Intertextuality, Violence and Memory in Yizo, Yizo: Youth TV drama
Her analysis is a far cry from the usual uneasy positioning of popular culture between 'tradition' and 'modernity'. She illustrates advances in African technology--ways of linking the past to the present and the immediate world of the audience--barely explored in dominant cultures.
Similarly ways in which audiences feed ideas into various forms of culture from theatre to film suggests that core tenets of postmodernism have long existed in mass African popular culture, again in ways only recently being explored in northern artistic production.
This timely comment on culture simultaneously theorises the issues affecting youths in cities--issues of identity, xenophobia, sexuality, Aids, unemployment, lack of support—and suggests that youth in Africa live and grow in a society composed of a series of 'violences', around which they must arrange themselves.
About the author:
Muff Andersson's research interests include African literature, youth culture and audience studies. Her latest book concerns youth pop culture and is published by Unisa Press as part of the Imagined South Africa series. Muff has previously written two books: Music in the Mix - The story of South African popular music (1981) and a novel, Bite of the Banshee (2003).
Muff is a researcher with the University of South Africa based in the office of the Principal/PVC. She is currently writing the History of Unisa.
About the book Intertextuality, Violence and Memory in Yizo Yizo youth TV drama.
Muff Andersson argues that African popular culture is modern, sophisticated, cutting-edge and steeped in complex intertextual referencing to other African and world texts. Her analysis a far cry from the usual uneasy positioning of popular culture between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. She illustrates advances in African technology – ways of linking the past to the present and the immediate world of the audience – barely explored in dominant cultures.
Similarly ways in which audiences feed ideas into various forms of culture from theatre to film suggests that core tenets of post-modernism have long existed in mass African popular culture, again in ways only recently being explored in northern artistic production.
This timely comment on culture simultaneously theorises the issues affecting youths in cities – issues of identity, xenophobia, sexuality, Aids, unemployment, lack of support – and suggests that youth in Africa live and grow in a society composed of a series of ‘violences’, around which they must arrange themselves.
Q & A with Muff Andersson:
1. What led to your decision to study the TV drama Yizo Yizo and to actually pen your research findings in a book form?
It followed my MA research (also in African Literature at Wits University) on the soap opera Isidingo. That showed how the rainbow nation was manufactured on TV through representations of the representations already in circulation—a grand occasion like the voting queues of the first election, or the inauguration.
These grand moments become the official memory of South Africa. But ordinary citizens following events on TV and radio do pick up the contradiction between the claim of ‘simunye, we are one’ and what is experienced in popular memory.
In the Yizo Yizo text researched for my PhD I looked at the producerly text—ie, what the producers wanted to do when they made Yizo Yizo, and how they related to the official mandate of the Educational division of the SABC and that of the government.
Then I analysed the text itself. Yizo Yizo is a fine example of African popular culture and as such is full of intertextual references to other texts. Intertextuality is critical to the sophistication of African texts generally.
Finally I explored how audiences read the text. Producers’ intentions and audience readings are not necessarily the same. A text is a negotiation.
2. What stands out for you in this piece of work?
Political memory, within this text, is unlocked by way of intertextuality. I began a nuanced analysis towards a theory of violence when I discovered the extent of violence within the lives of ordinary people.
3. What are your views about South African youth and pop culture?
African popular audiences are active, not passive. Audiences interpret and re-write texts and demand changes.
With Yizo Yizo there was a row about a sex scene between Javas and Nomsa, two of the main characters. The SABC wanted it cut. I was present when a VIP from the SABC stormed into the studios to say, ‘this is not part of our culture, we do not discuss this within our culture.’
There the matter might have rested. The scene would have been cut.
However: the focus group findings had yet to come in. When they did, pornography was the last thing on the youth audiences’ minds. Youth asked, ‘where is the condom?’ They wanted Javas and Nomsa to practice safe sex, or at least discuss a condom. This negotiation was the reality in their lives.
The youth view brought an important dimension to the fore.
In another instance while adults fussed over whether the representation of drug addiction would turn school viewers into addicts, youth viewers felt that the producers should tell a tougher tale of drug addiction, showing how difficult recovery was.
4. Is media exposure to our youth of good value or not? Do parents have to worry?
A fascinating study by John Gultig into Yizo Yizo’s audiences showed that where adults (including teachers) looked at bits of Yizo Yizo they noted, ‘this is violent, this is about drugs’. Youth said in response to exactly the same clips, ‘This shows the consequences of doing violence, and what will happen if you do drugs’.
It suggests youth are visually literate. Their views are sobering.
5. What should parents, policy makers and other institutions do to help the youth develop ‘in the right direction’?
We might need youths’ help in communicating and interpreting more than they need ours.
There are a number of youth popular cultural initiatives up and running throughout Africa—stand-up comedy, the spoken word, new forms of theatre, groundbreaking work in fashion and design, and technological innovations whereby youth connect in advanced ways.
Parents and policy makers have struggled for fifty years to figure out how to create a United States of Africa conceptualized within our own philosophies, culture and self-dependencies, yet where is it? Creative youth (not youth politicians!) might create magic if let loose on platforms from Gauteng to Benin to Tripoli to Mogadishu.
More information about the author is available from Unisa Press Marketer Mr Mafeno Phora: email@example.com
See the general information page on the Unisa Press Imagined South Africa Book Series, edited by Abebe Zegeye