Kerr and Mhishi on Music in Dar es Salaam and Zimbabwe

Finding Africa Seminar

30 April 2019

4-5.30 pm

Leeds Humanities Arts Research Institute (Seminar Room 2)

Abstracts

Singeli, Urban Space and the Temporalities of Electronic Music Production in Dar es Salaam by David Kerr

As Bayat has argued, the street is the public space “par excellence” for those excluded from the institutions of public life in which people can “assemble, make friends, earn a living, spend their leisure time, and express discontent” (Bayat 2013, 52). In this paper, I explore the emergence at street events in Dar es Salaam’s informal settlements of a new electronically produced musical genre, Singeli. Unplanned settlements, known as uswahilini, the area where the Swahili live, were central to the development of Singeli. Uswahilini exist largely on the margins of the state and this absence of state regulation affords distinct possibilities for creative expression. 

Performed at street gatherings on the edges of the cities political, social and musical infrastructure, Singeli began when DJs isolated, looped and increased the speed of instrumental sections of older popular Tanzanian songs, thus enabling singers to perform live over popular tracks. This bricolage of older Tanzanian song snippets produced a unique sonic landscape. Singeli sonically embodies the space of uswahilini. In this paper, I explore the role that its location socially and geographically has played in the creation and circulation of Singeli. I suggest the relationship between Singeli and the genres from which it borrows to constitute itself provide a lens through which to explore how young people play with the multiple temporalities of nostalgia and anticipation as well as those of the past, present and future.

Crossings, Convivialities and Imaginings: Music and Zimbabwean Struggles with Abjection by Lennon Mhishi

This discussion is an attempt at sounding out the question, to borrow from Yvonne Vera, “Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals?” when it comes to writing and thinking Africa, Zimbabwe in particular. In asking this question, some of the entanglements of power and knowledge may be encountered. The dominant narrative on Zimbabwe, like most of Africa, has been on tyranny and crisis.  A substantive body of work on Zimbabwean ‘migrants’— especially in South Africa and the UK,—has provided an important foundation for understanding the complexities of (im)mobility, especially in relation to the socio-political and economic challenges of the past decade and counting in Zimbabwe. Part of the present struggle, if it can be characterised as such, is how to begin or continue to theorise being Zimbabwean outside, or not over-archingly defined by, the sensational and necrophiliac politics that have been the dominant lens through which Zimbabwe has been viewed. I propose to explore this through the transnational experiences of ethnographic work conducted in London on music, identity and belonging, and recent travels to Zimbabwe. In a sense, these entail some of the conversations concerning African migration and diaspora. Music here is the thread I am using to suture imaginings of Zimbabwe from within, and outside. To write or think of an outside, and to also acknowledge how music exists within, and can inherently cohere with politics, somewhat constitutes in this instance a rejection of any fundamental outside in itself. It caters more to a movement, a dancing and swinging around the politics, (un)bounded and institutional, quotidian and simultaneously ,carried by and within Zimbabwean bodies, even in realms imagined as outside the physical borders and the dominant tropes of the politics of Zimbabwe, or being Zimbabwean.

About Our Speakers

Dr David Kerr

Dr David Kerr is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg working on street performance, everyday epistemologies and urban space, in Dar es Salaam. His obtained a PhD from the University of Birmingham in 2014 and has published in his fields of cultural and social anthropology, cultural studies and media studies.

Dr Lennon Mhishi

Dr Lennon Mhishi is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Politics department at the University of Liverpool. Prior to joining the University of Liverpool, Lennon has conducted ethnographic research in Harare, Johannesburg, and London. His doctoral work in anthropology, at SOAS University of London, explored the migrant and diasporic experiences of music, identity and belonging amongst Zimbabweans in London, whilst foregrounding these experiences as part of the genealogy of African and black presence and expressive culture in Britain. He is currently part of a project, led by Professor Alex Balch, exploring how the arts and humanities can be utilised in tackling contemporary forms of slavery in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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The Birth of ‘New’ Materialism? Abortion and Southern African Women’s Writing

UntitledThe next seminar in our African Feminisms series will be a paper by Caitlin Stobie entitled “The Birth of ‘New’ Materialism? Abortion and Southern African Women’s Writing”. The seminar will take place on 27 February 2017 in the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (LHRI)  seminar room 1 at 5pm. Entrance is free and all are welcome.

