Dust of the Zulu: Ngoma Aesthetics after Apartheid
Louise Meintjes is Associate Professor of Music and Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and the author of Sound of Africa!Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio, also published by Duke University Press.
TJ Lemon is an award-winning photojournalist based in Johannesburg.
To Quell the Dancer’s Dust: Singing Violence During South Africa’s Transition
This chapter connects local danger and ngoma’s bravado to the network of national violence that dramatically charged the notions of masculine Zuluness during South Africa’s transition, 1990–94. It focuses on ngoma lyrics composed in response to national struggle, and on the variations in their rendering in live performance. It draws parallels between aspects of ngoma performance and spectacle at protests and rallies of the Inkatha Freedom Party. But the arenas of ngoma play and political protest are not simply parallel expression. As violence bleeds into performance, so too does ngoma dance into violence. This is exemplified in the details of a men’s meeting called by a chief to mitigate the violence troubling his chiefdom, and in the ways in which ngoma dancers are pressured to participate in violent politics. Like martial arts and other pugilistic vocations (wrestling, boxing, capoeira), ngoma’s vitality is imbricated in histories of mediated violence.