PRESENTATION | Singing for Freedom in South Africa
Join us for a multi-media presentation Singing for Freedom in South Africa with Professor Omotayo Jolaosho
Built upon established South African oral traditions that include storytelling, poetry, and song, freedom songs served a number of purposes among anti-apartheid activists. They relayed information about events in the struggle, disguised messages so they would not run afoul of government censorship, and bolstered morale in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. This presentation, which will include video clips from South African protests and other activist events, will explore the roles that these songs played and continue to play among South Africans fighting for political and economic freedom.
The presentation will offer a history of protest singing in South Africa, and in doing so trace the audible rise to prominence of key activists like Nelson Mandela while highlighting the contributions of lesser-known individuals to the country’s liberation struggle. The core part of the presentation will focus on how these songs work, in particular how their musical features shape protest events. Finally, with the recent passing of Hugh Masekela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the presentation concludes by considering the role of freedom songs in mourning and commemoration.
Omotayo Jolaosho is a faculty member in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies at the University of South Florida. A cultural anthropologist and software engineer, she is currently writing an ethnography on the role of embodied performance within activist collectives opposing neoliberal state economic policies in post-apartheid South Africa. Her previous publications include the transnational anthology African Women Writing Resistance: Contemporary Voices (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010). Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and the Smithsonian Institution, among others.