INTRODUCTION [FREE DOWNLOAD]: Introduction Victors, Victims and Villains
Victors, Victims and Villains: Women and musical arts in Zimbabwe – past and present, by Meki Nzewi, Department of Music, University of Pretoria is a timely volume in which contributors variously reflect on the perceivable humanity and neo-cultural factors responsible for the marginal visibility of women in the popular musical arts arena in contemporary Zimbabwe, and indeed Africa. Most of the chapters probe the socio-cultural and political reasons for the scarcity, marginalisation and victimisation of women practitioners in the male-dominated modern popular musical arts genre. The authors impress that the popular musical arts scene is primarily promoted as a patriarchal occupational zone, which resists women asserting commanding performative presence. The book profiles successful women in the popular musical arts entrepreneurship field in Zimbabwe. These include the three women who intrepidly excelled in mbira, a functional, male performative category in indigenous Zimbabwean culture. (It is to be noted that in indigenous African cultures, musical arts genres and types are functional, and rationalised along age, gender and mass participation categories. The entertainment facade in musical arts conceptualization, creativity and performance serves as a flavouring contrivance, which sustains immersion in accomplishing the utilitarian objective of any musical arts commission.)
One chapter tenders representation of women in contemporary protest drama. It highlights how modernist patriarchal mindset arrogantly strives to suppress women who assert womanhood’s innate societal management integrity and responsibility (albeit humble but commanding) as in indigenous cultures, in the modern, imposed political governance arena in Africa: Colonial and modern religious conquest of Africa succeeded in contradicting the Divinely stipulated and biologically equipped gender roles. Women exercised ultimate responsibility to ensure stability in indigenous socio-political ordering of society. Modern African minds became indoctrinated to accept that ultimate social and political governance authority is the preserve of manhood by virtue of the biblical, Adam versus Eve, creation myth. Hence blatant societal/political leadership became ego blustering men’s occupational specialty and worldly privilege. In indigenous cultures, womanhood capably exercised ultimate disciplinary authority over manhood’s overt visibility in the political affairs of an autonomous group. Men blustered; women generally resolved overwhelming crisis situations, often deploying public, musical arts shaming as incontestable intangible correctional agency. Lingering consciousness of the centrality of the feminine gender in the African indigenous concept of the performative arts as societal management agency is glimpsed in a few of the articles.
The chapters have primarily posited Northern feminist theories in arguing the gender contestations, and sample performative displays, song lyrics, literature sources, and public (media) opinions. Variously depicted, are the lives and notable attributes of the key, women musical artists who effectively defied colonial and post colonial womanhood stereotyping, prejudices as well as intimidations to succeed in blazing creative and performative trails since the colonial Zimbabwean national equation. Ethnic contestations generated in the performative contestations are also remarked. The women artist and the performative devices which they adopted to stage their unique creative- artistic autonomy often confront and subvert colonial and post colonial male chauvinism that misperceive, disregard and assault original African womanhood sense and dignity.
It must be noted that Creation’s womanly attributes equipped them to adopt distinguished but sober public demeanour and dogged spirit in ensuring the sustainability of human existence and moral virtues in their societal enclaves. Hence women were highly valued in pre-colonial Africa’s indigenous cultural constructions and transactions. The higher order of potent genetic endowments innate in the womanly physiology and psyche entitle them to sensibly exercise dependable overseeing and stabilizing role in human living. In traditional Africa they responsibly and humbly issued virtuous commands in critical life situations at home and in public affairs, while men fronted as visible but dispensable overactive forces. But with the ascendance of modernity macho-mentality, men have forcibly usurped women’s God-ascribed gender role, which they mismanage by enthroning crass force and control in modernity governance and religious constructs. Hence the universe is increasingly plunging into chaos, and threatening man-engineered explosion.
