The Nose

A parody about contemporary South Africa – funded by the TURN Fund

Trailer "The Nose"

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Trailer "The Nose"

Project information

The short story “The Nose” (1836) about Major Kov and his nose by Nikolai Gogol is believed to be the first surrealistic work of Russian prose, published years before surrealism made its debut as a European movement. The grotesque parable and the eponymous opera by Dmitri Shostakovich (1927/28) based on Gogol’s story form the basis of the project “The Nose”. The South African choreographer Jessica Nupen shifts the plot to the political stage of present-day South Africa and offers an ambitious and radical reinterpretation of Gogol’s absurd and darkly comical fable of avarice, greed and fear. The connection between the bureaucratic tyranny of Tsarist Russia and the corrupt political environment of South Africa today illustrates the tragic character of despotic regimes in an absurd and humorous manner.

Using a multitude of artistic media, “The Nose” explores socio-economic tensions, the redistribution of power, effects of racism and corruption, and political transitioning in South Africa. In a country beset by student protests, rampant corruption and kleptocrats, a nose detaches itself from its owner and embarks on an absurd adventure, in which it achieves an even higher social position than its former owner. What appears chaotic and absurd at first eventually leads to long-lasting clashes evoked by inequality and power. The project not only highlights Eurocentric perceptions of political processes in Africa, Afro-political issues and post-colonial stereotypes, but also presents opera as an artistic form. How can opera, dance and art influence the discussion on social and political circumstances at a local and global level?

“The Nose” – a full-scale hybrid film installation accompanied by live musicis – was organised in cooperation with the Moving Into Dance Mophatong Dance Company of Johannesburg, the Cape Town Opera in Cape Town, the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg, the Kalashnikov Gallery in Johannesburg, Kampnagel Hamburg, Movement Metropolitan e.V., Bode Gallery and the LKG Gallery in Hamburg. The multidisciplinary production was developed and produced in South Africa and Germany by numerous artists and experts in the field of dance, music, visual arts, theatre, philosophy and design together with William Kentridge as a mentor. Based on Shostakovich’s original music, the Canadian music producer and rapper Josh 'Socalled' Dolgin has composed a new rap opera to be performed by the musicians of Ensemble Resonanz, singers of the Cape Town Opera and dancers of Moving Into Dance Mophatong.

From stage to screen, as a result of the complications that the Corona pandemic caused, the initial theatre piece was creatively and artistically translated to the digital platform. This was a collaborative endeavor undertaken by dancers from Moving into Dance Mophatong coupled with opera singers from the Cape Town Opera. "The Nose" – the film expedition – would then evolve into an experience of interrogation, investigation and frenzy as Major Kov goes in search of his nose through the buzzing, electric streets of Maboneng, tumbling down the dusty enchanting Sulphur stenched landscapes of the Roodepoort mine-dumps and into the beautiful chaos of the hip and scintillating Jozi clubs in town and the lifeless ruins of a power station that once used to be the hallmark of Soweto. All this in hopes of reattaching his dignity and honor whilst his Nose is in search of freedom and self-worth.

Artistic Direction & Choreography: Jessica Nupen
Music & Libretto: Josh 'Socalled' Dolgin (Joshua Dolgin)
Film Composition & Music Direction: Gareth Lubbe
Dramaturgy: Maria Isabel Hagen, Khutjo Green
Technical Direction, Stage Design & Light: Wilhelm Disbergen
Costumes & Props: Joel Janse van Vuuren
Visual Arts: Dolph TV
Music Ensemble: Lisa Lammel, Lucas Schwengebecher, Ruben Jeyasundaram, Olivier Stritt, Konstantin Bessonov, Bastian Duncker, Jonathan Murphy, Djordje Davidovic
Singers: Luvo Rasemeni, Siphesihle Mdena, Ernestine Stuurman, Thando Mpushe, Babalwa Mdayi, Pumza Mxinwa von Cape Town Opera
Dancers: Sunnyboy Motau, Oscar Buthelezi, Eugene Mashiane, Masego Moloto, Sbusiso Gumede, Lesego Dihemo von Moving Into Dance Mophatong

Film Production:
Creative Director: Jessica Nupen
Producer/Director: Kate D’hotman

TURN – Fund for Artistic Cooperation between Germany and African Countries

In 2012, the Federal Cultural Foundation established the TURN – Fund for Artistic Cooperation between Germany and African Countries in order to encourage a wide range of German institutions to shift their focus on the artistic production and cultural debates in African countries.


No upcoming events at present

Previous events

  • 28 October, 2021 to 30 October, 2021: Hybrid film installation

    Kampnagel, Hamburg


Jessica Nupen Contemporary Arts and Dance Theatre

Kleiner Kielort 7b
20144 Hamburg (external link, opens in a new window)