Inhabitant – City and Suburban, Johannesburg

Inhabitant is a site-specific performance that was conceived for urban spaces undergoing demographic and economic change. The work was initially developed in Johannesburg (2011), and then rearticulated for Istanbul (2011), a second site in Johannesburg (2012), and San Francisco (2014). Through each articulation, the work continued to involve an intensive site-specific research process culminating in street actions and a political gathering where the issues of the individual neighbourhoods were addressed – always countered or partnered with the dancers’ movement and the possibilities of light in the area.

In Johannesburg, Inhabitant focused on neighbourhood on the edge of the Central Business District. City and Suburban renamed Maboneng by a private developer and a self proclaimed cultural precinct. Interventions in the neighbourhood have alienated long-standing traders, vendors, and residents, creating and impacting adversely on daily social and spatial practice.

The work is carefully orchestrated to create points for the spectacle – the speeches and the arrivals or departures of the dignitaries: the base facade – to intersect with the ordinary. The performers intentionally blend in and out of the crowd and passers-by become complicit as spectators, drawing attention to everyday encounters: the movement of people through the site, during a subtly shifting lightscape, beginning at dusk and continuing through nightfall. The audience will most often remember the spectacle, forgetting the ordinary, waiting for something to begin, making small talk that fills the time, and watching others to see where to look. The work speaks to the performance of bureaucracy as a superficial gesture to democratic and inclusive processes within city planning and management.

Created by choreographer Sello Pesa, Vaughn Sadie, and the Ntsoana Contemporary Dance Theatre, Inhabitant features long-time company members Humphrey Maleka and Brian Mtembu.

Inhabitant was commissioned by the Goethe Institut Johannesburg and presented at GoetheonMain in Maboneng in 2011.