Led by the focused alpha-android, Manthe Ribane, Dear Ribane tell their vision of Afrofuturism at Red Bull Music Festival Johannesburg
“The suspense is killing me. Like when is the show going to start?” The anxious chatter behind me is an indication of precisely the kind of artist Manthe Ribane is: the hyper-intentional kind.
Everything about the performance matters and that’s part of the reason the TMRW Digital Gallery at Rosebank’s Keyes Art Mile was just the perfect location. I arrive two hours earlier than necessary at this Red Bull Music Festival fringe event and the gallery is a white, vacant cube, save for a DJ desk, perspex chairs, mics on mic stands, and a 360 camera.
By about 7pm (the billed starting time), the entire room is lit candyfloss pink and things are now obviously about to get going. When the outer space electronic synths start blaring into the space at about 7.26pm, androids in white lab coats appear from behind a wall with an assortment of viol instruments. They stagger walk in painstaking precision to the pre-arranged seats allowing Manthe and her two archandroids to assume the space. Dear Ribane is officially live.
It’s in the tubular coats. It’s in the Cyclops style shades. It’s in the metallic silver, glittery lipstick. And of course it’s in the tense robotic movements accentuated by pantsula choreography. Manthe Ribane has created her vision for which she sees her world and she’s dedicated to telling it in the most articulate way that she can.
It’s easy to dismiss a lot of her references as being lifted directly from others but how far can that argument go in the face of, that’s who she is. It’s not a coincidence that she finds her musical message in traditional Xhosa nursery rhymes or that she feels that that part of her world fits into her Afrofuturistic definition of herself. She’s a Xhosa woman who finds her voice in Afrofuturism.
This is the point: it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and I left feeling that the unbearably noisy gallery was testament to the idea that this performance would have be better received in another venue or continent altogether. It also disappointed me that the show was barely a half hour long but also it’s worth asking if I’m allowed to demand more of her.
Is Manthe Ribane a musician? Is Manthe Ribane a performance artist? Is she a musical performance artist? We, the pesky press, were not granted an opportunity to speak to her or any of the members of Dear Ribane so I guess, for now, the answer is, I don’t know. What I do know is that Dear Ribane, led by the alpha-android that is Manthe Ribane, were at the TMRW Gallery last night to tell her vision. And they told it well.