Modern Dance in africa

I felt that I could not wrap this song up without doing a post about dancing. Dance is just such a  focal point of the video and the dances in the video just grab your eye so you can’t look away from it I just needed to talk about it.  Dance is a very important component of Africa’s culture and tradition. Some have gone as far to say that dance ritual is a representation of the communal heartbeat and the overall psychology of the people. The drum is a very important aspect in African music and in my research I found that dancers move with the drums in particular and this is where people feel moved and feel the need to join in and I went back and watched the video again and noticed that the woman that dances alone through the video is always moving with the drums and that is probably why her movements seem so powerful and really get the viewers attention. When broken down the way Africans view dance is nothing short of amazing. It really is such a powerful experience for them that it makes you feel like you are missing out on something when you watch and don’t get everything out of it that they do. For example a quote I found in my research says “For instance, in Africa the dance expresses the volume or mass, ‘so that when a movement comes to a rest, we observe a path created by a whirlwind, strong virile, and powerful’. “. I think that its crazy how much they are moved by dance as a people and how in our culture it is more or less ignored by the majority of people and only really appreciated by a particular group.  With the involvement of a transgender person in the video combined with the importance of dance and the issues that transgender people have in Africa I thought it would be interesting to see where the two overlap.  As I said in a previous post dance is a large part of religious proceedings and ceremonies in Africa. But as I also mentioned in a different post or maybe just the podcast I am unsure members of the LGBTQ community are treated very poorly by the church. This leads to them not being allowed to be involved in these dances and ceremonies. These people are truly just ignored and pushed away by their own people and its horrible. They can’t take part in one of the most key parts of their culture due to their sexual orientation. The most involved these people can get in the church is the people in the congregation praying so whatever is possessing them to be this way leaves them. Now I’m sure that they can dance for fun, but in Africa dance has more meaning then that. I am also curious to know if the video is an accurate representation of how these people feel out in public. The transgender person in the video is just standing there happy enough just to be there. I really don’t know, but it is something that I am curious about and definitely a problem that needs to be fixed because it isn’t right.

Azwihangwisi Helen Mavhandu-Mudzusi & Peter Thomas Sandy (2015) Religion-related stigma and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at a South African rural-based university, Culture, Health & Sexuality, 17:8, 1049-1056, DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2015.1015614

Welsh- Asante,  Kariamu, African Dance: An Artistic, Historical, and Philosophical Inquiry, Africa World Press, Inc., First Printing 1994

Colonialism in modern Africa

Colonialism is obviously a large part of African history and with that it is integrated into their culture and this is shown in the video. Between the lyrics, the way they are dressed and how certain people are treated it is very easy to see the remnants left behind by colonials.  First off how they are dressed. Through the entire video everyone is dressed very western. Whether it is just Baloji sitting there singing, the woman dancing is various locations, or the bar/party scene this is all that is shown. Through my research i found that some believe that if you where the clothing of your enemy then their spirits are weakened but I do not believe this to be the purpose of their clothing choice. I believe that it is ingrained in there minds and in their culture that the West represents success, power, and wealth and this is how they associate with that.  This desire to be associated with success along with the rise of mass consumerism, which is common in the West as we all know, is what causes the dress to lean towards a Western style rather than what appears to be more of an African style, in my opinion.  The lyrics are the next topic I would like to talk about. The lyrics of this song do not reference colonialism or particularly show how colonialism has effected their culture, but I feel that these companies that are being attacked are almost being compared to colonist by how they are referenced.  This does not exactly what I was talking about, but it is something that I picked up on and thought was interesting and thought was worth adding. There are references to how these companies take advantage of people and effect their lives and all I could think about is how similar it sounds when people are talking about colonists. Lastly how one person in particular is treated and that is the transgender person in the bar/ party scene is treated. I talked about how it is a good thing that this person is in the video in my last post, but after looking deeper into it I noticed what the video is really showing. This person seems to be getting completely ignored and in my research I found that this is a type of trend found in many different aspects of life for a transgender person in Africa. Even in the case of medical research there is next to none for transgender people because they are treated as non existent and are usually just ignored. This is a recurring problem and there does not seem to be an end in sight.

