultural works such as Arathi, Short Stories and Ekannievatie and subsequently danced with Siwela Sonke.

He collaborated extensively with the artist Anne du Beaufort on works that were performed in South Africa and in France. For Siwela Sonke he created searing and complex portraits of carefully etched characters in recent works such as Shifting Spaces Tilting Time, Neworks, High Art and A State of Grace. His choreography had begun to grow in maturity and power as in the workPrisoners seen at the BAT Centre as part of director David Gouldie's (of Dancers CoOp and Fantastic Flying Fish) showcase of the dance companies of Durban.

His teaching was legendary from Cape Town to Durban, he taught whoever, whenever, students, children, professional dancers - he greatly influenced students at the Durban Institute of Technology and more than just a teacher of contemporary dance, he was one of the first teachers to codify and teach Shembe Dance.

Khulekani had a generous and kind spirit and if he asked of the world anything he asked us to take him as he was. He was persistent and a pest, wanting every single chance to make available to the outside an inner world of great passion, dark dreams and an unflagging vision.

I am devastated by the loss of an artist, a teacher and a friend. We can only say quite simply to a large spirit, a profound teacher, an impassioned artist and a kind soul, Hamba Kahle Qwabe, Till we meet again.”




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