A Walk Into the Night

Borrowing its title from the acclaimed novel by Capetonian author Alex La Guma about Apartheid-era Forced Removals, A Walk Into the Night was an hour-long nocturnal masquerade, moving shadow play and proto-cinematic performance conceived by Marlon Griffith to music composed by Garth Erasmus and the Khoi Khonnexion. Inspired by the traditions of the Cape Town and Trinidad carnivals and West African shadow puppets A Walk Into the Night was a processional shadow play with various elements worn or carried by a multitude of a hundred participants, casting shadows onto horizontal and vertical planes along the itinerary of the procession, from hand-held white screens, to buildings, the sidewalk and the ground, participants and audience members.

Building specifically on Cape Town’s carnival tradition and the history of the Coloured population from whom it originated, it was performed by members of various local carnival associations who projected shadow images behind handheld screens to eschew prevalent associations between skin color and race. The figures, made of Griffith’s customary cut-out patterns represented profiles of male and female marchers as well as of animal skulls, referred to by the artist as the Seven Deadly Sins. As A Walk Into the Night proceeded through the Company Gardens of colonial memory as if an invisible masquerade to barely audible ghostly music from vernacular Cape instruments made and performed by Erasmus and his musical ensemble, it enacted a symbolic return of Coloured and black populations once displaced from Cape Town’s city center even as it also brought to mind images of pilgrims and migrants, thus reflecting on notions of internal and external exile.