Journal of African Cultural Studies

Published by Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Online ISSN: 1469-9346
Print ISSN: 1369-6815
This paper, through an explication of Ben Okri's Stars of the New Curfew (1988) and Dangerous Love (1996) and Festus Iyayi's Heroes (1986), looks at the representation of war and social turbulence in post-independence Nigerian fiction as narrative strategies for remembering and healing. Specifically, I examine the representation of the civil war in Iyayi's novel, to which it is central, and the 'shadow of war' and military presence conveyed through Okri's deployment of imagery in his configuration of the post-war society. What I am exploring here are modes of representation and how they differ, using Iyayi and Okri as exemplars: the trajectory of witness documentation realism (in Iyayi) versus memory internalization metaphorization (in Okri). For example, Iyayi's Heroes reveals a well-structured, ordered narrative in the realist mode, while Okri's use of imagery shows a certain 'unruliness' that tends towards 'chaos' and disruption. One of the main concerns of this paper is the way in which these modes work to represent war and social turbulence in Nigeria. I am looking at the problem of documenting and metaphorizing atrocity and loss; I therefore explore the ethics of representation. Is the use of fiction an adequate or ethical means of attempting to transcend the trauma of violence? I am looking, finally, at the role of representation as both an enabling and limiting force in understanding and healing, in helping or hindering the refashioning of identities (restoring ontological security and epistemological certainty) after the trauma and loss caused by war and social turbulence.
This article argues that greeting among the Kerebe is a phenomenological project of everydayness in which the concept of being manifests itself in a dialogic manner. This is revealed through the four variables on which greetings are based: time, age, gender and relationship. The variables give us a glimpse of how the Kerebe view the question of temporality of being, the idea of being-for-the-other and the question of truth; and they cast some light on the general concept of a person in Kerebe thought. The article is oriented toward an inquiry into the concept of being-in-the-world from an African point of view.
This piece seeks to address Mudimbe as one of the great creative cosmopolitan minds of our times. The abundance of autobiographical detail in his oeuvre allows me to situate him in a particular social and intellectual context. I read his oeuvre as a sustained attempt at autobiographical self-definition. I concentrate on Mudimbe's Tales of Faith (1997), and show this book to be an intellectual and spiritual autobiography disguised as a detached history of ideas of Central African intellectuals and their work and aftermath in the twentieth century. I look at Mudimbe from two different perspectives: the historical and anthropological study of Central African religion as an established academic sub-discipline (which he virtually ignores), and African historic religion (which does not play a role either in his personal self-construction). I will be very critical, mainly because the fundamental issues of Africa and of African studies today manifest themselves around Mudimbe as a central and emblematic figure. After identifying and discussing Mudimbe's discursive methods as essentially poetical (under the guise of modern philosophy) I shall try to pinpoint what Tales of Faith is about (i.e. the adventure of clerical intellectualism in Central Africa during the twentieth century ), what meta-contents it contains (i.e. homelessness as Mudimbe's central predicament ), and what all this means for the practice and the study of African historic religion, the uninvited guest of Tales of Faith and of Mudimbe's work in general. This will allow me to critique Mudimbe's quest for universalism which, in my opinion, seduces him to court the very European hegemonism he of all people has so clearly exposed, and to ignore such a way out of his predicament as the cultivation of an African identity and of African historic religion might have offered him. Finally, I will compare Mudimbe's itinerary with my own; our two paths will turn out to have been amazingly parallel even if they appear to have ended in opposite destinations.
