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Who is Indigenous? Freeing Indigeneity from a Time Warp

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Part of the Contemporary Performance InterActions book series (CPI)


This chapter reflects on how indigeneity is constructed, promoted and embodied in the performing arts at a postcolonial university. The chapter investigates the packaging of indigenous performing arts using Foucault’s concept of panopticon and Blanchard’s work on the human zoo. It uses Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) Venda and Shangaan dance troupe as a case study to interrogate the use of indigeneity as a framing device and performance structure for African indigenous dance(r)s. The chapter can be understood as an imperfect response to three rhetorical questions that an institution mandated with cultural heritage reclamation grapples with. Who creates culture? Who decides what this culture comprises of? How is culture represented? It problematizes the exclusive conflation of indigeneity with the pre-contact experience.


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  1. 1.

    The Venda and Shangaan are also found in South Africa and Mozambique. In South Africa, the term Tsonga is preferred to Shangaan as the latter is associated with Tsonga speakers who are descendants of a Nguni group led by Soshangane. Not all Tsonga speaking people originally belonged to this Nguni grouping. This chapter focuses on the population groups in Zimbabwe.

  2. 2.

    In July 2007, the Masvingo State University Amendment Act (2007) was passed in Parliament paving the way for Masvingo State University to be renamed Great Zimbabwe University adopting the name of the former Church university.


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Maedza, P. (2021). Who is Indigenous? Freeing Indigeneity from a Time Warp. In: Ravengai, S., Seda, O. (eds) Theatre from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. Contemporary Performance InterActions. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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