The musical is a perfect mix of energetic African, jazz
and modern dances, African music instruments blended with beautiful
lyrics, insightful poetry and colorful choreography. The musical,
African Footprint produced in South Africa
by Richard Loring incorporates elements of social/family life of South
Africans in a fictional story with happy end. The ensemble includes
Black, White, female and male South African dancers and singers.
AFRITOPIC met two of the dancers/singers before the show in Berlin.
The gentleman called Zulu and the lady dancer/lead singer by the name
Motulati speak about their profession and goals in the following interviews with AFRITOPIC.
What is your professional background?
I am a dancer; a ballet dancer. I studied ballet as well as modern jazz
and graduated as a ballet teacher. In the ballet school, I was the only
black student. After my graduation, I experienced discrimination and
racism in my attempt to start my profession as a ballet teacher. The
mothers of the white students did not want me to teach their children.
Even my teacher did not like the idea of me teaching white students. I
realized that I have no chance of being a teacher and had to give up. I
searched for other jobs and was lucky to find appointment with
television studio to participate in educational and advertising
programs. This was a great relief for me financially because I needed
money to support myself. I did not have a father to support me and my
mother was just struggling to make a living. My father died when I was 2
years old. In fact I had to help my mother financially and support my
only sister whenever necessary.
Life was definitely not easy for you. Did you have relatives or friends
who supported you to overcome some of the difficulties you had?
There was a lady who choreographed my dance shows. This lady was always
giving me moral support and encouraging me to continue my studies. There
were also a couple of friends who were telling me to go ahead and
achieve my goals. I appreciated all the moral supports and motivating
comments. However, I had to solve the financial problems myself. That is
why I was happy to have the job with the television studio and later
appointment as a dancer with a group in South Africa.
When and how did you become a member of the African Footprint group?
I joined the African Footprint group in Cape Town. That was in January 2003. As mentioned earlier, I was earning money
by working for the television studio and as a dancer. Meanwhile, I was
getting tired of dancing from till and wanted to be
engaged in a more interesting project. I learnt that there was audition
for African Footprint in Sun City. This seemed to be a
good opportunity for me and I contacted the company. I was told that I
did not have to take part in the audition because the director is
familiar with my performances. I was immediately offered a job with the
company and started dancing for one the company’s projects called
extravaganza. In the year 2000, I took part in a shoe called
“Power”. After seeing me perform in the show, Richard Loring
(Executive Producer/Director of the company) and Debbie Rakusin
(Choreographer) invited to take part in other shows of the company.
Incidentally, one of the lead singers of African Footprint fell sick and
I was offered to take up her role for the next show.
So you had to take up the role as a dancer and singer. Did you have any
training as a singer?
No. I never had any training as a singer. I believe it is my natural
talent. God has given me the talent to sing. I am able to play my role
in African Footprint by combining my training as a dancer with my
natural talent as a singer.
Could you give a short description of your role in African Footprint?
I play the role of a woman from the rural area that goes to town to look
for her husband. The script depicts a typical scenario in South Africa in which a married
South African man leaves his family in the rural area to work in the
mines near the townships. While leaving in the town, the man is lured by
sophisticated light-complexioned elegantly dressed women. The man
becomes infatuated and forgets his family back home. His wife decides to
look for him and remind him of his responsibility. She eventually finds
him in amusement room with other women from town. The scene on stage
expresses the despair and hurt the woman feels as well as an appeal for
women solidarity to fight against men’s adultery and imposition. Continue>
Batzofin (Associate Producer /
Pollecutt (deceased; Music /
Farmer (Set Designer)
Hutchinson (Lighting Designer)
Being part of the show involves a lot of travelling and being away
from your loved ones for example your mother. Does this affect your
emotional feelings negatively?
It is natural that people do sometimes have bad emotional feelings or get
depressed. I cry when I am emotional. But at the end of the day, I lift up
myself again. I ask myself, “Why should I be in such a mood for a long
time?” I’ll then tell myself that life goes on and I have to be
strong. I do not go to anybody for advice when I am in a depressive
emotional mood because people generally have different opinions that may
not necessarily be helpful. I sum up the energy to get back on to my feet
and the next day, I feel better.