Despite its ancient history in Ethiopia, Islam has always been a secondary status religion in the country. It emerged in the shadow of Christianity and has often suffered from suppression and discrimination. This has had an impact on the social opportunities, religious and civil rights, and the pattern of self-organization of Ethiopian Muslims. During the last decade, new issues of religious identity and communal political identity among Muslims in Ethiopia have emerged in the wake of political and economic reform processes, and as a result of the process of cultural globalization. This article gives a historical overview of the emergence and development of Islam in Ethiopia, its position in the pre-1974 empire and its relationship with Christianity, and changes under the Mengistu regime (1974-1991), which actively discouraged religion in all its forms. Finally, it discusses developments since 1991, paying special attention to questions of identity and the 'ethnic' dimensions of Islam. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum
Using folkloric and historical approaches, this study posits that, in order to understand the choices people make, it is vital to see the world as they see it. In scholarship, I argue, we need to incorporate these perceptions of reality in our interpretations of the actions of those we study. Contrary to the sceptical postmodernist understanding that modernity is a period of decay and a move towards a final collapse and oblivion, traditionalism is revitalized in this article as a strategic primitivism, as a cultural resistance that continues to manifest itself and to relocate the past in the present. In the present study my aim is to examine Salale traditional legal performances as narratives of resistance against domination. Through the three theopolitical counter-discourses identified in this study, that is, guma (blood feud), araara (peace-making), and waadaa (covenant), the interaction between theos (god) and politics is apparent. Hence, the oath ‘God speak to us’ expresses a belief that nagaa (peace) is a presupposed will of God that humanity is privileged and obliged to guard. The study concludes that such oppositional traditional practices constitute the Salale cultural resistance against the mainstream culture and offer more hope for challenging the dominant social discourse and constructing a strong sense of Oromummaa, that is, Oromoness.
Otelo Burning . 
Otelo Burning . 
Otelo Burning.
Otelo Burning. Figure 5. Otelo Burning. 
Otelo Burning . 
The feature film Otelo Burning (20117. Blecher, Sara, dir. 2011. Otelo Burning. DVD. South Africa: Sara Blecher & Cinga Films.View all references) tells the story of black youth ‘tasting freedom’ by surfing waves in late apartheid South Africa and reflects on the emergence of a new national order by drawing Nelson Mandela's release from prison into its plot. This article situates the film in a genealogy of black-centred representations of Durban beach – including Peter Abrahams's memoir Tell Freedom (1954), Drum photographer Bob Gosani's framing of Dolly Rathebe at a Durban beach (1957), Lewis Nkosi's Mating Birds (1983) and the post-apartheid film Jerusalema (200846. Ziman, Ralph, dir. 2008. Jerusalema. DVD. Johannesburg: Muti Films.View all references) – and in relation to international surfing fiction and film – particularly Kum Nunn's novel trilogy and the films Point Break (19915. Bigelow, Kathryn, dir. 1991. Point Break. DVD. Los Angeles: Largo Entertainment.View all references) and Blue Crush (200236. Stockwell, John, dir. 2002. Blue Crush. DVD. Los Angeles: Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment.View all references). It focuses on the settings of beach and sea, township and pool and teases out the generic scripts that compose the film. A tension between the attraction of the outlaw figure that informs ‘surf noir’ and the production of the Bildungsheld as normative, ‘responsibilitized’ citizen-subject is found to animate this story of surfing and to direct the questions about freedom that it poses from the vantage point of a democracy itself now coming of age.
The article discusses the recently published memoir of South African radio celebrity Redi Tlhabi, Endings and Beginnings (201234. Tlhabi, Redi. 2012. Endings and Beginnings: A Story of Healing. Johannesburg: Jacana Press.View all references), which is a bestseller in South Africa and recipient of the prestigious Alan Paton non-fiction award for 2013. Following Tlhabi's haunting by the ghosts of her murdered father and her unlikely childhood friend, the Sowetan gangster Mabegzo, the article attempts to trace the meanings of ghostliness in the South African social, and the way in which these meanings are mapped onto township terrains of both hopelessness and possibility. Drawing on Jacques Derrida's seminal exposition in Specters of Marx, it argues that the text's insistence on bringing closure to Mabegzo's narrative denies the spectre its efficacy as a signifier for unease. This uneasiness, it maintains, necessarily jostles and disturbs the certainties of the present.
