My Performance of Q Malewezi's "The Dress"
As I sat in the auditorium, I thought back to the moment I chose the poem I was about to perform. Q Malewezi's anthology has many powerful pieces, but "The Dress" had me hooked immediately. My love for dresses was the first catch... then there was the layered meaning, the metaphors, the build-up, the ultimate ending. The poem took my breath away. It captured the agony, and the power of being a woman all in one piece. I was compelled to respect that deeply, considering that although it was portrayed from a woman's point of view, the poem was written by a man.
Q told me he had performed this piece at an earlier occasion as spoken word, but this time he advised that I take on a monologue approach. I had no idea what the difference between the two was, but after a bit of schooling in the form of a five minute conversation, I got an idea of what I could do.
And here I was! On the night of Q's book launch, waiting for time to eat up the first hour before my slot. I felt a familiar rush, one that I hadn't encountered for at least 3 years. If it were to have a name, the closest would be stage fright... but it wasn't pure fear. There was excitement there, in equal intensity. The stage, the lights, being the focal point of the room - terrifying... and liberating, all at the same time.
Actually, I would say that the pure fear was truly present in those heavy moments before my turn, when I was sitting as just another audience member... glancing to my neighbours who were oblivious that I would soon stand before them to make my point. Every heart beat was a firm knock against my ribcage, as if it were my performance inside, eager to be let out.
The announcement was made. My introduction. The audience were yet to put a face to the "...performer whose heart and soul belongs to the arts..." I began to count my breathes. The MC left the stage and the room went pitch black, then my spot appeared, as rehearsed.
Barefoot, I walked up the steps and met the spotlight. There was no mic there, so I was unrestricted and could used the whole spotlight to move within. Ekari was left behind, somewhere in the second row. I was now the subject of the poem, nameless, but nonetheless complex, tangible, real.
She is preparing for an evening out, in a red cocktail dress. Accessorising, polishing, adjusting her clothes in the mirror, a silver ring on her left hand. She glances audience-ward apprehensively, eyes pleading for approval from the one who put the ring on her finger. Feeling no response, she speaks - words that have been locked away for too long in a trapped heart.
She speaks of the dress, and what it used to mean to you, her husband. She verbally retraces the steps of your courtship, tries to make you recapture the bliss that it was. Your response ranges from indifference to anger, and she flinches back - an action that has become as routine as brushing her teeth. She knows she should stop speaking, but the door has been opened; she can't, she won't, and she tells you how you were in love with her once. How you had to show this while holding a ring on one knee, and how she had thought it meant the world, beautiful as she was in that same dress.
She tells you now, angrily, of the time of your first morning as a married couple, when you awoke a different man. You saw the same dress and despised it, demanding it be discarded forever and replaced. She cannot take it any more. Just as you rejected the dress, she now rejects your ring on to the floor. Staring at you with challenging eyes as she backs out of the spotlight.
She will take no more.
Q Malewezi's anthology of poems entitled "The Road Taken" is available in book stores around Malawi. (http://www.qmalewezi.com/). Read his poem, The Freedom Fighter at area1025.com
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