Hendrickson, Hildi, Clothing and Difference, Embodied Identities in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 1996

Jobson, Geoffrey, Theron, Liesl,  Kaggwa, Julius, Kim, He-Jin, Transgender in Africa: Invisible, inaccessible, or ignored?,SAHARA-J: Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS, 2012

Gender and Sexuality in Post Colonial Africa

Something that stuck out to me after watching the video multiple times is the focus on gender representation. The first few times I watched it I did not notice it because they are rather subtle, but once i saw it I realized that there were multiple scenes where members of the LGBTQ community were present. In the past in these countries gender was just the binary of man and woman and they did not recognize the other genders and went along with the idea that gender was solely based on sex. But now in the modern era where many believe that there are more than two genders and that gender is not based on a person’s sex at birth. And in more recent years these previously lets say conservative, for a lack of better terms, countries are becoming more and more progressive.  I believe that this community’s involvement in the video was to show that there is progress being made visually.  Although there has been some progress Post Colonial Africa is still very much associated with colonial beliefs.  Prior to colonization there was no concept of homosexuality. There were same sex relationships prior but the binary system that is now the main belief in these countries was none existent.  Africa is considered a homophobic continent due to the fact that colonizers desire to normalize heterosexuality by repressing homosexuals on the continent. This repression was spread through many aspects of life even in literature. When it comes to writing the topics of polygamy  and the love of a man and woman/women, a.k.a. heterosexual relationships, are topics authors are more willing to focus on and describe when it comes to a work that involves sexuality. But when homosexual relationships or love is written in these kinds of work it is written from a distance. They avoid getting in depth or doing any kind of observations of these people to see what it is like for themselves. And this just goes back to these colonial beliefs that are embedded into these people’s beliefs and the reluctance to accept the way these people live their lives.  Some have even gone as far to say that the representation of homosexuality is nonexistent due to the influence that colonists have had on these people.

 

Bertolt, Boris, Thinking otherwise: theorizing the colonial / modern gender system in Africa,African Sociological Review / Revue Africaine de Sociologie Flight. 22, No. 1 (2018), pp. 2-17 (16 pages)
Published by: CODESRIA

Ibrahim, Huma, Gender and Sexuality, Encyclopedia of African Literature, London: Routledge, 2005, Copyright © 2003 Routledge. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Alcohol harming the people and the economy

Two messages that stuck out to me in this video are alcohol problems and a struggling economy. There are multiple references to alcoholism and the association of alcohol with coping and fun. There are also references to inflated prices on things such as food and how alcohol is cheaper. Alcohol was a large part of developing the colonial countries in Africa.  This has carried over through time because even today alcohol holds relevance in their culture.  Alcohol is involved in/important to multiple ceremonies and rituals including religious rituals, building relationships, and cementing kinship ties. There is also a deep connection between alcohol and fun and success. This is due to the breweries and other companies that produce alcohol working their way into power and control. And this allows them to get more sales and make more money when people associate these with each other. This is very clearly shown in the short advertisement in the middle of the video. It says things like it will make you dance and if you drink this and you will have good luck. I believe this has lead to the binge culture that is mentioned in the video. It began as something that was just part of the economy and now it has become something else, a problem. The way it is depicted in the video and in my research it seems that it is almost an epidemic or a country wide problem. It reminds me of the cigarette commercials often seen on TV here in America talking about how the tobacco industry targets the young and poor in their campaigning and product placement. I see similar techniques in their advertisements.  This is leading to people, in particular men, to spend excessive amounts of money on this. I mentioned some of the good associations with alcohol at the beginning, but this is the bad side. And now with individuals hurting financially because of this alcohol problem that is spread throughout formerly colonized Africa and its integration in the culture and with these companies targeting susceptible markets the economy is hurting because so much of it relies on this specific industry.  That is what I believe the main point is of this song/video. To take a public figure to get up in front of everyone and verbalize the issues in hopes to open some eyes to this issue that to most probably goes unnoticed because if nothing is done then this economy and these people will just dig themselves deeper in to this hole.

