Fest Fight: A Battle Between (Re)presentations of Masculinities

In my first blog post, I mentioned something that I didn’t fully dissect. It’s probably one of the most interesting subject matters – in all its fucked-up-ness – that I’ve explored. But before I continue, let’s have a little story time.

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Kamogelo Molobye introduces alternative masculinities in conflict. (Pic: Kyle Prinsloo)

In 2016, I performed in a seminal work by Kamogelo Molobye – who was at that stage completing his second year of Masters in Drama at Rhodes University. He showcased his physical theatre piece at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. Titled Ga(y)me(n)Play, the piece explored the nuances of Masculinity – further investigating its role in relation to hyper-masculinity, homoeroticism, femininity and (South) African masculinity. Why I’ve decided to mention this piece is because he drew on experiences personal to the cast; personal to me.

In my solo, I battled with my past demons where I “encounter” and perform a variety of masculinities in a bathroom/locker-room setting. In the piece, I played with a 6-inch heel – making it the masculine subject. I paraded it around on stage; I sucked it like a dick, forced it into the crevice of my butt-cheeks, and even had a silent conversation with it. All these experiences were extremely graphic, extremely visceral, and extremely true.

Kyle Prinsloo performs in Ga(y)me(n)Play at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival 2016

Moving from performer to photographer/writer/videographer for the same festival – but for this year, 2017 – I got to sit and see what representation(s) of masculinity actually look like. The one show that overtly explored this – to which I reviewed for Cue – was Macho Macho. Now, I was not a fan of this work in its entirety because it was the stereotypical, surface level product of what masculinity is. In a brief synopsis, it was two European white men, sculpted by muscles, veins, beards, and perfectly placed hazel-blonde hair – who were performing hyper-masculinity in an attempt to show how exhaustion wares down the front of masculinity, in turn making it a fragile façade. It was elementary to me.

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Anton van der Sluis and Jurriën Remkes in Macho Macho. (Pic: Kyle Prinsloo)

Upon reflection, I was being too harsh of a critic. Having explored it myself in Molobye’s piece, I understood the locality and the intimacy. I did not unpack why their piece was so “rudimentary” to me. I didn’t understand their context. With a little help from ye ole’ Google, I found that being a man in Eastern Europe was a requisite that should not be altered or flawed in any sense. The strict conditioning of gendered roles made the piece as a whole more placed and contextualised.

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So what’s the fuss over (re)presenting masculinity? Well, you’ll just have to stick around for my next post where I break down masculinity for you. It’s going to be a doozy!

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