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Wim van Binsbergen, Virtuality as a key concept in the study of globalisation: Aspects of the symbolic transformation of contemporary Africa

Virtuality in Africa: Photo essay


click here for Fig. 1 Fig. 1. The global pattern of formation and diffusion of geomantic divination systems, 1000 BCE-2000 CE.
Fig. 2. The problem of meaning in African towns: An insecure villager at Chachacha Road, Lusaka, Zambia, 1978.
Fig. 3. Menarche in an African town. Seated on a rush mat next to the woman who will be her mentrix, a Nsenga girl (middle left) who only minutes before was found to have her first menstruation, is respectfully and joyfully saluted by her mother, elder sister and a woman neighbour, while the latter's husband holds ready an axe and a pumpkin which are to be held over the girl's head in evocation of agricultural tasks she, as an urbanite, may never discharge. Chelston suburb, Lusaka, Zambia, 1978.
Fig. 4. Do the rural cosmology and ritual practice constitute the principal referents of urban puberty rites? Coming-out dance of a girl (standing, left, with head scarf), escorted by her under-age second (standing, right, with bead scapular), under the encouraging eyes of her mentrix (centre, with beads in her hair), Mukunkike village, Kaoma, Zambia, 1978.
Fig. 5. Village shelters are giving way to urban bars as foci of the male social process. A bar in the Monarch residential area, Francistown, Botswana, 1989.
Fig. 6. Although the global economy is omnipresent (notice the enamel basin, petrol drums, plastic bucket, manufactured textiles, next to locally grown calabash containers), viable agricultural production, of which various produce is shown in the picture, continues to provide relevance to the ancient rural cosmology. Nkeyema, Kaoma, Zambia, 1978.
Fig. 7. In town, witchcraft concerns tend to focus on urban concerns such as the acquisition, and subsequent protection, of a modern house and a car. Somerset East Extension, a brand-new site-and-service housing estate in Francistown, Botswana, 1988.
Fig. 8. Operating under the smoke of Francistown's magnificent new Nyangabgwe hospital, an urban diviner, in what is locally known as 'his surgery', casts his divination tablets (ultimately derived from Arabian and Chinese geomancy, but entrenched in African localisation since c. 1500 CE) in order to diagnose a case of suspected witchcraft. Somerset East residential area, Francistown, Botswana, 1989.
Fig. 9. A historic puberty rite in the throes of virtuality: the choir leader encouraging a recently initiated girl to publicly re-enact her coming-out dance, Kazanga festival, Kaoma, Zambia, 1994; as further aspects of virtuality, notice the girl's and choir-leader's identical wrappers, and the smartly dressed notable capturing the event with his camera.
Fig. 10. The articulation of the global and the local in the Kazanga festival. Smartly dressed national-level and regional politicians rush to donate money at the directions of the traditionally attired choir leader; Kazanga festival, Kaoma, Zambia, 1994.
Fig. 11. Virtuality reigns at the Kazanga festival. A clerk of the district branch of the Department of Cultural Services, dressed up in the historic attire of the court jester (kayoni ka Mwene, the king's bird), reminds uniformly dressed village girls to position themselves in a regular grid and to keep in line. In the back a poorly dressed chief's court official wields a tape recorder of ghetto blaster size, so as to record the dance troupe's song. Kazanga festival, Kaoma, 1994.

(c) 1997, 1997 Wim van Binsbergen

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