Korieh, Chima J., Alcohol and Empire: “Illicit” Gin Prohibition and Control in Colonial Eastern Nigeria, African Economic History
No. 31 (2003), pp. 111-134 (24 pages) Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Thabo Fako : The family and National Development in Botswana: A plea for research, Botswana Notes and Records, Go to Journal
15 (1983), p.9-14

Dance Culture in Kinshasa

Tradition is an important message in this video. Between the references, the changes of scenery, the dancing and the clothing this is very apparent. The two that caught my eye in the video the most was the dancing and the type of clothing they were wearing while putting on these performances.  These caught my attention because of the contrast within the video. Certain scenes show modern clothing and dances and others show clothing and dance that seem to be traditional or maybe even ritualistic. And through some research i found that dance and these “costumes” or traditional clothing, for a lack of better terms, play a significant role in the culture in Kinshasa.  Dance is involved in religion, tradition, and modern culture in Kinshasa. In the religious aspect they are used to mediate between themselves and the divine. The goal is to get into this “trance” and they believe that by doing this they are purifying themselves. Something that I found that, in my opinion are more interesting than these dances and their purposes themselves, is that these groups, especially the Christians, realize that they all share similar choreography, but emphasize how it is important to separate them. This is interesting to me because they are aware that they are similar, but they want to also be separate from each other. I found that this is because it is believed that every dance or movement has a spiritual meaning behind it, but I’m still curious about it.  But anyway on to the dress in the film and its relevance to the culture. Both more modern and traditional dress are shown in the video, but the traditional is more interesting in my opinion because of its placement in the video. In the video there are these skull masks and different face and body paint that really caught my attention and I was curious to find out the meanings behind it.  The masks can have a wide range of meanings. Some of them are pretty simple for example to represent a young man, but I found others that are representative of things like chopping down a tree. They are also shown to represent monsters and things of that nature in different performances. But the skull masks have a deeper meaning in my opinion. They are to represent dead ancestors and worn to different ceremonies such as a baptism or circumcision. I like this tradition because it is a way they keep their family that has passed in memory and also the idea of life and death where the dead are “present” at ceremonies celebrating new life. I am not completely sure why these were included in this video but I find it very interesting.

Pype, Katrien, Dancing for God or The Devil: Pentecostal Discourse on Popular Dance in Kinshasa, Journal of Religion in Africa
Vol. 36, Fasc. 3/4 (2006), pp. 296-318 (23 pages) Published by: Brill

Strother Z.S., Invention and Reinvention In The Traditional Arts

Old and New Becoming One

Karibu Ya Bintou by Baloji in my opinion very relevant to our class for many reasons. The first is that pretty early on in the video Baloji says “they took my history for a fable”. This made me think about how we talked about how the French saw African culture as inferior and pretty much irrelevant when they arrived in Africa and throughout their time there. Not only did they ignore African history/ culture, but they also forced their own upon the people. Baloji talks about how the people are “naive” and this made me think about how the French felt the need to help people learn the “correct” way to live. It made me think about the video we watched in class about the Europeans riding the bike around in a circle and saying things like you can only ride it if you believe in God and just made me think of how they almost fooled the Africans into appropriating their culture. This appropriation of culture is shown in the music video at the very beginning with what looked like Baloji getting baptized in a river, but he also makes a point to show that they have not abandoned their culture. Throughout the video there are multiple references to keeping tradition even in modern times. In addition to the lyrical references the video itself kind of evolved from a more modern scene showing Baloji walking through a city to  people with more traditional clothing and different face paints doing what appeared to be a ritualistic kind of performance involving dancing, music, and some type of fire display with torches.  Another article that i found called “New ideas and Tradition” is very much in agreement with what Baloji says and shows in the video. It talks about how important the combination of new and old ideas are in African history. In addition to the cultural relevance in how this idea of new and old becoming one i just thought it was a very interesting way to depict this and enjoyed watching the video progress. In an article i found that is titled “The Race Not Evolving”. This article, just as the title labels it, says that their culture is not changing as time goes on. and that the culture in African countries is just staying the same as the rest of the world leaves them behind. Which is both true and false because it is changing and they are not falling behind the rest of the world but at the same time they are not completely letting go of their tradition and they continue to make it an important part of their lives.  Another part of the video that i found very interesting was when Baloji said “Stage right overlooks unrestricted life and stage left looks over guilty secrets”. I found this interesting because it made me think about the choice that the people of Africa had to make when they were deciding on whether or not to become independent from the European nations. One side is a free life and the other is a life that they are not in control of with an unknown result.

Kathleen R. Smythe, Africa’s Past, Our Future, Chapter 4 New Ideas and Tradition, Copyright 2015 Published by Indiana Press

Elder W D Forde, The Race Not Evolving, Chicago Defender
(Aug 02, 1913) p.7, col.6 

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