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Sonic Spaces of the Karoo

The Sacred Music of a South African Coloured Community

Marie Jorritsma

Publication Year: 2011

Sonic Spaces of the Karoo is a pioneering study of the sacred music of three coloured (the apartheid designation for people "not white or native") people's church congregations in the rural town of Graaff-Reinet, South Africa. Jorritsma's fieldwork involves an investigation of the choruses, choir music, and hymns of the Karoo region to present a history of the people's traditional, religious, and cultural identity in song. This music is examined as part of a living archive preserved by the community in the face of a legacy of slavery and colonial as well as apartheid oppression.

Jorritsma's findings counteract a lingering stereotype that coloured music is inferior to European or African music and that coloured people should not or do not have a cultural identity. Sonic Spaces of the Karoo seeks to eradicate that bias and articulate a more legitimate place for these people in the contemporary landscape of South Africa.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii

List of Multimedia Examples

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pp. ix-xi

List of Illustrations

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

As a child, the Karoo always symbolized an escape for me. It was a refuge from the routine of school attendance and extramural activities, and from the restlessly windy, unpredictable weather of the coastal city of Port Elizabeth. The family farm lay only three and a half hours’ drive away from the city, where huge breakfasts of porridge, toast, and tea ...

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pp. xii-xviii

So many people have given generously of their time and expertise in assisting with the preparation of this book. First and foremost, I never cease to feel humbled by the great kindness and generosity shown to me by members of the Kroonvale community. Dominee (Reverend) Gawie Basson of the Uniting Reformed Church allowed ...

Author’s Note

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pp. xix

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1. Introduction: The Challenges of Inscribing Coloured Voices

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pp. 1-22

The South African apartheid regime held a deeply ambivalent position toward those it categorized as “coloured,” the racial category it defined as “not a white person or a native” (Statutes 1950, 277).2 Nurtured and sustained by a policy of racial purity, a common stereotype of those classified ...

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2. Karoo People and Places

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pp. 23-40

My visits to Reinet House (the Graaff-Reinet museum) began in mid- 2004 and continued throughout (and after) my fieldwork research period. The prevailing post-apartheid political climate meant that the museum experienced a complex transitional phase at the time and needed to “transform” its exhibitions and their accompanying narratives to address the silences engineered ...

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3. Hidden Transcripts: How Hymns Reveal History

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pp. 41-62

The seemingly ordinary, European-influenced hymns performed in the three Kroonvale churches clearly offered a wealth of interpretive possibilities. While the use of texts usually conformed very closely to the official Congregational or Uniting Reformed Church hymnbooks, the style and sound of the ...

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4. “Senzeni na”: Interrelationships Between the Music of Mission and Independent African Church Denominations

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pp. 63-78

Despite its religious origins, it is compelling that a song so iconic of the anti-apartheid struggle with its lyrics of almost unbearable suffering can, after ten years of democracy, be sung to the words, “Rejoice all who live, rejoice before the Lord.”3 With the relaxed yet solidly rhythmic pace, punctuated by handclaps ...

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5. Singing the “Queen’s English”: Church Choirs in Kroonvale

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pp. 79-101

Talk, tunes, and tea became a weekly habit for this group. Love of music and singing as well as catching up on community news constituted an important incentive for attending choir rehearsals. By meeting once a week to sing, in June Bosch’s words “good music,” the “Ladies’ Choir” members furthered a tradition of choral performance that has its roots in South African colonial ...

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6. Mothers of the Church: Women’s Society Music and the Politics of Gender

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pp. 102-120

Gender has long been a site of contestation in private and public life in South Africa. At first glance, the quotations that open this chapter support the notion of a strict patriarchal system in Kroonvale within which women are expected to remain subservient and in the private sphere of the household. There is a clear separation between men’s roles and women’s roles in ...

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7. Conclusion: Reflections on Karoo Sonic Spaces

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pp. 122-130

he typical outsider view of the Karoo as uncomfortably hot, dusty, and arid is a perception dating back to travel accounts of the nineteenth century, such as the one above by the French naturalist, Adulphe Delegorgue. In contemporary South Africa, this urgent need to leave the Karoo behind persists. In the minds of many non-Karoo ...


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pp. 131-163


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pp. 165-168


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pp. 166-189


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pp. 191-201

E-ISBN-13: 9781439902394
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439902370

Page Count: 201
Publication Year: 2011