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Title:Singing Against Apartheid: ANC Cultural Groups and the International Anti-Apartheid Struggle
Author:Gilbert, Shirli
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:national liberation movements
African National Congress (South Africa)
anti-apartheid resistance
Architecture and the Arts
History and Exploration
Ethnic and Race Relations
Abstract:This article 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. It focuses on two of the African National Congress's most significant projects in this realm: Mayibuye, an agitprop group that achieved considerable success in Europe in the 1970s; and Amandla, which travelled widely as a party ambassador during the 1980s, offering large-scale performances incorporating music, theatre and dance. The article's primary analytical interest is in how black South African popular culture came to play a role in the movement's work in exile, how it was recruited and repackaged in order to appeal to foreign audiences, and the relationship between this and cultural activity that was more internally focused. The distinction between culture's role in external propaganda work as opposed to internally-focused nationbuilding helps to situate the contributions of these two groups within the larger context of culture and the struggle. Further, it helps to explain the difficulties faced by those trying to revive Amandla in postapartheid South Africa, an initiative that ultimately has not come to fruition. In exploring how music was mobilized by the ANC in the international arena, the article seeks to understand the importance and distinctive value of propaganda-focused cultural activity to the movement, as well as its necessary and inevitable limitations. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]