This book is dedicated to contending men’s exclusionist dispositions that violate women’s freedom to participate in functional musical arts (albeit modern popular genre), that oversees societal polity wellness. The studies could begin to re-consciencise humanity values and virtues in modernity mindsets. The arguments consensually affirm that exotic male chauvinism implanted in modern African minds by colonial hegemony, in collaboration with foreign religious indoctrinations, still fester. Exotic patriarchal dispositions that continue to mimic adverse governance legislations and life attitudes remain in ascendance. They continue to militate against re-instating the original, altruistic overseeing force of African womanhood in life affairs, applying the indigenous corrective agency of functional musical arts. Indigenous African gender respects and role delineation, which became subverted by bigoted colonial ideology and modern economania, are hinted in arguing the relegation of the agency of womanhood and the musical arts in the task of engendering sober societal polity. Incidentally, in indigenous African ideology, womanhood attribute is a metaphor for the musical arts, which is a functional divine agency, conceived and actualised to subtly but intrepidly oversee justly societal order and morality while also endorsing worthy living and dying unto ancestral reckoning.
The manifestations of modern patriarchal attitudes and governance regulations, which compromise and intimidate women’s visibility and agency as proactive force in societal living, can be contested by the contemporary popular music scene in Zimbabwe, and indeed all Africa. This is lucidly illustrated in some chapters. The womanly resolve of the artistes (original African womanhood attitude) enabled them to persevere and transcend persisting patriarchal prejudices, controls, and exploitative schemes. Their courage and perseverance rewarded them local and international reckoning as unique creative personalities. The scholarly discourses in the book, although applying Northern feminism theories, provide critical studies of the enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit of the sampled popular and neo-traditional women musical arts artistes in Zimbabwean. They resolutely challenged and subverted male dominance forces in the contemporary musical arts genres. Performatively asserting with unflagging resilience, the potency of original African womanhood is a beneficial force essential for instilling humanity consciousness and containing the escalating dementia embattling the political, social, religious, economic, and relational experiencing of the unstable post colonial African nationhood equations.
The analyses of the creative genius and presentational strategies of the women artistes demonstrate that a resurgence of authentic African performative feminism theory and force, sublimely unobtrusive but flaring at moments of humanity/societal crises, is possible. Recapping: African womanhood theory, within and outside musical arts spaces, could be strategised to sanitise the overwhelming governance and societal iniquities and inequities bedevilling practically all modern African nations. This ideal will entail Africa-inspired women mobilising and collaborating with respectful men, to deploy advanced functional musicking at home, school and public spaces, just as in indigenous African humanning doctrine. The benefits will include instilling basic morality dispositions from childhood to adulthood, thereby consciencizing fellow-human spirit in all societal affairs irrespective of gender, ethnicity and race. Women’s overt expression of gender specialties would, of course, perturb and threaten the presumptuous superiority being defensively fronted by men who are insecure in positions of public or private/domestic power. Insecurity brandishes bluff privileges and fronts brutish physicality. Hence insecure men resort to pre-emptive physical force and uncouth language to intimidate or silence arduous women’s visibility in governance and social sites.
The accounts in the book, as already indicated, illustrate that subtle, irresistible but functional (not flippant entertainment) modern popular music artistry can be conceived as a potent corrective agency. As in indigenous Africa, such beneficial agency needs women who can spark their insuperable natural potencies. Utilitarian music, even as a business venture, can be designed to serve as intangible, non traumatising but redeeming force aimed at taming the devastating manly world of conscienceless impunities and immoralities in public and personal domains within Africa and globally. Humanity principled education that strategises the musical arts is then of essence, and of the moment, to restrain the technomania and economania syndromes demonising Hi-modern mindsets and disabling sustainable humanity.
Victors, Victims and Villains: Women and musical arts in Zimbabwe- past and present is essential reading in classrooms and public education sites in Africa, and indeed globally. It will help to reprove overt and covert masochism that recklessly pursues mundane glories, thereby subverting sublime, common humanity interactions in all sites of existential as well as life education theorizations, creativities and activities.