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Rituals of Fertility and the Sacrifice of Desire

Nazarite Women’s Performance in South Africa

With close to one million members, the Church of the Nazarites (ibandla lamaNazaretha) is one of the most popular indigenous religious communities in South Africa. Founded in 1910 by Isaiah Shembe, it offers South Africans—particularly disadvantaged black women and girls—a way to remake and reconnect to ancient sacred traditions disrupted by colonialism and apartheid. Ethnomusicologist Carol Muller explores the everyday lives of Nazarite women through their religious songs and dances, dream narratives, and fertility rituals, which come to life both musically and visually on CD-ROM.

Against the backdrop of South Africa’s turbulent history, Muller shows how Shembe’s ideas of female ritual purity developed as a response to a regime and culture that pushed all things associated with women, cultural expression, and Africanness to the margins.

Carol Muller breaks new ground in the study of this changing region and along the way includes fascinating details of her own poignant journey, as a young, white South African woman, to the "other" side of a divided society.

337 pages | 12 halftones, 1 map, 4 musical examples, 1 CD ROM | 6 x 9 | © 1999

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Gender and Sexuality

Music: Ethnomusicology

Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion

Table of Contents

List of Musical Excerpts and Illustrations on the Compact Disc
1. Introduction
2. Isaiah Shembe and the Making of Religious Empire
3. Making and Exchanging Nazarite Sacred Forms
4. Nazarite Hymns: Indigenizing Sacred Song
5. Nazarite Hymns: Popularizing Sacred Song (1940-1997)
6. AmaNtombazane as the Mountains of Abstinence
7. Nazarite Marriage and the "Brides of Christ"
8. AmaNkosikazi as Maidens of Royal Blood
A Last Word

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