This article documents the history of black male surfers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and explores the ways in which the figure of the ‘Zulu surfer’ has assumed a range of meanings from the mid-1960s to the present. The appropriation of the iconography of Zuluness by the (white) mainstream surfing community means the Zulu surfer has had an ambivalent presence in surfing histories. The Zulu surfer was historically co-opted by (white) surfing as a form of staged exoticism, echoing similar tropes of the fascination with the Other in international surfing. On the other hand, the image of the ‘Zulu surfer’ has in more recent years been appropriated by young black male surfers in KwaZulu-Natal, as an expression of a subcultural lifestyle and identification. In the film Otelo Burning these meanings of Zulu surfing are sometimes in conflict. Despite the projected progressive politics of Otelo Burning, I argue, the black surfers in the film do not entirely escape the tropes associated with the eclectic exoticization of Zulu masculinity.
This article analyses the first African literary play written in the Amharic language (1920/21 EC) Fabulla: Yawreoch Commedia (Fable: The Comedy of Animals) and the biography of the playwright Teklehawariat Teklemariam. Since Teklehawariat Teklemariam was born in Ethiopia, but at the age of 11 left for Russia to spend 15 years of his youth being educated among the Russian aristocrats, this article sets out to reveal the socio-cultural identity of the playwright as well as what European and Ethiopian cultural elements the playwright merged to craft his new hybrid theatre form. By doing so the article examines the evolution of Ethiopian theatre and the essential elements of which it is made up. To this end we will comprehensively follow the course of the playwright's life, the dominant religious, political, and cultural views that shaped his personality, and his views and beliefs about Ethiopian and European cultures. This article contributes to a better understanding of the formation and characteristics of Ethiopian theatre as well as the Ethiopian understanding of European cultures.
This article explores the figure of the good time girl as generated through discussions of young women's sexualities in popular media platforms in Kenya. The article locates itself within a socio-historical space in which sexuality has always been debated through a dominant moral economy embedded within religious and traditional structures. It seeks to answer questions around how, within such a context, the figure of the good time girl can be understood in contemporary Kenya. In this regard, the article considers competing meanings of the good time girl within and beyond the inscriptions of heteropatriarchal ideals that attempt to normalize and fix the sexual identities of young women in Kenya. The article uses the broad template of the good time girl, as articulated in African popular culture, to try and understand the differing ways in which the sexualities of young women, particularly those attending university, are publicly debated and represented in the Kenyan media. The work is framed around scholarship on sexuality and gender in Africa. Methodologically, the work draws on theories of popular culture that emphasize how new genres constituted through new forms of addressivity constitute new publics, enabling possibilities for accessing meaning in new ways.
The article describes the contested relationship that existed between Herero people and German missionaries in Namibia between 1900 and 1940. It is argued that Herero converted to mission Christianity with specific aims and intentions, which were not necessarily the same as those envisaged or intended by German missionaries. The article highlights leisure time, commemorative activities and funerals, and indicates that Herero acquired specific forms of music, dress, comportment, and behaviour from German missionaries. Once these specific forms were acquired they were often transformed and brought to the fore in ways that were considered unacceptable by the missionaries and settler society in general. The article shows that apart from race there was little difference in the intentions and activities of Herero and German settlers, both of whom sought to influence the same colonial administration. In conclusion it is argued that, in the last resort, what was of primary importance in the colonial setting of Namibia between 1900 and 1940 was the issue of race.
Mohammad Achaari's The Arch and Butterfly (Al-Qaws wa al-Farāsha, 2011) is a reflection of the social, political, and economic crisis engulfing contemporary Moroccan society. I argue that Achaari's novel provides a form of social and political intervention in contemporary Morocco in the way it critically engages with the failure of the left's political project, the co-optation of its intellectuals and the loss of its vision. It also engages with the suppressed history and culture of the country's Amazigh roots and the way it has been silenced in official records, an engagement that broadens the scope of historical loss and defeat and takes it deep back into Moroccan history. I also argue that the novel's interventionist vision is compromised by its discourse on the Islamists, which categorizes them all in one basket of militant and terrorist groups and which fails to recognize the growing popularity of ‘moderate’ Islamist politics that has largely come to replace the left as a major political force in the country.
