Monday, February 18, 2008

The Toyi-Toyi of Southern Africa

Toyi-toyi is a Southern African dance originally from Zimbabwe that became famous for its use in political protests in the apartheid-era South Africa.

Toyi-toyi could begin as the stomping of feet and spontaneous chanting during protests that could include political slogans or songs, either improvised or previously created. Some sources claim that South Africans learned it from Zimbabweans.

After Apartheid ended, people have used toyi-toyi to express their grievances against current government policies.

In October 2004 Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe banned toyi-toyi even indoors because of its use as a protest.

The toyi-toyi was also used with chants such as "Amandla" ("power") and "Awethu" ("ours"). These two sayings were often used together.

The UK band, UB40, incorporated the "Amandla, Awethu" chant into Sing Our Own Song from the 1986 album Rat In The Kitchen.

After the 1976 Soweto massacre, the movement gained more militancy, and songs were charged with imagery of an armed struggle for liberation. The toyi-toyi, a military march dance and song style became commonplace in massive street demonstrations. As one activist puts it, "The toyi-toyi was our weapon. We did not have the technology of warfare, the tear gas and tanks, but we had this weapon."

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