In Dust of the Zulu Louise Meintjes traces the political and aesthetic significance of ngoma, a competitive form of dance and music that emerged out of the legacies of colonialism and apartheid in South Africa. Contextualizing ngoma within South Africa's history of violence, migrant labor, the HIV epidemic, and the world music market, Meintjes follows a community ngoma team and its professional subgroup during the twenty years after apartheid's end. She intricately ties aesthetics to politics, embodiment to the voice, and masculine anger to eloquence and virtuosity, relating the visceral experience of ngoma performances as they embody the expanse of South African history. Meintjes also shows how ngoma helps build community, cultivate responsible manhood, and provide its participants with a means to reconcile South Africa's past with its postapartheid future. Dust of the Zulu includes over one hundred photographs of ngoma performances, the majority taken by award-winning photojournalist TJ Lemon.
Introduction. The Politics of Participation in Ngoma Song and Dance 1
1. Turning to Be Kissed: Praise, Flirtation, and the Work of Men 28
2. The Unwavering Voice: Affect, Eloquence, and the Moral Anger of Men 62
3. Feet of the Centipede: Military Aesthetics and the Politics of Reconciliation 94
4. To Quell the Dancer's Dust: Singing Violence during South Africa's Transition 124
5. The Crossing: World Music and Ngoma at Home 151
6. Dancing Around Disease: Silence, Ambiguity, and Brotherhood 182
7. The Digital Homestead: Having a Voice and the Sound of Marginalization 210
8. Brokering the Body: Culture, Heritage, and the Pleasure of Participation 240
Closing. Ngoma's Masculinity, South Africa's Struggle 266
“Dust of the Zulu is hands-down among the very best ethnographic works ever written on the politics of aesthetics. Commanding, rewarding, challenging, and shattering in turns, equally gorgeous and unflinching in its evocations, it is above all poignant and virtuosic in its performance of criticism and compassion. This is a hugely important book for South African history and aesthetics, for anthropologies of the body and voice, for cultural studies of music, sound, and dance, and for experimental ethnographic writing and imaging. A stunning book.”
Steven Feld, author of
Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra: Five Musical Years in Ghana
"Studies of African performance remain far too few; this one sets a very high bar. Essential."
A. F. Roberts
"Crackling with energy and erudition, Dust of the Zulu now vivifies ngoma for the academy."
Journal of Modern African Studies
"Louis Meintjes's Dust of the Zulu leaps out at the reader with the same energy and passion as the Ngoma dancers themselves. It is uncanny how deftly Meintjes captures the vibrancy and rhythm of the performers and performances in her writing, and T.J. Lemon’s photos are the perfect complement to the descriptions of harmonized bodies and voices."
"Meintjes’s fluid ethnographic writing melds analytical precision with a depth of cultural insight gained through long immersion. The book’s dialectical force is sustained by the richness and intimacy of Meintjes’s collaborations. Zulu voices saturate the book’s textures. . . . The prose itself is beautifully wrought. . . . Replete with revelations that are by turns tremendously moving, frightening, disconcerting, and inspiring."
Thomas M. Pooley
"We travel with Meintjes as she recounts individual narratives of Zulu men maintaining dignity amidst wavering stability in wage-labor, health, and the inconsistent machinations of the international music industry. The humanity, fragility, and mutual constitution of strength through aesthetics is expertly handled in this new classic in the genre of performative ethnography."
International Journal of African Historical Studies
"Louise Meintjes’s book provides a captivating introduction to the vibrant and dramatic spirit of this Southern African art form. . . . Dust of the Zulu contributes to the ever-growing literature on indigenous African theatre and performance; its strength is the author’s captivating descriptions of the dance and the drama of the competitions."
Theatre Research International