Indiana University Press

African Expressive Cultures

Published by: Indiana University Press

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African Expressive Cultures

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Swahili Port Cities

The Architecture of Elsewhere

Prita Meier

On the Swahili coast of East Africa, monumental stone houses, tombs, and mosques mark the border zone between the interior of the African continent and the Indian Ocean. Prita Meier explores this coastal environment and shows how an African mercantile society created a place of cosmopolitan longing. Meier understands architecture as more than a way to remake local space. Rather, the architecture of this liminal zone was an expression of the desire of coastal inhabitants to belong to places beyond their homeports. Here architecture embodies modern ideas and social identities engendered by the encounter of Africans with others in the Indian Ocean world.

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Tabloid Journalism in South Africa

True Story!

Herman Wasserman

Less than a decade after the advent of democracy in South Africa, tabloid newspapers have taken the country by storm. One of these papers -- the Daily Sun -- is now the largest in the country, but it has generated controversy for its perceived lack of respect for privacy, brazen sexual content, and unrestrained truth-stretching. Herman Wasserman examines the success of tabloid journalism in South Africa at a time when global print media are in decline. He considers the social significance of the tabloids and how they play a role in integrating readers and their daily struggles with the political and social sphere of the new democracy. Wasserman shows how these papers have found an important niche in popular and civic culture largely ignored by the mainstream media and formal political channels.

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Trickster Theatre

The Poetics of Freedom in Urban Africa

Jesse Weaver Shipley

Trickster Theatre traces the changing social significance of national theatre in Ghana from its rise as an idealistic state project from the time of independence to its reinvention in recent electronic, market-oriented genres. Jesse Weaver Shipley presents portraits of many key figures in Ghanaian theatre and examines how Akan trickster tales were adapted as the basis of a modern national theatre. This performance style tied Accra’s evolving urban identity to rural origins and to Pan-African liberation politics. Contradictions emerge, however, when the ideal Ghanaian citizen is a mythic hustler who stands at the crossroads between personal desires and collective obligations. Shipley examines the interplay between on-stage action and off-stage events to show how trickster theatre shapes an evolving urban world.

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Tropical Cowboys

Westerns, Violence, and Masculinity in Kinshasa

Ch. Didier Gondola

During the 1950s and 60s in the Congo city of Kinshasa, there emerged young urban male gangs known as "Bills" or "Yankees." Modeling themselves on the images of the iconic American cowboy from Hollywood film, the "Bills" sought to negotiate lives lived under oppressive economic, social, and political conditions. They developed their own style, subculture, and slang and as Ch. Didier Gondola shows, engaged in a quest for manhood through bodybuilding, marijuana, violent sexual behavior, and other transgressive acts. Gondola argues that this street culture became a backdrop for Congo-Zaire’s emergence as an independent nation and continues to exert powerful influence on the country’s urban youth culture today.

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Veiling in Africa

Edited by Elisha P. Renne

The tradition of the veil, which refers to various cloth coverings of the head, face, and body, has been little studied in Africa, where Islam has been present for more than a thousand years. These lively essays raise questions about what is distinctive about veiling in Africa, what religious histories or practices are reflected in particular uses of the veil, and how styles of veils have changed in response to contemporary events. Together, they explore the diversity of meanings and experiences with the veil, revealing it as both an object of Muslim piety and an expression of glamorous fashion.

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