This article explores the increasing importance of advertising in African electronic media, exemplified by radio commercials in the Republic of Benin. It will analyse the various types and formats, contents, and main actors involved in the making of these promotional audio productions (in a wide sense), as well as their relevance to the daily programme schedules and budgets of the respective radio stations. Furthermore, it will address the modes of production of these announcements, which involve a growing diversity of sources, formats, and performative styles (including oratory genres such as praising and self-praising), and finally refer to conflicts between the state and advertisers over publicity and authority, exemplified by a recent case of advertising for healers. The contribution2 analyses audio-related media and thus adds important empirical insights to the large literature on visual means of advertisement in Africa. I argue that these genres should be seen both as local transcriptions of globally circulating ideas, and as local imageries of a better life, as well as competing media goods in changing economies of attention.
This introductory article sketches the background of contemporary changes in African mediascapes against which we develop our central concepts of new (individual or collective) media entrepreneurs as well as new media experiences, both brought about by new modes of appropriating media technologies. The individual authors, through case studies, investigate various new pathways of individual and collective media engagement, and explore particular media genres that predominantly shape contemporary media landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa.
This article probes the frame ‘terrorist almighty’ that featured prominently in editorial cartoons in Kenya's two main newspapers in the high noon of the ‘war on terror’. From this frame, the article reveals that as the war on terror veered off from the promised script of a surgical war and the swift capture of the alleged 9/11 masterminds, increased terror attacks by suspected al-Qaida militants globally saw editorial cartoons systematically construct a symbolic reality of a vastly powerful terror network, personalized as Osama bin Laden. These editorial cartoons provide us with a critical look at the many phases of Osama bin Laden, from the acme of evil, a verminized villain, and finally mutating to the terrorist almighty, a particular frame that may have played a critical role in the discourse that followed the killing of the world's most wanted fugitive.Makala hii inachunguza fremu ya ‘utukufu wa gaidi’ ambayo ilitawala katiki vibonzo vya magazeti mawili makubwa nchini Kenya wakati wa vita dhidi ya ugaidi. Kwa kutumia fremu hii, Makala hii inaonyesha kwamba baada ya 9/11 vita dhidi ya ugaidi ilienda kinyume cha ahadi ya awali kwamba vita hivi vingewalenga tu magaidi na wafadhili wao. Hali hii ya kutozingatia ahadi hiyo ilizidisha ugaidi na pia kuendeleza wazo kwamba magaidi wana ushawishi mkuu duniani. Kwa kutumia vibonzo, makala hii inatupa sura mbali mbali zilizotumiwa na magazeti kumwonyesha Osama bin Laden akiwa Kama shetani, mdudu na kisha baadaye kama ‘gaidi mtukufu.’ Katika makala hii ninaonesha kwamba fremu hii ilikuwa na ushawishi mkubwa hasa ukizingatia mitazamo iliyoibuka baada ya kuuawa kwa Osama bin Laden.Maneno nyeti: Kenya; Gaidi mtukufu; ugaidi; Osama bin Laden; vibonzo vya magazeti
In the 14 years since Mohammed VI took power, the reform of women's status in the public arena and within the family unit has become a priority for Morocco as the country tries to assert its reputation as one of the most liberal countries in the Arab world. It is a very complex task because of deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes, the corruption of the political and judicial system, and also because Moroccan women are far from being a homogeneous group sharing the same experiences. The king introduced a controversial reform of the Moudawana in 2003, which was presented as being inspired by religious texts but has failed to substantially reduce gender inequalities. The recent events of the Arab Spring have also helped to bring the issue of women's participation in public life to the fore. Theatre groups have of course reflected this trend by placing more women in lead roles and by challenging widespread patriarchal values with innovative plays. Female directors such as Samia Akariou and Naima Zitan have attracted attention in the last few years by directing daring plays and television adaptations, and creating strong heroines. However, many theatre companies receive funding and exposure from the state or from foreign non-governmental organizations, thus raising the issue of co-optation.
