Dust of the Zulu: Ngoma Aesthetics after Apartheid.

Author:Muiu, Mueni wa
Position:AFRICA - Book review
 
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Meintjes, Louise. Dust of the Zulu: Ngoma Aesthetics after Apartheid. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

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...

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