An ode to the vuvuzela

In honor of tonight’s big game and the ending of the world cup, I paste here a few paragraphs from Africa is a Country’s Vuvuzelas for everyone. It is a translation by Tom Devriendt of an article by Laurent Dubois (author of the new book, “Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France,” and editor of the Soccer Politics blog) and cultural theorist Achille Mbembe (see also his earlier essay). It was originally published in French at Mediapart.

….As always when dealing with ‘things African’, people were made to believe that this ‘trumpet of the poor’ would be an example of primitive absurdity and mass hysteria. It doesn’t emit sounds let alone melodies, but a mechanical and infernal noise, a wild cacophony as monotonous as devoid of any content and meaning. The predominance of the vuvuzela would have contributed to the disappearance of other animated traditions of the football games. Folk songs, for example, would have been replaced by pure noise.

It was time to ban it – as one does with the burqa or the minarets in many European countries – some have gone so far as to demand its abolition.

The most important fact of this tournament is nevertheless clear. Against the predictions of many prophets of doom, South Africa has organized one of the most successful world cups in the history of this competition…Of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who have flocked into the country, none, at least so far, has died at the hands of criminals. On the contrary, to varying degrees, all have experienced a hospitality that many say they haven’t received in Korea nor in Japan (2002), and even less in France (1998) and Germany (2006).

They thus had to be found elsewhere, those signs of chaos and ‘African violence’ heralded by the false diviners. And so the vuvuzela has become the metaphor of disorder and mass trance which the most stubborn think are the essential characteristics of the continent.


….In South Africa, and perhaps elsewhere too, a game of football first of all is a liturgical event…[description follows]

…Football is neither an ecstatic cult nor a possession cult. It is an act of communion that offers its members the opportunity to share, with countless pilgrims from around the world, the moments of a unique intensity.

In South Africa, the sound of the vuvuzela offers these pilgrims who share neither language nor songs the possibility to participate in the production of a sonic geography of the stadium. Newcomers in South Africa for the World Cup understood it quickly. They quickly embraced it…

Keep reading: Vuvuzelas for everyone.

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