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Chombotrope: Blend of taste and culture

In Uganda, the exhibition of fashion is mostly boxed; a runway, clothes and models.

The presentation, even when it is appropriate and makes clothes more appreciable, gives away nothing about the designers’ mind. It only sells the audience a beautiful model whose attires are neither explained nor explored.

This was what made the touring Chombotrope: Jitta Collective’s fashion concert, different. Staged last Wednesday at One Ten, located in Studios at Seven in Industrial area’s Seventh street, the experimental, yet assertive show took to one of the world’s biggest topics of cultural appropriation, using different art mediums.

One of the collective performers

At the opening of the 60-minute showpiece, it all looked like the multinational cast was creating a parody of fashion shows as they are known to an ordinary audience, showcasing outfits mostly made out of car tyres and barkcloth. But it quickly became a dance routine, carefully ‘powered’ by German drummer and composer, Dodo Nkishi.

Later they transformed the show into a spoken word/poetry, rap, dance and vogue concert. It represented art that appealed to an African in the present times while talking about appropriation from all sides, especially with the way the continent has contributed to the exploitation of her own culture.

One of the dance routines that involved mixed martial arts

With Ugandan painter, fashion designer and poet Xenson Ssenkaaba, Belgian composer Nicolas Baudoux, alias DJ Elephant Power, German choreographer Marie Zoe, French choreographer and dancer Alexandra Naudet and N’deye Seck, a percussionist from Senegal, the collective redefines cultural appropriation into an art.

Marie Zoe performs while donning one of Xenson’s designs

A concept by choreographers Kefa Oiro and Stephanie Thiersch, Jitta Collective had the Ugandan audience eating out of its palms, thanks to a show that didn’t only boast of high production values but relevancy.

For many present, it was the first time they were seeing Xenson perform in a long time, and coincidentally, it was all happening just next to Afriart gallery where his Gunflower series art exhibition has been running for two months now.

But that wasn’t all the show was offering. It gave the audience more than they bargained for; synchronized and well-crafted battle duels, which represented mixed martial arts but bold enough to throw Maasai movement patterns in the mix.

The show, produced by Ras B Ssali, worked well, especially with both the sound and lighting, considering the fact that the venue is not a professional space designed to host theatricals.

Choreographer Stephanie Thiersch models one of the outfits

One of the most memorable performances was by Zoe when she took to the stage to deliver a familiar, yet always ignored, topic about black girls and their hair.

Titled Do Not Touch My Hair, she talks about hair as one thing the Western world has used to police black women.

A choreographer and vogue major, Zoe’s charisma coupled with the team’s high level of collaboration kept the audience engaged, entertained and, above all, surprised. This, especially when they were thrown into those minimalistic nudity scenes that they never saw coming.  


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