Ikusasa Lethu, which means Our Future was founded by UKZN Senior Lecturer Dr Patricia Opondo in 2000 and comprises selected students and staff from the African Music and Dance (AMD) performance programme in the School of Arts. The ensemble has a local, national and international profile and performs and presents workshops at international and local conferences and special events. Opondo serves as Artistic Director and as the curator of the special programmes presented on these occasions.
ICTM is a scholarly organisation which aims to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation, and dissemination of the traditional music and dance of all countries. The conference attracted more than 1 000 delegates from 76 countries. The opening ceremony was attended by the Princess of Thailand and included a performance of Royal Thai music.
The ensemble presented an eclectic and energised performance covering a range of South African music and dance genres: isicathamiya, a South African adaptation of Congolese Kwasa Kwasa street-contemporary dance, Zulu Umakhweyana bow, Zulu amahubo and Zulu umzansi dance. All items were original compositions and choreographies by the ensemble under the artistic direction of Opondo.
‘We also ran a workshop on South African music – isicathamiya, umakhweyana bow, percussion – and integrated an indigenous fashion show where we dressed in South African traditional attire to exemplify the diversity in the country such as attire from the Zulu, Pondo, Ndebele, Venda cultures. The students also had an opportunity to participate in a workshop on Thai Music and Dance led by Dr Paphutsorn Wongratanapitak (Koong),’ said Opondo.
AMD student Ms Zoliswa Mchunu considers performing at the conference as a privilege. Through this international performance, she learnt to persevere. ‘This was my time to shine and I waved the South African flag high and proudly showcased my heritage and culture. I’m planning to apply to perform at more international festivals and to be recognised worldwide and teach more people about my culture and heritage,’ she said.
Ikusasa Lethu has now performed at three ICTM World Conferences (2009 – Durban; 2011 – St Johns, Newfoundland-Canada; and 2019 – Bangkok, Thailand).
The ensemble also performed and conducted workshops at the Pan African Society for Musical Arts Education (PASMAE) Southern Africa regional conference on Mahe Island, Seychelles, while Opondo presented a paper on Sustainability vs sustainable of African Musical Arts in Contemporary Contexts. ‘All our presentations, papers, workshops, and concerts were well received and performance invitations have arisen from the trips, to Seychelles and Thailand,’ she said.
Director of University Relations Ms Normah Zondo met with the Dean of the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts at Chulalongkorn University to discuss possible collaboration between the institutions. ‘It was a proud moment to witness such an ecstatic performance by Ikusasa Lethu – they were received with great enthusiasm and excitement. We are really excited about the connections and possibilities of collaborating with other institutions around the globe – sharing the spirit of Africa!’
Funding for the trip to Thailand came from the National Arts Council of South Africa, with additional amounts raised by Ikusasa Lethu through various performances, and support from Corporate Relations and Dean of the School of Arts, Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa.