Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture

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Cultural History

Local music accounts for a third of all the music bought by South Africans. Even techno-rave and house music have found their own variations in local culture. Kwaito and hip-hop are very popular, combining elements of rap, reggae and other musical styles into a distinctly South African style. Kwaai Jazz is also gaining momentum.

The SATMA Awards are aimed at promoting, preserving, uplifting, developing, honouring and awarding traditional musicians across racial and ethnic backgrounds. Dancing is part of the African way of life and has become a prime means of artistic expression, with dance companies expanding and exploring new territory. Contemporary work ranges from normal preconceptions of movement and performance art or performance theatre to the completely unconventional.

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Added to this is the African experience, which includes traditional dance inspired by wedding ceremonies, battles, rituals and the trifles of everyday life. An informal but highly versatile performance venue in Johannesburg, The Dance Factory, provides a permanent platform for a variety of dance and movement groups. The University of the Witwatersrand Wits Theatre is another popular dance venue.

South Africa has a rich variety of visual art, with influences ranging from pre-historic, ancient and indigenous art to western, Asian and contemporary art. There are many traces of ancient cultures that existed in southern Africa in the distant past. Experts estimate that there are rock-art sites south of the Zambezi.

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The San people left a priceless and unique collection of Stone Age paintings and engravings in the region, which also represents the largest collection of its kind in the world. Many South African photographers have been acclaimed for their work, which features in coffee-table books, documentaries, local and overseas exhibitions, magazines and newspapers. South Africa has a rich architectural heritage, reflecting contributions from all the cultural groups in the country. This is evident in the variety of architectural structures found all over the country, ranging from humble dwellings, historical homesteads and public buildings, to modern, commercial buildings reflecting state-of-the-art technology and designs that match the best in the world.

South African beadwork, once the insignia of tribal royalty alone, has found a huge range of applications, from the creation of coverings for everything from bottles to matchboxes. With workplaces ranging from the pavements and markets of the big cities to dwellings in deep rural areas, South Africans produce a remarkable range of arts and crafts, including various forms of traditional artwork and innovative new products.

These range from jewellery, tableware, home decorations, embroidery and key rings to skilfully crafted wooden engravings and wirework sculptures. Shops, markets and collectors dealing in African crafts provide much-needed employment and income to communities.

The Roots of African Theatre Ritual and Orality in the Pre-Colonial Period*

Each regional community hosting a NBW event in September showcased their storytelling style and tradition, encouraging appreciation of their local talent and mother tongue. The winners were:. The South African Government recognises the significant role played by the film sector in nation-building, promoting social cohesion, reconciliation and supporting economic growth and job creation. Government offers a package of incentives to promote its film production industry. The Foreign Film and Television Production incentive aims to attract foreign-based film productions to shoot on location in South Africa, and the South African Film and Television Production and Co-production incentive aims to assist local film producers in producing local content.

The South African Emerging Black Filmmakers incentive, a sub-programme of the South African Film and Television Production and Co-production Incentive, which aims to assist local emerging black filmmakers to nurture and grow them to take up big productions and thus contribute towards employment creation.

South Africa has more than museums ranging from museums of geology, history, the biological sciences and the arts, to mining, agriculture, forestry and many other disciplines. The Nelson Mandela Museum in Soweto, Johannesburg had signed a partnership with Google to launch the Google Expedition that would provide a virtual tour of the museum. In December , Cabinet approved the Policy Framework on National Museums, which aims is to transform the management and operations of museums in terms of access, redress, equity, nation-building and social cohesion.

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The policy proposes the clustering of museums into new management structures to achieve economies of scale by reducing the number of councils. It also provides for the grading of all the museums according to qualities, scope and significance to enable equitable funding allocations. Its collections contain a wealth of information sources, including rare manuscripts, books, periodicals, government publications, foreign official publications, maps, technical reports, and special interest material, including Africana and newspapers. Its purpose is to provide, free of charge as far as is reasonably possible, a national LIS to serve blind and print-handicapped readers in South Africa.

It is partly state-funded and depends for the remainder of its financial needs on funds from the private sector and the general public.

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It develops standards for the production of such documents and researches production methods and technology in the appropriate fields. It also acquires, manufactures and disseminates the technology people with visual disabilities use to read. The SALB has a membership of about 5 people, an audio and Braille collection of more than books, and an annual circulation of books in Braille or audio format. To make library services more accessible, the SALB partners with public libraries providing accessible reading material and assistive devices.

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Blind SA, located in Johannesburg, provides services for blind and partially sighted individuals to uplift and empower them by publishing books, magazines and other documents in Braille. It equips blind people with the skills they need to fully and independently participate in society.

This includes support in living without assistance, getting about, using technology, reading, working and socialising. Source: Pocket Guide to South Africa. Skip to main content. The mandate of the DAC is to: preserve, develop, protect and promote the cultural, heritage and linguistic diversity andlegacy of South Africa; lead nation-building and social cohesion through societal transformation; enhance archives and records management structures and systems, and promote access to information; and provide leadership to the art and culture sector so as to accelerate its transformation.

Promoting and preserving heritage infrastructure The DAC is developing the infrastructure of heritage sites in all nine provinces to ensure that the Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route RLHR tells the South African story, thereby increasing the potential of attracting economic development and tourism. Young Patriots Programme The Young Patriots Programme was launched in to encourage young people to participate actively in building the capacity of the arts, culture and heritage sector, and gain meaningful skills through service delivery improvement and moral regeneration initiatives, and the youth social cohesion advocates programme.

Best Indigenous Comedian: Hallo M. Best Female Artist: Buselaphi — Umakhanda khanda. Best Maskandi: Amageza Amahle — Inhlesa nenhlama. Best Xitsonga: Sir Jambatani 9 — Milorho. Best Sepedi: Seremi — Makgaritlana. Best African: Jazz Azah — Batswadi. Best Department of Art and Culture: Mpumalanga. Yet, it is part of every day in public places and at home.

Everywhere theatricality is evident. The slightest pretext often gives rise to complex theatrical events where music, dance and verbal parody figure in equal parts. The African has always lived in close accord with theatre and the theatrical; the performative, to use a contemporary term, is an integral part of his or her identity. In this sense, early Africa offers an example of perfect harmony between theatre and society. If one considers the genres and styles of theatre in connection with the milieu in which they originated, if one tries to ascertain the specific elements that gave rise to African theatre and if one studies these indigenous forms as such, it can be concluded that theatre in ancient Black Africa can be clearly found in such elements as ritual gesture and communal celebrations by large rural publics where these forms first emerged; artistic forms that synthesize spectacle and the spoken word, rhythm and dance, forms that integrate many modes of expression.

It is to rituals, dances, masquerades, storytelling and folk celebrations with all their theatrical elements, then, that one must look for such an African definition.

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The fact is that Africa is prodigiously rich in rituals of all kinds. Some are in a lighter vein and give rise to comic expression, but the great majority has their origins in religious expression and magic. Intended as a discourse with supernatural forces—in order to channel them, control them, appease them or honor them—and to ensure the survival and equilibrium of the community, rituals were and still are shields defending the community against evil forces.

In this sense, each of these thousands of rituals constitutes the germ of a theatrical performance in its use of mask, dance and incantation.


While it is also true that ritual and theatre are not the same thing, it is evident that theatre, of all the arts, is the one most apt to use the same elements as those found in ritual. It is for this reason that so many African researchers and practitioners put ritual at the centre of both their reflection and their stage practice. Imbued with symbolic meanings and using a concrete language, rituals delineate spaces that are always seen as symbolic or mythic, places to come together, places for an exchange between the human and the divine, or between human and human.

Created by master-celebrants and shared with participant spectators, such ritual ceremonies designate specific roles—often supernatural—with actions and words rooted not in aesthetics but in their efficacy as part of the whole performance construct. The root here is religion—in this case, animism—which permeates all activities and constitutes the basis for a whole network of customs. African thought is steeped in animism which places humanity at the centre of its concerns. God, in the African universe, needs people in order to be fully realized.

It is people, by their sacrifices, their cultural manifestations and their incantations, who give the gods meaning.

In this way, each human being—in conjunction with his or her ancestors—participates in divine creativity. It is through such performative elements that the myths and legends on which African civilization is based are examined, scrutinized and reinterpreted. In such traditional ceremonies, for example, the mask is considered the material representation of a spiritual presence assuring the presence of the ancestors among the living.

It can symbolize animals as well as humans.

Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture
Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture
Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture
Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture
Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture
Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture
Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture
Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture Performing Africa: Remixing Tradition, Theatre, and Culture

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