Vita Nova is a burlesque performer and entertainer. She is inspired by her personal exposures and expresses her energy in a way that challenges perceptions of women’s sexuality.
Compared to what life was like for your mother as a young woman, what do you think about being a young woman today?
There has been a shift in terms of opportunities and freedom of choice, especially when it comes to choosing a career, but there are still so many challenges, especially for womxn of colour. We still face economic challenges, misogyny, rape culture, toxic masculinity. A friend had said that walking out of the house every day, for a womxn, is an act of bravery. And it’s empowering to know that, every day, womxn are out there being brave, despite the constant battle against patriarchal conditioning.
How do your age and gender affect you in your work/industry, performances and day-to-day life?
As a young womxn of colour, I have experienced much of the aforementioned problems in my everyday life, and shedding the societal conditioning thereof has been, and is, a laborious exercise. When I perform, I have the opportunity to transcend, address and rebel against many of my daily frustrations, as well as revel in the things that please me and express my fantasies, without the harshness of many problematic labels.
What was the defining moment that drew you to burlesque?
It all happened rather magically and energetically for me. I had met womxn who were facing very different personal difficulties, but there was an overlap and similarity in our reasons for choosing burlesque (I had later discovered). It felt like a safe space I had come to call ‘home’, where we were discovering, accepting and celebrating ourselves and each other, and just wanting to share that love and appreciation and build a supportive and inclusive community.
Do you feel like it’s our time as young women? Or are we still waiting?
I am conflicted about this. If now is not our time, then when will it be? But we are still clearly fighting for our place and equality. It won’t just be given to us. We have to continue doing this. And more people (mxn) should join us and actively fight beside us to dismantle structural and institutionalised sexism, misogyny and normalised gender prejudice at fundamental levels. Womxn need to support each other more, regardless of our backgrounds, and harness our collective power.
The Soweto Uprising was 41 years ago. What does it mean to be young today? Is Youth Day still relevant?
It means having more opportunities in theory, but also being faced with many challenges, some of which have not changed significantly enough, especially with regards to impoverished communities and systemic racism. Youth Day in South Africa will always be relevant. I don’t think that all of us have fully grasped its significance, or maybe we have forgotten. Many youths are still getting lost in a system that isn’t built for them. Our fight is not yet over.