At first glance the performance on Friday night looks like a psychedelic version of the children’s game Sleeping Lions. But with adults. Unmoving bodies sprawl all over the carpet with eyes closed. At one end of the room sit two strange figures, one with a red painted face chanting ‘No’ and the other, white faced, chanting ‘Yes.’ They wear t-shirt caftans and beat drums solemnly.
It’s another evening at Sleep Inn and Mediummatic’s menu for this evening features a main course of Ritual Trance Drumming performed by resident artists Melanie Bonajo and Kinga Kielczynska.
Participants lying on one side of the room are told to tune into the voice of mystic Melanie, and on the other side, karmic Kinga. We are advised to visualise a tunnel, enter, and travel through it whilst focusing on the voice and drumming of our designated artist.
Alternating voices chant these words repeatedly for minutes at a time.
The drums are beaten in a steady, unchanging rhythm. Something like pouring water echoes through the space. It is the sound of candle wax dripping like lava around us. The noise becomes part of the hypnotic soundscape.
The chanting continues with the drums for ten minutes. Then the drums go on alone. They get louder and faster and finish with a decisive bang. Silence follows.
Nobody moves. Seconds pass.
Another bang. We remain motionless.
Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle….
A bell rings. Bodies stay still.
‘Hello? Wake up!’ say our giggling artists.
In the darkened room, with the pleasant breeze of buzzing fans, we had entered the tunnel and finding it a rather comfortable place, it seems we are disinclined to leave. But one by one we do leave, sit up and share our trance trip experiences.
Unsurprisingly, most people on the Yes side felt pretty damned good after the mediation. Some people in the No group felt a bit depressed, even defeated. Others found they couldn’t concentrate on only one voice and simply floated along listening to both. A few participants found that the words Yes or No began to lose their meaning and simply became neutral sounds the longer they went on. And then there were those who simply fell asleep.
And that is okay with Melanie and Kinga, who acknowledge the Ritual Trance Drumming was both an experiment and a fairly spontaneous one at that. This attitude is consistent with how they approached the programming of Mediummatic. ‘We don’t expect anything [from the visitors of Sleep Inn], and we want people to let go of their expectations and surrender to the experience they encounter here,’ explain the artists.
The following Saturday night found most guests to Sleep Inn aiming for a late check-in. With the gloriously balmy weather and a BBQ celebrating the opening of the Kunstvlaai in Westerpark, it was clear where everyone had headed. So our spiritual hosts decided to take their brand of alternative communication inspired performance – and their drums – to the park and thus, to the people.
Resplendent in golden gowns, turbans, a ‘silver snake’ and third eyes – our artists rode off into the night.
Mediummatic has left the building. But don’t worry, it’ll be back tomorrow.