ukuzibuyisa: giving myself back to myself A site-specific performance art piece by Ukhona Ntsali Mlandu

I spent 2 weeks in July as part of 14 creatives from across South Africa who participated in Open Lab 18 which is an initiative of The Program for Innovation in Artform Development at the University the Free State.

It has been an incredible time of being challenged and challenging, taking risks, being vulnerable, playing and testing alongside some talented individuals.

I share here images of my site specific performance art offering.

navigating a wedding dress with thorns and asking for help

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

At the crack of dawn at a church in Richmond I wore a wedding gown covered in thorns and smiled while nursery rhymes called Wena Nomathemba ubethwe ngubani and U Nomaka yintomb’e njani? Yintomb’emhlope…was playing in the background with me smiling dutifully until the pain of the thorns and effort of negotiating my movements with the thorns was not something I could bring myself to bare. I asked the community for help picking out the thorns. Some helped, some watched, some looked the other way. When the last thorn was removed I matched down the main street and erected a washing line where I hung my/our dirty laundry. I took the wedding gown off and carried a baby goat down the street and fed it milk from a bottle while walking away. I reached a gate marked NO ADMITTANCE. I tried to gain entry to no avail. Outside the gate I cut my hair and burnt it. I went into the house lit candles and bathed in milk.

I call the piece Ukuzibuyisa: giving myself back to myself. It’s a piece and ritual that I know I will keep offering for a very long time in different contexts as an act of cleansing mine and collective intergenerational trauma(s) because healing is a continuous process and hardly a destination.


hanging dirty laundry Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, people walking and outdoor

cutting off hair

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

burning of hair

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, people walking, outdoor and nature

bathing in milk: cleansing

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, people standing and indoor