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Dovey, Lindiwe and Impey, Angela (2010) ''African Jim': sound, politics, and pleasure in early 'black' South African cinema.' Journal of African Cultural Studies, 22 (1). pp. 57-73.

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This article offers a new take on the film African Jim (popularly known as Jim Comes to Joburg), the first feature-length entertainment film made with a black cast and specifically for black audiences in South Africa (in 1949). In contrast to earlier interpretations of the film, which focus predominantly on the film's images, its problematic production context, and its patronizing narrative, we focus on and offer interpretation of the film's aural/oral aspects. Through analysis of the ways in which the film's black performers mobilize African languages and music as ‘hidden transcripts’ (a concept we borrow from James Scott), we argue that the film is invested with certain political subtexts that have not previously been acknowledged. These subtexts, we suggest, must have been all the more powerful at the time the film was made since, in this context, the political efficacy of music was vested largely in its ability to simultaneously convey pleasure and pain, and to be both uplifting and subversive, thus concealing its essential meanings from the white power establishment. In bringing to our rereading of African Jim a sense of the importance and specificity of sound and music in black South African culture of the late 1940s, we hope to show how virtually impossible it is to give a complete reading of the film while ignoring the film's aural/oral components. This rereading also suggests that within film studies in general, and African film studies in particular, it would seem vital to acknowledge the need for more profound studies of the complex ways in which African soundscapes – African music and African languages – contribute to the multiple meanings of films that are made in this context.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: South Africa, film, music, jazz, 1950s, Jim Comes to Joburg
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of the History of Art & Archaeology
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa
ISSN: 13696815
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2010 14:31

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