Xhosa: Circle of Life – Band Launch 2018

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The overall theme for Xhosa this year is  “Circle of Life.” In a press release from the band, the theme was explained as “[exploring] the trials of life…[weaving] the tale with the deities that control and guide our fates and destinies, life’s highs and lows and our resolve to make all negatives positive.”

As such, the nine sections are named after deities – Aja, Ananke, Ari (short for Arianrhod) and Ceres; mythological creatures or figures – Phoenix and Reaper; a tree – Lignum Vitae (“Tree of Life”) and…flowers? Of the two remaining sections, Bloom obviously relates to flowers and also to youth, but all Google could give me about Teratai was an Indonesian Wikipedia page about lotus flowers and a song from a Malaysians singer. I assume it’s supposed to mean the lotus flower, but I really don’t know what it means.

The costumes are beautiful. It’s hard to pick a favourite section, but Ceres makes a good argument for it claiming that spot with Lignum Vitae and Bloom giving it a good challenge. The colours are vibrant, the designs are exquisite and male patrons have plenty of options to choose from (only one section doesn’t have a male costume).

Speaking of the male costumes I like that they used joggers for some of them. They’re different. Plus, they’re kind of athletic wear so they would be perfect for spending hours jumping during Kadooment. Although the length may present a heat problem. I will reiterate that I never paid attention to Crop Over or its costumes before this year, so if someone did this before I wouldn’t know. They work remarkably well as components of a Crop Over costume, make them look a lot more fashionable and are more attractive than the traditional board shorts.

Of the male costumes that come with joggers, Reaper is the best in my opinion. In fact, it’s the best of the male costumes overall. Not just because of the joggers, but also because of the strap situation going on at the top. The two elements together are amazing. Lignum Vitae is the best of those which come with board shorts. The model looked like a Greek god. Phoenix is a very close second. With that costume in particular the tank top makes it look more like a Foreday costume than a Kadooment one. It’s still looks very good, though.

A few of the section names (and by extension their concepts), however, may be too ethereal and out there and I’ll explain why.

Of the nine sections, the ones with costumes that I could look at and understand in relation to their section names (the concepts/ideas which inspired them) and see them depicted very well, were Aja, Phoenix, Reaper, Lignum Vitae and Bloom.

Aja is named after an Orisha forest spirit and I definitely got “forest” looking at the costumes, thanks to the use of colour in them. The green is not my favourite shade of the colour and is a little too bright, however, the brown offsets it well and the combination does invoke wood and leaves. The olive green (a much better shade) of Lignum Vitae also helps with its relation to trees, as do the laurel leaves.

Colour is also explicitly why Phoenix works with what it represents (so do the feathers; it is a bird after all). The red-orange, orange and gold fit right in with the bird’s relation to fire. Colour is also key in Bloom, whose costumes pretty much look like flowers. Reaper, somehow still manages to conjure the idea of the Grim Reaper using silver/grey and not the colour black like the figure is associated with. The hoods are a very nice touch, but again, heat. Unlike the joggers though, you can remove them.

If Teratai is supposed to be a lotus flower, then that one works as well since the colours used in it harken back mostly to white lotus flowers – white being the most dominant colour – but lotus flowers come in pink, yellow and purple as well.

As for Ananke, Ari and Ceres…the concepts behind them didn’t translate to the costumes at all.

Ananke is the goddess of inevitability, compulsion and necessity and is also the dictator of fate and is associated with the torch. Arianrhod is the goddess of fertility, rebirth and the weaving of cosmic time and fate and is associated with a silver wheel, weaving instruments, the moon, the corona borealis, ivy, spiders and the colours silver and white and can shapeshift into an owl. Ceres is the goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility, motherly relationships, transition and law and order, is the  protector of women at vulnerable points in their lives and is associated with the scepter, pigs, ants, chaste trees and corn, is depicted as carrying a farming tool in one hand and a basket of fruit or grain in the other and has poppies as her emblem.

None of these things about these goddesses come across in the costumes in the these sections. Not to my eye. I believe that the section leaders created the costumes with these goddess’ attributes in mind, but somewhere between idea and execution the ball was dropped.

Perhaps it went over my head along with how the concepts of the sections relate to and fit with each other. On an individual basis I can see how they relate back to the main theme, but not to each other. It doesn’t help that they’re a little redundant; of the three goddesses two of them are fertility goddess and two of them control fate and there are two symbols of rebirth with the phoenix and the lotus flower, the latter of which is also a symbol of fertility.

As for the models, they were fine as a group. Some of them looked really stiff or couldn’t dance or it was obvious when they were looking toward their fellow models for cues. The two female models for Phoenix and the frontline models for Ari and Lignum Vitae stood out. The Phoenix models especially; they were incredibly vivacious. Ari’s frontline model had a very exciting introduction with the way that she moved and posed when she first came out onto the stage. Lignum Vitae’s looked like she was just there to have fun and have fun she did.

The male models didn’t really do much, but they really haven’t for every band launch I’ve been to. Phoenix’s male model was just as energetic as his female counterparts, however. That was really the best section performance wise. Ari’s male model gave a great performance as well, but he did not stop at the end of the runway. As soon as he got there he turned right back around.

Kudos to Xhosa for starting their costume presentation at the time they said that they would, if not a few negligible minutes later. Of the other band launches I’ve been to for which I was given a specific time for the start of the showcase…none of them started close to that time. They started anywhere from three to almost five hours later. I understand that things happen and are sometimes unavoidable and that band leaders would want to wait until there is a sizeable crowd before beginning the show, but three to five hours late is really ridiculous.

Watch our highlight reel from the launch below and head over to our Facebook page for photos. Follow us there and on Instagram for more band launch coverage coming soon!

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About The Author

An avid reader who accidentally discovered her love and talent for writing and has loved movies for as long as she has been watching them. Stumbled into film-making and found her second love because she decided to read for a degree in it on a whim - kind of.