African migration is not determined just through misery and danger. Personal ambition is an important catalyst compelling the more intrepid to hit the road. The decision to leave can result in a pressing urge to change lifestyle, to invent new ways of life, to explore far-off lands, real or imaginary. The migratory adventure is not only synonymous with a departure abroad – close or distant; it is also similar to a moral experience which is tightly correlated with risk or intensity of life. After introducing the different promoters of the African migratory adventure, the article will show that more and more African women, in the process of their migration, claim the status of the adventurer for themselves. Then, the times of adventure will enlighten, the beginning, the time of youth, and the end when the migrants come back home. Several outcomes to the migratory adventure are also possible. Upwards, for those who are able to convert their mobility capital and connect themselves to transnational networks. Downwards, for exhausted and socially unaffiliated individuals who can neither continue to move on nor turn back, because they are estranged by their countrymen.
This article focuses on Ndebele and Shona-speaking Zimbabwean migrants in Johannesburg, noting how their language varieties constitute capital (‘entry fees’) in negotiating their constructions by others as outsiders. Theoretically, the article draws on diverse theoretical works on situated discourse, with Bourdieu's economy of social practices being the spinal anchor. In examining the role and value of language as entry fees in the situatedness of Zimbabweans in Johannesburg, I deploy a multi-sited ethnography across three neighbourhoods of Johannesburg. The central argument I make in this article is that language's value neither inheres in language itself nor is it static. Instead, the value shifts according to the specific and contextual power dynamics underlying the interface and evaluation of it as an entry fee. Consequently, this fluctuation produces a complex continuum of Otherness in which the experience of being Ndebele and Shona-speaking in Johannesburg is not homogenous, but takes on shifting meanings.
Since the end of the Cold War and, in particular, the demise of apartheid in South Africa, there has been a sustained debate about African identity. There seems to be a consensus among scholars of African culture that the conventional notion of African identity that was conceived in opposition to the West is anachronistic. But what then constitutes the new African? Scholars have suggested concepts such as contamination, cultural hybridity, cultural mutt, conviviality, and most recently Afropolitanism, as means to understand the complex modern African identity. This article takes a critical examination of Afropolitanism and argues that it is an enunciation of the ideas of contamination, hybridity, hyperculturality and other postmodernist terms that disrupt essentialist and oppositional notions of African culture and identity. I hope to achieve two things in this article: situate Afropolitanism within a larger philosophical tradition of cosmopolitanism and examine the moral implications of expanding the notion of African identity beyond the oppositional model.
This article examines the way music is figured in selected paintings by Tanzania painter Elias Jengo. It also identifies and discusses musical figures in these paintings that are used to archive African or Tanzanian identity. Through these paintings Jengo participates in constructing and enacting African/Tanzanian identity by invoking and depositing Tanzanian cultural heritage. The article argues that the archiving of Africanness in most postcolonial cultural productions is an expression of a fever that torments African postcolonial souls, a fever caused by a fear of the possibility of cultural loss. The article also discusses Jengo's influence on his students and other young artists in Tanzania as an act of archiving. It argues that the future of Jengo's work lies not only in his influence on these young artists but also in his own ability and readiness to take plastic forms, as well as his students' eagerness to archive him in plastic forms.
