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The Culture of AIDS in AfricaHope and Healing Through Music and the Arts$
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Gregory Barz and Judah Cohen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199744473

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199744473.001.0001

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Singing Songs of AIDS in Venda, South Africa

Singing Songs of AIDS in Venda, South Africa

Performance, Pollution, and Ethnomusicology in a Neo-Liberal Setting

(p.193) 16 Singing Songs of AIDS in Venda, South Africa
The Culture of AIDS in Africa

Fraser G. McNeill

Deborah James

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes an HIV/AIDS campaign in Venda, South Africa that employs female peer educators who incorporate and adapt a mix of anti-apartheid, religious, and local musical styles into their public promotion of safer sex. Through the strategic combination of songs from the anti-apartheid struggle, Christian churches and “traditional” repertoires, peer educators attempt a symbolic and material transformation of themselves from unemployed rural women to quasi-social workers. Music is central to this process, not only because it provides an easily accessible and readily understandable medium for the transmission of knowledge, but also because the peer educators claim to “sing about what they cannot talk about.” This campaign, however, has also spurred a musical counter-discourse from a male-dominated solo genre known as zwilombe, which accuses the women’s messages (along with the campaign) as manipulative and exploitative. The chapter highlights the inherent dangers of privileging songs that are rooted in bioscientific worldviews over those which emerge from folk cosmologies of health and/or sickness.

Keywords:   songs, HIV/AIDS, Venda, South Africa, peer educators, safer sex, rural women, quasi-social workers, music, zwilombe

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