Dust of the Zulu: Ngoma Aesthetics after Apartheid.
In Dust of the Zulu: Ngoma Aesthetics after Apartheid, Louise Meintjes brings music to life. Throughout South Africa's history, Zulu music and dance has been used as a celebration of warriordom. According to Meintjes, the book "investigates the legacy in Ngoma of this brutal control of African men's bodies with its twinned and double-edged celebration of performed ferocity" (p. 2). The male Zulu body is reduced to "Ngoma's body" where young boys are socialized into the dance at an early age (p. 10). This is the music and dance of the Zulu warrior-dancer. Meintjes shows the reader the lived experiences of Ngoma dancers and the trials that these participants and their families and friends face. T. J. Lemon's photographs engrave this lived experience in the readers' memory. The volume is divided into eight chapters whose subjects move the reader from the present to the past. Meintjes's writing pulls the reader slowly into the subject and before one knows it, one is caught in the dancing and the stomping so much so that one can almost feel the dust.
Zulu Ngoma song and dance is also about the politics of participation. It is the dance of immigrants in urban hostels, a way of coping with anxiety and change in new areas. Ngoma music and dance provide a safe place to find meaning in hostile environments. It allows participants to resist the dehumanization that capitalism, segregation, and apartheid imposed on Africans in South Africa, especially the Zulu people. It is also about triumph against the impossible, as participants use Ngoma music and dance in the face of debilitating diseases such as HIV-AIDS. How one loves in the face of HIV-AIDS is a question that drifts in and out of the reader's mind as the participants use Ngoma music and dance for courtship and flirtation. In chapter 6, "Dancing around Disease, Silence and Ambiguity, and Brotherhood," the impact of HIV-AIDS on some of the dancers is revealed by the reluctance of the dancers to say aloud that a fellow dancer is suffering from the disease. Most often, however, Zulu Ngoma music and dance is a place where Zulu men can be themselves.
It is through dance and music that one learns about the conflict between members of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress. The tensions that engulfed South Africa during the transition from apartheid to majority rule are laid bare in Ngoma music and dance. Members of the dance group carry arms for protection as they move from one rural area to another. Others stand guard in case of an attack during performances. Zulu Ngoma music and dance is also a commodity others have exploited for fame and wealth.
Dust of the Zulu is an engaging and informative book. Meintjes achieves her goal of demonstrating how Ngoma music continues to be used to address various critical issues in post-apartheid South Africa. The volume is written in a style that is easy to understand for both academics and general readers. While some of the photographs add to the strength of the book, some are irrelevant. For example, "Sweet Talking, Keats Drift Main Road" could be a photo of African teenagers flirting anywhere (p. 35). The emphasis on Zulu dance and song as the theater of manhood leaves one wondering whether that is the only purpose of modern Zulu song and dance. It raises several questions. Is there more to Zulu dance and song? Is it also about brotherhood, coping, culture, community, and family? Were dancers only warrior-dancers before colonialism in South Africa? How did warrior-dancers feed their families? Is work only work if it is paid? Nevertheless, Meintjes's lyrically written volume is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Zulu dance and song.
MUENI WA MUIU
Winston Salem State University
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|Author:||Muiu, Mueni wa|
|Publication:||Journal of Global South Studies|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2019|
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