Singing against apartheid: ANC cultural groups and the international anti-apartheid struggle

Gilbert, Shirli (2007) Singing against apartheid: ANC cultural groups and the international anti-apartheid struggle. Journal of Southern African Studies, 33, (2), 421-441. (doi:10.1080/03057070701292848).


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This presentation explores the ways in which music, together with cultural forms such as poetry, theatre, and dance, was used to garner international support for the struggle against apartheid. From the mid-1970s exiled political groups, particularly the African National Congress (ANC), came increasingly to recognize the value of culture in promoting the struggle abroad. 1974 saw the establishment of the Mayibuye Cultural Ensemble, a London-based grouping that was to achieve considerable success in Europe. Mayibuye was an agitprop group whose performances consisted of an awareness-raising narrative about apartheid interwoven with poetry readings and rousing renditions of freedom songs. In the late 1970s, as increasing pressure forced many of Mayibuye’s performers into more direct political work, another group was in the budding stages of development closer to home. The Amandla Cultural Ensemble originated amongst ANC exiles based largely in military training camps in southern Africa, and became a popular ambassador for the movement across Africa, Europe, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere. It offered large-scale, increasingly professionalized performances incorporating jazz, theatre, and dance. Its performances were intended not only to raise international awareness about apartheid, but also – perhaps more importantly – to present an alternative vision of a future, more inclusive South African culture. Drawing on original archival material, photographs, and documentary footage, this presentation explores developing conceptions of the value of cultural work amongst South African political exiles in the 1970s and 80s, and the ways in which culture was actively recruited to promote the anti-apartheid struggle abroad

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1080/03057070701292848
ISSNs: 0305-7070 (print)
1465-3893 (electronic)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > History
University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > Music
ePrint ID: 79656
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
June 2007Published
Date Deposited: 26 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:15

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