22 June 2010

The Coded Message of the Vuvuzela

Some love them, some hate them, but the 2010 soccer World Cup will probably be remembered as the World Cup that introduced the vuvuzela to the world. Our daughter, who used to be a crazy soccer fan before she went to study in Greece, watched the opening match, when South Africa drew against Mexico, and phoned afterwards to say she wanted a vuvuzela. We sent her one. She also thought it would be a useful thing for when her neighbours hold rowdy parties that go on till 4:00 am -- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

But my blogging friend and former colleague at the University of South Africa Missiology Department has looked below the surface, to discover the unsuspected depths -- Tinyiko Sam Maluleke's Blog: The Coded Message of the Vuvuzela:
The sooner we will wake up to the fact that the Vuvuzela sound depicts a refusal by the working classes to entertain the middle and upper classes, the better. Vuvuzela blowing denotes a refusal not an inability to sing. It is an option for harmonic noise of a special kind rather than harmonic music of the familiar kind. It is assertiveness designed to impact and to solicit reaction – even if that reaction is the insertion of ear plugs, the switching of TV channels, or the technological and artificial screening out of the Vuvuzela sound during match broadcasts.

And now we are on the brink of the do-or-die match against France. If Bafana Bafana don't win convincingly, it's our last match of this World Cup. And it's rather sad to see how negative the media have been about it -- reporting that World Cup merchandise hasn't been selling so well since South Africa lost to Uruguay (who were aided by the ref and the linesman). The reason for the drop-off in the sale of merchandise is more easily explained by the fact that the competition is nearly halfway through, and those who were going to buy green-haired leopard dolls and the like have probably bought them all already. But if Serbia could beat Germany after losing to Ghana, surely South Africa can beat France.

And then there is the makarapa, the decorated miners' helmets popularised by Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates fans. If anything, they are even more a working-class symbol than the vuvuzela. I wonder if Tinyiko will decode the message of that?

Eighteen years ago we went to the unrevamped Socceer City stadium (without the fancy roof it has now) to watch Kaizer Chiefs play Crystal Palace, and Orlando Pirates played Mbabane Highlanders. It was the first international club match since South Africa had been readmitted to international football, so we were sporting Chiefs fan kit, yellow flags and caps (not the hard hats, though). And we found ourselves sitting among the Pirates supporters on the opposite side of the stadium. It would be unwise to sit there wearing Chiefs colours the following week, when there was a derby between the two. In the Crystal Palace beat Kaizer Chiefs 3-2, and the Bucs beat the Highlanders.

There were no vuvuzelas then, and the makarapas were just plain old miners' helmets and as it got dark, we could see the Chiefs supporters, on the other side of the stadium, turning on the headlamps, quite an impressive sight. We also did quite a lot of passive smoking, as the ganja fumes wafted among the spectators. I wonder if that happened at the World Cup, and if the suppliers paid advertising fees to FIFA?

3 comments:

The Western Confucian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Western Confucian said...

A vuvuzela has already appeared at a baseball game here in South Korea, and the local news media reported on it. I, for one, welcome the globalization of the vuvuzela.

James Higham said...

They're appalling things which ruin the spirit of the songs and chants.

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