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With the institutionalization of racism and apartheid before the advent of the democratic South Africa of 1994, the dominant arts were those of the politically and economically dominant white race. The music of the indigenous black groups was seen as primitive, ungodly and devoid of artistic excellence. It was therefore not championed in public discourse ( politically and academically ). It was not perceived as a national asset and therefore could not be promoted through either education or formal training.

It is to this end that the University of Venda was mandated to play a leading role in redressing the past imbalances in the arts and culture of the historically marginalised people of Limpopo through affirmation, promotion and development of their intangible cultural heritage.

This heritage includes oral history, culture ( rituals, etc ) indigenous music skills and techniques and performances.

The University of Venda is culturally the most privileged of the sites for the project because it serves four previously marginalised language groups of the province ( Xitsonga, Tshivenda, isiNdebele and Sesotho sa Leboa ) a fertile ground for research taking cognizance of the fact that each language group in itself has a plethora of indigenous ensemble groups with a variety of musical practices. It was also due to the Department's recognition of our particular expertise and interest in the Indigenous Knowledge Systems, including Ethnomusicology, Oral History, African Languages and African History.

It is incumbent upon this research project to trace the history, culture, customs and traditions of the people, so that we could best understand their music. Blacking contends that musical styles and attitudes are anything but cultural acquisitions, and that if we are analyzing the music of a particular culture or society, we have to study the meaning of that music to their culture ( Blacking, 1964: 9 ). It is therefore crucial for this research project to trace the place of the music of the people of Limpopo within the context of their historical and cultural foundations.

It was mainly in recognition of this factor, and to this end, that a research team had to be established, hence, a number of academics from across the multi-disciplined spectrum are part of the team, and are participating in this valuable research about our intangible cultural heritage ? the history, culture, language and the music of our people. It was also incumbent for this research team to be multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary in its personnel composition, hence we have oral historians, representatives from the departments of African Languages, musicians and anthropologists.

Whilst the main research team comprises academics and scholars of the University of Venda, we have also recognized the indispensable or rather imperative inclusion and contribution of our real experts ? the musicians themselves, as part of this research team. Undoubtedly, they will always play a major role in a project of this nature.

Mandate, Goals and Objectives

The University of Venda, in partnership with the Department of National Arts and Culture will collect, document, preserve and promote the Indigenous Cultural Heritage of the previously marginalised people of the Limpopo Province.

In order to carry out its mandate fully, the University of Venda Indigenous Music and Oral History Research Project Team has been working towards achieving the following specific objectives:

  • To play a leading role in collecting, documenting, preserving and promoting all areas of indigenous music and instruments that are endemic ( prevalent ) in the communities around the Limpopo Province.

  • To compile a research document about the music and instruments with the ultimate aim of producing a publication ( book ) for both the national and the international audience.

  • To work towards producing a documentary on the history, culture and music of the people of Limpopo Province.

  • To facilitate in the education and training on indigenous musical performances and learning.

  • To preserve this intangible cultural heritage.

  • To empower students and the broader community in indigenous music knowledge and practice.

  • To create accessibility to this heritage for the broader communities, and

  • To encourage dialogue through oral history in order to generate continuous research.

It was upon this background that we undertook to achieve this set of goals in three phases, the third of which we have yet to accomplish.

Implementation Strategies

As we rolled out the project we have become convinced that the project is too gigantic and thus requires a thorough break down of deliverables in dealing with it. The project is therefore conceptualized in three phases. Each step will have the major focus area where most of the resources including funding will be concentrated.

Phase One (2004-2005 )

This is a phase where there has been mass participation by the communities around Limpopo. This has made it possible for researchers to gather data from a truly wide and representative sample. The numbers of people involved also give currency to the project's attempt to promote IKS amongst as many people as possible.

  • Conceptualisation
  • Feasibility study
  • Scoping of the project
  • Data collection (mass participation of communities)
  • Promotion

Phase Two (2006 – 2007)

This is a phase where the main activity will be the processing of data that was collected in phases one. In some instances revisits to the field of research may be necessary. It is also in this phase where Magoši/mahosi and traditional palaces will be visited to ascertain the final testing of the context and historical foundations of IKS.

Main Activities:

Phase Three (2007 – 2008)

This phase concentrates on the international dimension of our research. There are several libraries in colonial institutions and museums littered across the world that house South African archives (e.g. Colonial Office in London, BBC Archives, missionary Research Library in New York, and others). Also in this categories are national institutions such as the International Library of African Music at Rhodes University and the Kirby collection at the University of Cape Town.

Main Activities

  • Documentation
  • Data collection (visits to royal residencies)
  • Preservation
  • Collection of Instruments
  • Instrument Making and Amplification
  • Promotion
  • Publishing
    • Identification of research locations of South African IKS
    • Symposia on South African IKS
    • Data collection
    • Research Reports
    • Recommendations

Designation Name Contact
Senior Lecturer CJ Hoffman
B Mus (Hons) (PU for CHE), HED,(Unisa)
Lecturers MG Mapaya
B Mus, HDE (UCT), M Mus (Wits)