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Something I Had Never Felt Before

by Marion Rose Landers, Arrivals Alum, mixed South African and Irish Canadian actor, choreographer, and teacher from Vancouver.

Arrivals Legacy Voice (ALV) has allowed me to open up a portal to more (grief and joy) than I knew was there, including experiences outside myself. In some ways, the grief of a nation. I had had experience with the play Boesman and Lena by Athol Fugard. It should have been part of my MA bibliography, as a South African. I knew it contained a world, but I really didn’t understand it. Didn’t like the hopelessness in it, the desperation, the total indignity.

Yet, during my experience last Summer 2023 at Arrivals Legacy Voice at the University of British Columbia, Theatre Department in Vancouver, there was a shift. Something I had never felt before. Through stepping practices from Zab Maboungou’s (whose company I danced in) LoKeTo and songs and calls written by Diane Roberts – bodies, minds, and hearts were activated and opened, made ready to convene with ancestors and intentions. Ideological release and engagement exercises from Gerry Trentham layered us like armour. The week built with wonder, expectation, and ability. Things happened that were both unexpected and undeniable. There is no doubt there is a spiritual element to ALV work. But then, isn’t there a spiritual aspect to relating to one’s ancestors? To bringing them into the here and now through arts practice?

Finally, I saw that picture of a people dehumanised by the cruel apartheid regime. No ‘home’, not allowed in the city even though Hotentots were Indigenous to Cape Town. Re-named ‘Coloured’ and confused. Full of self-loathing. Lena, setting her life down on the curb and describing, “The old pot that leaks, the blanket that can’t even keep the fleas warm. Time to throw it away. How do you do that when it’s yourself?”

These days, I am re-reading and editing my MA thesis which is a play about my South African father and grandparents. But it’s mostly about my grandmother, the matriarch of our family who died at almost 103 in 2012. Born in 1910 in Capetown, SA to a mixed mother and Xhosa father, she lived almost 3 lifetimes. Pre-apartheid, apartheid, and as a new Canadian, experiencing One-Man-One-Vote through the television. She was never easy. She gave everything she had to give to her family, was every bit herself, and lived her life to the fullest. And she laughed! Her name was Rose Landers and I am Marion Rose Landers.

Two of my works based on my ancestry are:

For Coloured Girls Out Of The Womb – Heart of the City Festival, Black Scholarship, Art & Performance Conference/Dr. Annette Henry, National Congress of Black Women Foundation Black History Month, Vancouver International Dance Festival Livestream Series

Lost Lesotho Princess/Landlord Ears/MA Thesis

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