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Title: The Eoan Group and the politics of coloured opera in apartheid South Africa
Author: Pistorius, Juliana
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 5245
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The Eoan Group, founded in 1933 in Cape Town, was South Africa's first and only all-coloured opera, dance and theatre company. Its 1956 production of La Traviata was the first opera produced by non-white people in South Africa, and initiated an operatic career that spanned twelve opera seasons and ten operas. The group was under the administration of white directors and received funding from the apartheid government. In return, they agreed to honour the regime's racial laws by performing for segregated audiences. Their acquiescence to segregation and their complicity in the promotion of apartheid ideology caused political problems: they were ostracised by their own community and boycotted by members of the white and coloured racial groupings. After the group's operatic activities came to a permanent halt in 1980, their history sank into obscurity, despite their importance in the establishment of an operatic culture in the country. The memorialisation of South Africa's cultural-political past continues to maintain a binary of complicity and resistance, with those who are remembered grouped neatly into either of these categories. These labels, however, do not map tidily onto the Eoan Group, with its bewildering narrative of self-empowerment-through-collusion. Consequently, their story presents a problem for the writing of South African music history. Drawing extensively on material from the Eoan Group Archive, this dissertation considers the socio-political ambiguities of the Eoan narrative from musicological and post-colonial theoretical angles, to show how the group's operatic activities disrupted the cultural and material determinism of apartheid's racialised ideology. It calls for a disavowal of the Manichean ethics by which subaltern agency is measured, and proposes instead a turn to Njabulo S. Ndebele's 'politics of the ordinary'. From the sonic and material residue of the Eoan Group's productions, this project forges a newly conceived decolonial writing of apartheid operatic history.
Supervisor: Grimley, Daniel Sponsor: Oxford-Polonsky Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Music ; History ; South Africa ; Race ; Opera ; Eoan Group ; Apartheid