Dancing in the street
This week, students in South Africa decided to dance against tuition fees. Students from 16 universities took to the streets of Johannesburg and other cities across the country to express their discontent with the government’s decision to increase the cost of attending university – a hike in fees that they fear will result in a bigger inequality gap in African society, where access to education is still largely made based on skin colour.
Of all the global news broadcasters we study, only Al Jazeera English paid attention to the protests – going so far as to include the news in its headlines on October 4th. The item above, which we found in last night’s 7pm CET news bulletin, explains the origins of the students’ discontent, and shows them dancing on the streets and on campus. Student representatives say that they only want to be heard, yet their attempt to keep universities closed with the help of a dance has been interrupted by the police with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets, turning peaceful protests into violent ones.
The dance they perform on the streets and on campus, the “Toyi-Toyi”, is specific to South African protest movements. Initially used by militants, in the 1980s it was adopted by non-militants in subsequent anti-government demonstrations. As most protesters were unarmed, the dance was used as means of intimidating the opponent. This is another example of the use of music, and dance in this case, in politics, and how they can be used to express discontent towards authorities and their decisions.
More details about the dance and it’s use in South African movements can be seen in the short clip below:
Screening Protest — "Dancing in the street," in The Screening Protest Project, October 5, 2016