This article examines how young African cultural entrepreneurs harness the economic, technological and creative openings created by globalization with a focus on the Naija Boyz, two Nigerian-born, US-based brothers, who became YouTube sensations via their ‘African Remix’ genre of hip hop video parodies. With over 20 million views, the videos are situated within four converging movements within contemporary African youth cultural production: the maturation of African hip hop; the specific resurgence of Nigeria as a cultural hub driven by Nollywood and the local hip hop scene; the circulation of new media technologies; and, the formation of an increasingly cosmopolitan, tech-savvy generation of African youth. Using the Naija Boyz’ images and lyrics, the YouTube videos are analyzed as critical commentaries of (black) American and African cultural scripts, which interrogate issues of gender, class, citizenship, and inter-/intra-diasporic relations. Moreover, the Naija Boyz are posited as archetypes of a rising generation of African youth, whose intercultural experiences outside of the African continent serve as a form of social capital that constitutes the basis of new (and potentially problematic) creative economies, which expand the presumed boundaries and concerns of African youth cultures.
Recent Shakespearean celebrations have highlighted the connection with South Africa, particularly in the form of the iconic ‘Robben Island Bible’, the volume of Shakespeare's collected works in which political prisoners on Robben Island marked their favourite quotations. This provides my starting point for an investigation into the historical origins of black South African engagement with Shakespeare. I present new evidence on the first recorded performances of Shakespeare by black South Africans – at the Anglican ‘Kafir Institution’ in Grahamstown (Eastern Cape) in the 1860s and 1870s. I see this as not so much a consequence of the inevitable spread of Shakespeare from the metropolitan centre to the far reaches of empire but as arising from a particular conjunction of individuals, ideologies and circumstances, a Shakespeare more chosen than imposed. I conclude by pointing to parallels between the mid-Victorian ‘civilizing mission’, central to the episode, and some contemporary manifestations of a universal Shakespeare.
In the last decade, many contemporary African authors of French expression from both North and sub-Saharan Africa have posited perspectives in their novels that reveal a global cosmopolitanism that uniquely defines African literature in the twenty-first century. Moroccan authors writing in French such as Youssouf Amine Elalamy and Fouad Laroui, among others, promote a way of being African in the world that disassociates the author from the literary tropes of earlier decades. They no longer dwell on the angst of the postcolonial condition, the traumas rooted in tensions between modernity and traditionalism, the sociocultural and economic divisions between North and sub-Saharan Africa, poverty and despair. Moroccan authors promote an ‘Afropolitanism’ in their works that connotes movement forward, to engage in becoming something other than the pessimistic stereotypes associated with Morocco as well as the African continent.Au cours de la dernière décennie, de nombreux auteurs africains contemporainsd'expression française du Maghreb et de l'Afrique sub-saharienne proposent des perspectives dans leurs romans qui révèlent un cosmopolitisme global qui définit de façon unique la littérature africaine du XXIe siècle. Les auteurs marocains écrivant en français comme Youssouf Amine Elalamy et Fouad Laroui, entre autres, soutiennent une manière d’être africaine dans le monde qui dissocie l'auteur des tropes littéraires des décennies précédentes. Ils se centrent moins sur les sujets tels que l'angoisse de la condition postcoloniale, les traumatismes socioculturels enracinés dans les tensions entre la modernité et le traditionalisme, les divisions socioculturelles et économiques entre le Maghreb et l'Afrique subsaharienne, la pauvreté et le désespoir. Les auteurs marocains promeuvent un « Afropolitanisme » dans leurs œuvres qui évoque un mouvement vers l'avant pour engager autres choses que les stéréotypes pessimistes associés au Maroc ainsi qu'au continent africain.
A Radio Dounia recording station during Alarama's Qur'an recital contest. Source: author's photograph.  
Alarama shelving some of the cassettes he has just duplicated. Source: author's photograph.  
Alarama hosting his École du Savoir programme. Source: author's photograph.  
Alarama leading the Musabaka contest on Dounia TV. Source: author's photograph.  
Alarama's Tuesday night sermon on Dounia TV. Source: author's photograph.  