Abstract

In her preface to Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing (1999), Zimbabwean author Yvonne Vera recalls a scene from Haile Gerima’s Sankofa wherein a pregnant woman’s corpse mysteriously gives birth after she is whipped to death (1). At the conclusion of her commentary, she returns to the theme of fertility by proclaiming that the authors of the collected stories are “witnesses, in that seemingly impossible birth” of African feminist fiction (5). Yet throughout Opening Spaces, it is the fear of maternity which recurs for those living in rural and urban environments previously colonised by the British ‘motherland’. Tracing tropes of abortion through selected stories written during the ‘birth’ of postcolonial southern African nations in the late twentieth century, this paper considers feminist responses to the shifting relationship between corporeal embodiment and political agency. The writers in this study focus on environments not as essentialised settings, but rather as interconnected and organic systems; creative forms which manifest in these stories include human, animal, vegetal, elemental or textual participants in ecosystems. In this respect, the writers appear to anticipate new materialist theories – particularly the concept of trans-corporeality, which states that human and more-than-human bodies are all enmeshed actors that constitute the environment (Alaimo 2010: 2). Paradoxically, however, they also trouble such purportedly ‘new’ theories by complicating the long history of environmental health and reproductive rights in post/colonial contexts. Illustrating how natural symbolism interacts with the artifice of narrative form, such fictions create spaces for complex, ambivalent perspectives on women’s agency to emerge.

About Caitlin Stobie

Caitlin Stobie1 small.png

Caitlin Stobie is a PhD candidate at the University of Leeds, where she is co-director of the Leeds Animal Studies Network. Her research interests include postcolonial ecocriticism, posthumanism and critical animal studies. She has been published, or has work forthcoming, in Green Letters (2017), Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (2017) and scrutiny2 (2016).

Ryan Topper and Thando Njovane on Yvonne Vera

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Yvonne Vera

The next Finding Africa seminar will be two papers on the Zimbabwean author and scholar, Yvonne Vera.

Ryan Topper will present on “Life Beyond the Archive: Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins” and Thando Njovane will give a paper on “Architectures of Voice and Language in Yvonne Vera’s Under the Tongue” at 5.30pm at the University of Leeds’ Humanities Research Institute on 25 November 2015.

*Entrance is free and all are welcome* Continue reading

24 May 2016

Ruth Daly (University of Leeds) on Liberating the Female Voice from the Patriarchal Order of the South African Pastoral Tradition.

25 November 2015 

Ryan Topper (University of Leeds) on Life Beyond the Archive: Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins and Thando Njovane (Rhodes University) on  Architectures of Voice and Language in Yvonne Vera’s Under the Tongue

30 September 2015

Elinor Rooks (University of Leeds) on Cattle, Gardens and the Madness of Power:The Radical Developmental Politics of Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

12 June 2015

Yorkshire African Studies Network: Culture and Politics in Africa Workshop (University of York)

08 June 2015

Arthur Rose (University of Leeds) on Dwelling in Triomf; or Building the Infrastructure for Postapartheid Dasein

1 June 2015
Katherine Furman  (London School of Economics and Political Science) on Is Thabo Mbeki Morally Responsible for his AIDS Denialism? and Gráinne O’Connell (University of Sussex) on Post-AIDS’ Futures, Global Health Governance and Representations of HIV and AIDS in Post-Apartheid Literary Fiction
7 February 2015
African Intellectual Mobilities Conference (University of York)
21 January 2015
Richard Stupart (Erfürt University) on “Compassion Fatigue, the ‘CNN Effect’ and the Need for Better Media-Humanitarian Theory” 
29 October 2014
Brendon Nicholls (University of Leeds) on “Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: Environment, Psyche and Objects”

*email us on findingpocoafrica@gmail.com with any queries. *