Dance on the Red-Brown Earth


It is 2015. Three film students at a Cape Town university, Vuka, Nandi and Java, receive an assignment to produce a film on landownership in South Africa. Their studies are however interrupted when they become involved in activism aimed at achieving fee-free decolonized higher education. When the university closes down amid the protest, they travel to Vuka’s grandmother’s farm in the Eastern Cape to pursue their research on his family history. They gradually uncover his ancestral history, and learn that one of Vuka’s ancestors was a Dutch girl, Hatta, whose own family was killed after a cattle raid in the early 19th century. She was then raised by Nomsa, one of Vuka’s ancestors.

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Dance on the Red-Brown Earth

As they learn more about Hatta, her husband Siyabonga and their children, they begin to grasp the devastating impact on the amaXhosa of the long drawn-out land wars and, in particular, the cattle-killing. They also recognise the ways in which Vuka’s family had been both harmed and protected during the land wars and more recent events. Their explorations lead to the discovery of various painted clay pots made by Hatta, and they are particularly intrigued by one depicting a star storm, an apocalypse. Gradually they link their own research with the clay pots, and these become themes in their script on land ownership and the loss of land.
The personal relationships amongst the three friends intermingle with the drama of the unfolding script as they get a clearer picture of what they want to express in their film. Vuka struggles to choose between the two women, while Nandi begins to understand how “the thing between men and women” has been shaped by the past.

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