In Niger, the role of the media in the re-islamization process that began two decades ago has remained understudied. This article seeks to remedy this gap and discusses a particular example of media usage and appropriation in the urban context of Niamey. It draws on a series of fieldwork studies undertaken in Niamey during the last two years. It focuses on Alarama, a young preacher and one of the most prominent media figures in Niamey. In addition to a series of TV and FM radio programmes he hosts, he has also developed recording and distribution practices that have resulted in the Islamic discotheque, a space that helps him popularize his CD and DVD sermons. I analyse how he has gathered around himself an expanding group of followers, many of whom have developed with him a fan–star relationship. Alarama's case exemplifies the way audiovisual media are constitutive of a new urban Islamic culture, which in return redefines media appropriation and religious imagination.
This article examines the creative appropriation of new media technologies by the producers of a pirate radio station (Radio Voice of the People) beaming into Zimbabwe from South Africa. In particular the article explores the news production process and the ways in which new technologies have transformed audience reception practices. Radio VOP has deployed multiple alternative transmission strategies that have rendered Zanu PF's claims to communication sovereignty obsolete. This article argues that radio as a medium of communication has adapted and appropriated digital technologies to extend its reach while opening up novel platforms of audience participation. The survival of the pirate radio since 2002 (even after its Harare studio was bombed) demonstrates its tenacity and resilience in the face of brutal repression. There are, however, limitations to the reach of pirate radio, and this article shows that its interactive website promotes elite participation because of the digital divide pervading developing countries.
There is a connection between chosen linguistic elements used in national assets, the ruling party and a group understood to be dominant. Within this connection are a series of activities that lead to excluding minority language groups. Such exclusionary practices may lead to perceptions of a devaluation of ethnolinguistic groups that are neither in the majority nor are significantly represented within the ruling party. In this article I present selected examples of what I term ‘national assets’ as evidence of instances where dominant groups in South Africa and Zambia have used their linguistic elements to name national assets. I reason that the manner in which national assets are named endorses the dominance of the dominant groups in national affairs, while at the same time excluding linguistic minorities – a practice that runs against linguistic human rights, to which both countries overtly subscribe. Within a limited space, the article investigates the impacts of dominant languages on the plight of the languages of minority groups in multilingual societies/communities, such as South Africa and Zambia.
This article explores Dinka songs as poetic autobiography, focusing in particular on their composition and circulation as audio-letters between South Sudan and the global Dinka diaspora. Drawing on current debates on mobility and belonging, the article explores how a tradition of personal song making, which is rooted in a culture of pastoralism and localized mobilities, has been repackaged to accommodate population dispersal across continents and cultures. While ‘big’ mobilities (transacted by civil war) have caused Dinka societies to expand and grow, the article considers how audio-letters simultaneously bring clan groups together through a combination of old cultural forms and new geographies and concerns. Through the analysis of two Dinka Bor songs, the article explores how the immediacy and potency inflected in the sonic and poetic convention of the genre nourishes Dinka social and spatial relations and helps to define and redefine their pasts and futures. It concludes with a reflection on the ‘affiliative power’ of the cassette, which, despite increasing access to digital technologies, has remained the song carrier of choice, and has thus become implicated in the complexity of connections, identifications and intimacies of this contemporary global cultural practice.
Through a selection of case studies this article demonstrates how technological innovation in Kenya is instrumental in an emerging diversification in the production and the distribution of local audiovisual narratives. The article thus adds a new perspective to the literature on technological innovation and related evolutions in African film industries, which so far has focused largely on technology's democratizing effects, particularly with the emergence of popular cinema. I posit that, more than being part of a democratizing process in movie-making, technology makes a greater diversity in audiovisual narratives and new means of dissemination possible. However, other factors – economic, social, societal, demographic – influence the outcome and the mid-to-long term sustainability of new circuits of audiovisual storytelling. In other words, technology can facilitate but cannot in itself ‘establish’ diversification.
Top-cited authors
Igor Brian Cusack
  • Independent Researcher
Fiona Mclaughlin
  • University of Florida
Chege Githiora
  • SOAS, University of London
John Lonsdale
  • Trinity College, Cambridge, UK (Title E Fellow)
Julie Taylor
  • University of Birmingham