You are far away from home. How do keep the bond between you and your
I keep the bond by phone calls. I discuss with my mother every Sunday for
about 20 minutes. She sends me SMS message if there is an urgent issue she
wants to discuss with me. My mother is my best friend. My only sister and
cousins are my closest friends. I do not have other close friends apart
from them. I grew up in Soweto amidst different
tribes. The tribal differences usually result in misunderstandings and
problems. While growing up, I tried to avoid problems by avoiding close
friendships with people who are not related to me. The fact that my father
died when I was only two years old also impact my attitude towards close
friendship. I was always sad when other children talked about their
fathers and what their fathers did for them. I had nothing to say about my
father and asked myself, “Why did my father die so early?”
How is the communication between members of the group? Is the African
Footprint group like a family?
Communication between members of the group is very good. We are like a
family. When I joined the African Footprint team in Cape Town, I only knew two
members of the group. With so many people in the group, I sometimes felt
left out. I decided to organize a get-together party that would enable me
and other members of the group to know each other. Each of us contributed
50 Rands for a Barbeque party on the beach. At the party, we introduced
ourselves, had a lot of fun and got to know each other better. The
atmosphere within the group is superb. If there are differences, we sit
down together I talk about our differences. We do not indulge ourselves in
grudges. This makes us to know and understand each other better. I
practice openness. I let people know my feelings, what I like and what I
don’t. There is no point hiding my feelings. If people do not know the
way I feel, they would end up reacting to me wrongly.
Reflecting on your career so far, would you say that you are satisfied
with what you have achieved?
I would not say that. I am very broad-minded. The art sector is not a
stable market. I would like to have my own company. The company would be
an Information Technology company that would include interactive art. I
like to work with people to exchange ideas and knowledge. By applying
modern technology, I would like to present art in a different form.
As a teacher, dancer and singer, what sort of message would you pass on to
people who would like to be a dancer/singer in a musical such as African
Whatever you do in life is possible through the talent the messiah has
given you. Fight for what you believe in and learn from your mistakes. I
would tell people to be truthful to themselves. If you are not truthful to
yourself, nobody would recognize you and what you are preaching.
Personally, I believe in God’s help and I pray a lot. I can only tell
others to pray for God’s help.
What do hope to have achieved in 5 years from now?
I hope to have my own family and a successful company.
Interview with Zulu
Where did you grow up in South
and when were you introduced to dance art?
Zulu: I grew up under the
auspices of my grandmother in Pretoria
till about my 13th birthday. I then moved to live with my
mother for 3 years. My mother got married to another man when I was just 2
years old. Visual art was introduced to me when I was about 6 years old by
my uncle, who was a fine artist. I started doing fine art; drawing and
painting. Though I liked fine art and the creativity involved, I did not
feel like making it my profession. After my secondary school education, I
decided to study law at the University in Pretoria.
But I dropped out after 2 years because I did not like it. I later
enrolled for a 6 months training to become a policeman. This was during
the apartheid period when policemen were targets of anti-apartheid groups.
I still cannot explain today why I took the decision to join the police
force. I was small in stature and the police uniform was too big for me.
May be that was why I was offered an office job in the police department
after my training. However, I did not stay long on the job because I
realized that it was not for me.
I left the police force after 2 months and I decided to
study drama. I felt if I have talent in visual art, I might as well have
some acting talent which I could develop. I contacted a drama company that
offered acting and dance lessons and was offered a place. While with the
company in 1994, one of the dance teachers informed our dance class of a
program that offered 3 years course in African dance, ballet and jazz
dance among others. Though I was not very keen in taking the course, I
decided to follow 3 other members of the class to the audition. I wanted
to see the audition and gain some experience on what is required and how
it is done. Usually the candidate is nervous at auditions. But since I did
not want to take part in the course by all means, I was very relaxed at
the audition and delivered a good presentation of my talent. Continue>
After the audition,
the director of the program immediately told me to take part in the 3
years course. I told him I would think about it and discuss the issue
with my mother. This was necessary because my mother would not like me
to be an artist. The general perception is that an artist does not earn
enough money for a living and is not respected. My mother would rather
want me to become a teacher or a lawyer. I was 18 years old. I thought
about the whole issue and was convinced that I have nothing to loose by
taking part in the 3 years course. I started enjoying the program after
3 months of training despite all the rules and regulations I had to
follow. Yes, there were very stringent rules to follow. I used to be
late for classes in the beginning. One of our teachers then told me that
it is better to be 3 hours earlier as a professional than being one
second late. I got the message and changed my habit. Very high level of
self-discipline was expected of every student. The class started with 28
students. At the end of the 3rd year, there were only 3
students left. I received my diploma after 3 years and attended a one
year course to be a teacher.
