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Dance And Music Reviews : U-zulu Presents S. African Drama

September 29, 1986|CHRIS PASLES

The culture of black South Africa was vividly presented by the emigre troupe U-Zulu Dance Theater at El Camino College Saturday.

Originally performers in the controversial South African musical "Ipi Tombi" (brought to the United States in 1980), the U-Zulu dancers stayed here after that venture disbanded, settling in the San Francisco area and using their performances to protest their government's racial policies.

Five of the nine now face deportation proceedings and their cases will be decided in court next June, according to company member Dingane Lelokoane.

The company's protest took the form of a four-act drama, "Igugu-Lethu" (Our Pride), which traced a young black villager's effort to find a better life in Johannesburg only to face the humiliations of apartheid. At the end, he returned home to rouse his fellow villagers to resist and rebel.

Sadly, the plot was sometimes diffuse and unclear, but the young villager's frustrations were strongly expressed through the company's deliberate use of untranslated native dialogue.

Similarly, a single incident could convey the sense of oppression under apartheid: not just a policeman's demanding a passbook from someone without one, but also his arrogant attitude as he strutted off whistling a banal European tune.

That tune was made to sound particularly alien by establishing an exhilarating, indigenous musical culture elsewhere, especially by choral leader Mubi Meredith Mathunjwa's singing.

Contributing in kind was the galvanic dancing: the men as stamping, high-kicking warriors, the women's mastery of flashy and vigorous articulations, the mystical slowness of the snake dance. Together, songs and dances suggested that the harmony of village life--which the narrator claimed was lost forever--may in part be recovered.

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