Space is the Placeby Bongani Kona / Images by Loucas Polydorou / 05.04.2013
“The vibe here is different,” cosmic visionary Sun Ra says in the opening sequence of the 1974 cult classic, Space is the Place. “The music is different here, the vibrations are different… not like planet earth… planet earth sound of guns, anger, frustration.” I find myself thinking about the legendary jazz surrealist as I sit in a dim hall illuminated only by a video projection of stars and other galaxies. I don’t have my glasses on me so I can’t make out the faces of the people around me. It feels like I’m staring at a broken television set. In spite of my blindness one thing I’m certain of is that the vibe here is different.
It’s the belated final act of Infecting the City, Cape Town’s pubic arts festival, and The Afro-Galactic Dream Factory is about come on stage. So much had been said and so much expected from The Afro-Galactic Dream Factory during the week of the festival but the performance had to be re-scheduled because it was pissing with rain on the night. Nonetheless, festival curator Jay Pather has made good on his promise of a Plan B and so here we are at UCT’s Hiddingh campus, a few weeks later.
It’s a terrible cliché, I know, and I’m not proud of myself, but sometimes the best things really do come last. Inspired by Sun Ra and maybe Edward Makuka Nkoloso – the Zambian grade school science teacher who wanted to send a spaceship to Mars in the 1960s – The Afro-Galactic Dream Factory sidesteps all sorts of boundaries. The performance mashes together a variety of music genres and employs a number of artistic disciplines to imagine a future paradise. It’s incredibly powerful. It echoes so much of what has gone wrong in the present – the military industrial complex, hyper-capitalism, racism and other isms, environmental collapse and all that shit.
Featuring a cornucopia of musicians and artists – Jimmy Rage, Mr Sakitumi & the Grrrl, Masello Motana, Bliksemstraal, Lee Thomson, Ross McDonald, Bongani Magatyana and The Mafrica Mbube Singers – the whole thing is wonderfully brought together by director and producer, Catherine Henegan.
“Welcome space, the galaxy, the solar system and beyond.” Jimmy Rage says at the beginning of the night. With Mr Sakitumi & the Grrrl spinning the decks, and supported on occasion by Lee Thomson (trumpet) and Ross McDonald (trombone), the musos swap turns on stage. Masello Motana, channelling the late Brenda Fassie (who needs a hologram?), is a runaway hit with the audience. Never mind the shitty acoustics the grooves are too pulsating to remain seated and almost nobody does.
In two hours it’s all done and much too soon. “There is no one to talk to on planet earth to understand” to quote Sun Ra once more. “It would affect their vibrations, for the better of course.” And maybe that’s the purpose of The Afro Galactic Dream Factory, to affect our vibrations, for the better, of course.
*Images © Loucas Polydorou from Muti Films