I started getting nervous shortly before my graduation
because I knew it would be difficult to get a job. I am qualified but
the choreographers did not know me and most drama companies engage those
they know. I started praying to God everyday to help me. I prayed for an
opportunity that would make choreographers and directors recognize and
acknowledge my talent. God heard my prayers. A week after my graduation
towards the end of 1998, I was informed about the audition for African
Footprint. I went for the audition at which David Matamela
(Choreographer) and Debra Batzofin (Associate Producer / Production
Director) were present. Both of them came to me after the audition and
expressed their wishes to work together with me as part of the African
Footprint team. Being part of the African Footprint team is like a
blessing to me. It is not only the rhythm, the feelings and the
choreography that fascinates me but also the story and the message.
African Footprint tells the story of the struggle of South Africans, South Africa
of today and preaches the gospel of Nelson Mandela to promote peace and
You prayed to God for help. Are you religious?
Zulu: I am a Christian by default
because I grew up with my grandmother who was a Christian. But my uncle
who introduced me to visual art became a Muslim and thus brought me
nearer to Islamic religion. Through his influence, I see the positive
parts of both Christianity and Islam. When I pray to God, I pray to the
almighty. I neither pray to God as a Christian nor as a Muslim.
Was it a dream job for you right from the beginning or did you accept
the role only as a stepping stone for a better offer?
Zulu: The four years course I
attended thought me not only dance art but also to take whatever job I
do very seriously. I was happy to be offered a part in African Footprint
and I vowed to play my role with all the professionalism I have acquired
through my training. By nature, I dedicate myself to what I decide to
do. Even if I am not successful after putting in all my efforts, I have
a clear conscience for giving all I can. I asked God to help me find a
job and the Almighty helped. I have committed and dedicated myself to
African Footprint. I am happy to be a member of the group and I love
playing my role. Meanwhile I have been on stage in the show for more
than 2000 times. I play my role with all my energy each time I am on
stage. The audience should have the very best of me in every show.
Which role do you play in African Footprint?
Zulu: My role brings some
humor in the musical. I play the role of a rascal, vagabond or a clown
in the family. I am always going against the mainstream. These
characters are illustrated by the dances I perform.
You have played your role in African Footprint for more than 2000 times
with all your energy. How do you keep your high level of performance on
days you are not in good mood?
Zulu: As I said earlier, I give
my best in everything I do. Moreover, I believe that God has given me
job and I would not want to take the job for granted and disappoint the
Almighty. Motulati commented, “I watched the show for the first time
in the year 2000 and saw Zulu performed with enormous vitality.
Yesterday, I saw him in the show performing with the same energy. He has
Are you satisfied with your achievement?
Zulu: Taking my age into
consideration, I would say, “Yes, I am satisfied to a great extent”.
With my role in African Footprint, I have been able to earn enough money
to by a house and a car. My biggest goal was to own a house in South Africa.
What would you tell others that would like to be in a similar position
as you are?
Zulu: In my experience, I
realized that our parents push us most of the time to do what we do not
want to do in terms of profession. I am of the opinion that this is
dangerous. Parents should take notice of the interest and wishes of
their children concerning profession/career path and support them in
their choice of profession. You can only devote all your energy to what
you love doing. If you intend to satisfy your parents by forcing
yourself to take up a profession that you do not like, you would to be
dedicated to the job. You would probably end up being unsatisfied and
You are satisfied to a great extent with what you have achieved. Do you
have other goals?
Zulu: My future goal is to open
an art school in Springs, Gauteng
My mother lives there. There are a lot of talented youngsters but there
is no art school. Most of the teenagers have nothing to do after
completing the junior school. They start going astray. An art school
would provide opportunities for the young ones to learn and develop
their talents. Achieving this goal, would be my contribution to the