It's not over until the fit phat fat lady sings


Recorded at the CND 24 June 2005


It's not over until the fit phat fat lady sings

First performed 2005
Choreography Hlengiwe Lushaba

In this third production – with its title inspired by the English saying “it ain't over till the fat lady sings” [1], reminding us that nobody can predict the outcome of an event still in progress – the choreographer and director Hlengiwe Lushaba narrates the fate of three women from a small remote village. On stage, the narrator introduces this “modern fairy-tale” with the following sentences [2]. “In a small village, far, far away, lived three enormous women, Gcina, Nuh and Badigé. These three large women shared a house. All they did was talk on the telephone, go shopping and eat. They were so found of eating that they did not have time for anything else. People from the village were anxious because these women did not have friends other than themselves. Some thought that they were ashamed of their weight. But in fact, they were very proud of who they were and of their appearance.” By turns griot, pastor, slam poet, staff sergeant and auctioneer, the same narrator creates a parody auction to sell – “piecemeal” to the highest bidder – a dark, caricatured portrait of Africa, from the traditional African dancer to the colonists travelling through the desert on camels and the African Mafia.

Throughout this show with its cabaret influences, H. Lushaba depicts the post-apartheid identity crisis. The programme which accompanies the show sheds some more light on the choreographer's aim: “And now, what will happen? Now that we are here, where will we go tomorrow? Two recurring questions in a work which deals in turn with religion, politics and territorial identities. (...) How do we confront a present deprived of its history, stolen from the black majority? How do we deny a colonial heritage, that of apartheid, whose mental, social, economic and cultural implications affect us every day? As if South Africa had been able, in the name of a hypothetical reconciliation, to make a clean break with a past of several centuries in just a decade... So should we forget? No, definitely not, Hlengiwe could forget neither the execution of her political activist brother, nor the white women's vaguely anxious glances at their handbag in the lifts of the shopping centres…” [3]

In 2005, the piece toured Europe and was performed at the Festival de Liège (Belgium), the Festival Afrique noire in Bern (Switzerland) and at the Centre national de la danse in Pantin (France).

[1] Literally:  “It's not over till the fat lady sings”
[2] M.L.G, La Libre Belgique, 25 January 2005
[3] Virginie Dupray, Centre national de la danse programme, June 2005

Programme extract

Since the abolition of apartheid in 1991 and the gradual introduction of democracy, it's easy to think that everything in South Africa has been resolved, that black people have found a place equal to those of the white, and that all the citizens of the nation which calls itself the rainbow nation live in equality and fraternity. However, wealth remains white, poverty, black. And many have not yet been made truly accountable for the crimes of the past, something which robs black people of part of their history. In short, it's still not easy to be black in this country. And then, in addition, if you are a large black woman, at least twice the size of a white woman, you have to ask yourself what kind of a place you have in this kind of society. And what if you like to wear cycling shorts and just a bra? Are you beautiful, ugly or something else? The choreographer Hlengiwe Lushaba's piece, which will be shown for the first time in Europe, is built freely on these questions of identity, politics and many other things. Freely because someone who dares to suggest – with all the audacity of her youth (she is just over twenty) – that she understands nothing about dance, has created a performance which involves much more than just dance. The work features three strange women, generously built, who walk around with a mobile phone, two dancers who never cease advancing and withdrawing, a slam poet (urban poetry similar to America rap) dressed as a pastor, all caught up in the songs of the fat ladies and their magical voices (they are as likely to sing gospel as Zulu chants) and the frenzied percussion.

Festival de Liège, 2005


choreography Hlengiwe Lushaba     
performers Sifiso Majola, Hlengiwe Lushaba, Gcina Vilakazi, Nu Malinga, Johanna Molotsi, Rudi Cube, Hlubi Kwebulana

duration 56 minutes

Updated: June 2013

Lushaba, Hlengiwe

Born in the Durban township of Kwa-Mashu (South Africa), Hlengiwe Lushaba Madlala is an actress, singer, dancer and choreographer.

She studied at the Tecknikon Natal, now the Durban Institute of Technology (DUT), specialising in dance, theatre, singing and comedy. In 2001, she created her first piece “Sacraments” for the Jomba! festival in Durban. In 2002, she created “It's not over until the Fit Fat Phat Lady sings” originally for the EDGE programme under the direction of the Siwela Sonke Theatre Dance Company. In 2005, she presented “Is this Africa put a cross on the appropriate woman” in Paris at the Rencontres chorégraphiques de l’Afrique et de l’Océan Indien (Africa and Indian Ocean choreographic encounters) and at the Dance Umbrella Festival (Johannesburg).

She was awarded the Standard Bank Award for Dance in 2006 and presented the piece “Ziyakhipha Come Dance with us”, which won the Gauteng MEC Choreographic Award the following year, at the National Arts Festival of Grahamstown. She created “Lest we forget”, performed at the Dance Umbrella Festival Johannesburg in 2007. In November 2013, she put together the project “Highway to Heaven/Paradise Road” subtitled “a simple tale of colonial exploitation”, with Sduduzo Majola, who had already worked with her on her previous creations (“It’s Not Over Until the Fit Fat Phat Lady Sings”, “Ziyakhipha Come Dance With Us” and “Lest We Forget”).

A multi-talented performer, she collaborated in the creation of “Trapped”, a piece written and produced by her compatriot Princess Zinzi Mhlongos, which dealt with the concept of gender, created in 2012 at the National Arts Festival of Grahamstown and presented at the Salzburg Festival (Austria). She collaborated with the Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula on “What is black music anyway / Self portraits” (2012) and performed “Baron Samedi” (2011) for the French choreographer Alain Buffard. In 2013, she directed “Cabaret” at the invitation of the Via Katlehong dance company.

As a singer and an actress, she has performed in many musical and theatrical works on the South African stage, including “Far from the Madding Crowd”, “Lost in the Stars”, “Hairspray The Musical”, “African Queens”, “The Girls in their Sunday Dresses”, “Touch my blood”, “Modus Vivendi” and “Curl up and dye”. She is also an actress for cinema and television, with roles in the blockbuster “District 9” (2009) and the series "Gaz'lam" (2005).

She set up the “Giving Back and Giving Thanks” programme in collaboration with other leading figures from the arts scene to raise funds for NGOs, notably by organising charity performances.


Updated: November 2013


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