This is another documentary about apartheid South Africa that I use in my teaching. I use this in my Law and Race classes on Law and Literary Forms. In a different post, We Dream, We Write, We Change the World, I explain how music forms of lament and protest, in the face of racial violence and injustice are vital. They can be a way of reclaiming and re-asserting humanity and personhood that has been violently stolen. The key example I use in that class of music as a liberatory literary form is the song Strange Fruit as sung by Billie Holiday. I play a clip of it, while explaining the context of lynching in America, citing the brutal killing of Emmett Till and the sham trial of those who were accused of killing him.
In the same class, we also listen to clips of Amandla.
Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (2002) is a documentary tracking the South African Anti-Apartheid struggle through the use of music. In Zulu and Xhosa ‘amandla’ means power. Songs united those who were being oppressed and gave those fighting a way to express their vision. The music consoled those incarcerated, motivated those who were at the frontlines and created an effective underground form of communication inside the prisons. The documentary is a testimony to the power of song and its ability to fuel the struggle for freedom.
If you love music you should definitely watch it.
The clip that I play in class is the one below, of Sophie Mgcina singing Madam, Please!. The song and the delivery always hits me in the solar plexus.
Mandela Brings Us Peace: In a different class, we talk about the drawbacks in making one person the face and goal of a resistance movement. This song, I think illustrates this too. But watch how the lead singer can hardly take his eyes of Mandela! Also such joy. And Madiba’s dancing…
But what I love most about this musical documentary, is the glimpses we get in the interviews of different peoples’, stories and realities, their hopes and their dreams… and their music.