Directed by Mark Fleishman
Created with the Company
Performed by Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa, the Jazzart Dance Theatre and members of the Jazzart Dance Theatre Young Adult Training and Job Creation Programme
Set and costumes designed by Craig Leo
Music composed and performed by Neo Muyanga
Choreographed by John Linden, Ina Wichterich, Ananda Fuchs under the direction of Alfred Hinkel
Lighting design by Paul Abrahams
Sound design by Tony Madikane
Researcher Leila Davids

For so many centuries cargo has come to this place, our city, the Cape of Good Hope. Porcelain and silks and spices and slaves. Slaves from Mozambique from Madagascar, from India and the Indonesian archipelago. For 186 years between 1652 and 1838 slaves were a major part – sometimes the major part – of the unique and diverse society in formation at the Cape. Today, slavery haunts the city, an incrustation of the past at the heart of the present. It is “a past that will not pass” and yet it is so little remembered.

Cargo is a performative engagement with the archive of slavery at the Cape. An archive is a collection of bits and pieces; traces that remain from the past. It has its own logic of construction; its own rules of inclusion and exclusion. “Archive as much as you like”, the French historian Pierre Nora once said, “something will always be left out.”

The work is an attempt to use performance to get at what has been left out, the voices and their bodies “exiled on the borders of discourse… the murmur and the noises from which the process of scriptural reproduction distinguishes itself” (De Certeau). It is a difficult task because the bodies are not immediately or easily available. They have been rendered incoherent shattered as they are into a million hidden pieces. One needs to be open to listening in the silences. One needs to be crafty, to know where to look for the shards. How to provoke the body to express itself from under the mass of the official, the academic and the documentary. How to remember.

To remember is not to forget, it is also to make present, and, most importantly, it is to put the body back together again. But remembering is not a simple affair; it is difficult, traumatic even. We seek order and meaning, and new patterns of being, yet the forms that emerge often tend towards disruption, discontinuity, irony and endless repetition, denying the potential for recuperation and easy reconstruction.

If we can ‘know’ the past at all, it is only through an act of translation and interpretation and all translations are manipulations. They change the past; perhaps they can change us.

“A fearlessly honest verbal and visual picture of humanity and human error. The Cape Coloured dialect is metallic, terse and snappy; the dance fierce and almost feral; but together they create those narrative tensions which define the horrors of human trafficking… Swaggering brutality is overlaid by the music of Neo Muyanga, which changes the landscape almost imperceptibly to one of deep sadness and the abiding sorrow that grows out of homesickness. Different layers of African and Oriental sound are phased in and out, and overlapping patterns yield other patterns which never stay within conventional boundaries.”
Mary Jordan, Business Day, 28 Feb 2007

“Inspired staging, evocative music and committed performance from its dancers combine to make this collaborative production a winner… Cargo takes us on an extended journey from the 17th to the 19th centuries, delving into far more than historical fact recorded in dusty archives. It offers an insight into the texture of life as lived by Cape slaves, to fascinate and appal the spectator. This an ambitious and highly successful production.”
Beverley Brommert, Argus Tonight, 27 Feb 2007

Magnet Theatre/Jazzart Dance Theatre

Spier Amphitheatre, Stellenbosch
Feb/March 2007

National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown

6-7 July 2007

Baxter Theatre
8-12 August 2007

Supported by Spier, National Arts Festival, NAC, Artscape, Western Cape Cultural Commission, National Lottery Board, University of Cape Town

Photography Garth Stead, Bellybutton Pictures

In 2015, CARGO forms part of the  dance curriculum in Western Cape Schools.