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Staged authenticities : an exploration of the representations of AmaXhosa culture within the main programme of the National Arts Festival, 2009

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  • Nx Arts In General
  • Economics
  • Musicology


This thesis investigates the presentation of AmaXhosa traditional dancing and music on the stages of the National Arts Festival (NAF), Main Programme, of South Africa in 2009. Four productions featuring AmaXhosa traditional dancing and music, as well as a fine art exhibition, are analysed to determine how the AmaXhosa culture is being portrayed, what is considered authentic and how these productions may affect the memory of the AmaXhosa nation. In an attempt to understand the position of these productions within the NAF the South African cultural context as well as the NAF is examined. The post-apartheid, post-rainbow nation, South African cultural context is discussed and how the NAF could contribute towards creating a more unified South African identity. Incorporated and inscribed memory categories are related to how one could determine authenticity in traditional indigenous productions. A cautionary note on incorporated memory is linked to efficacy, while a loss of incorporated memory within the AmaXhosa society may result in ritual acts being orientated towards entertainment. If the private culture is consistently displayed in the public realm then it is inevitable that the ways in which the AmaXhosa recollect their history will be altered. The contribution of the transitional spaces of theatres and proscenium arch stages to the choreography and incorporated memory of the performers relates to the collective recollection of the AmaXhosa. Bearing this in mind, this thesis suggests that the NAF is playing a dual role in the evolution of the AmaXhosa. It is both positively contributing to the economic upliftment of a sector of the population and exposing people to this rich and multilayered culture. However, it is also impacting the efficacy of the private culture and fracturing the traditional knowledge of the AmaXhosa by assisting in the inscription of their performance forms.

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