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Explores how performance arts, whether staged or in daily life, regularly interface with political action across the African continent

Table of contents

Table of Contents
Introduction: “Performance and Politics in Africa: Approaches and Perspectives”
The Play of Social and Political Roles in Everyday Life
1. “Performing Political Identities: Senegalese Speakers and Their Audiences” (Senegal)
Judy T. Irvine, University of Michigan
2. “The Socio-poetics of Sanakuyaagal: Negotiating Joking Relationships in West Africa”  (Senegal)
Nikolas Sweet, University of Michigan
3. “Participation beyond Gratitude: ‘Sterling Greetings’ and the Mediation of Social Ties on Nigerian Radio” (Nigeria)
Jendele Hungbo, Bowen University (Iwo, Nigeria)
Expressions of Identity, Consciousness, and Migration
4. “The Phenomenology of Collapsing Worlds: isiShameni Dance and the Politics of Proximity in Jeppestown, Johannesburg” (South Africa)
Thomas M. Pooley, University of South Africa
5. “African Heritage Revealed through Musical Encounters and Political Ideologies in Cameron White’s Ouanga! and Reuben Tholakele Caluza and Herbert Isaac Ernst Dhlomo’s Moshoeshoe” (South Africa)
Innocentia Jabulisile Mhlambi, University of the Witwatersrand
6. “Angalia Ni Mimi: A Performance by Marthe Djilo Kamga” (Cameroon)
Frieda Ekotto, University of Michigan
Gendered Messages of Social Change
7. “Surviving Gender Violence: Activating Community Stories for Social Change” (South Africa)
Anita Gonzales, University of Michigan
8. “Gangsters, Masculinity and Ethics: Underground Rapping in Dar es Salaam” (Tanzania)
David Kerr, University of Birmingham and University of Johannesburg
Songs of Protest and Activist Opera
9. “Seditious Songs: Spirituality as Performance and Political Action in Colonial-era Belgian Congo” (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Yolanda Covington-Ward, University of Pittsburgh
10. “Activist Operatic Spaces Depicting Reality: Puccini’s La Bohème becomes Breathe Umphefumlo” (South Africa)
Naomi André, University of Michigan
11. “Intrinsic Power of Songs Sung During Protests at South African Institutions of Higher Learning” (South Africa)
Nompumelelo Zondi, University of Pretoria


African Performance Arts and Political Actspresents innovative formulations for how African performance and the arts shape the narratives of cultural history and politics. This collection, edited by Naomi André, Yolanda Covington-Ward, and Jendele Hungbo, engages with a breadth of African countries and art forms, bringing together speech, hip hop, religious healing and gesture, theater and social justice, opera, radio announcements, protest songs, and migrant workers’ dances. The spaces include village communities, city landscapes, prisons, urban hostels, Township theaters, opera houses, and broadcasts through the airwaves on television and radio as well as in cyberspace. Essays focus on case studies from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania.

Naomi André is Professor in the Department of  Afroamerican and African Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Residential College at the University of Michigan.

Yolanda Covington-Ward is Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Jendele Hungbo is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Mass Communication at Bowen University, Iwo, Nigeria.

“These investigations crucially speak to each other and are enhanced by four thematic subtopics that help to structure the work. The collection thus presents a strong case for new directions in performance and politics on the continent and is highly recommended for scholars in humanities and social science fields.”
Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde

- Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde

“More than holding a microphone and repeating a party line, the political power of performance is found in minute, everyday interactions. African Performance Arts and Political Acts provides a methodological template for recognizing and investigating this fact.”
African Studies Quarterly

- African Studies Quarterly