VII Simpósio Internacional de Musicologica da UFRJ

  • William Fourie (Speaker)
  • Juliana M. Pistorius (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Decolonial AestheSis and operatic epistemologies of the South: the Eoan Group and its ‘Lingering Absences’

Western Art Music’s complicity in the colonial mission is an increasingly important point of discussion in music scholarship of the Global South. The continued privileging of Western aesthetic epistemologies fails to account for the experience of the colonial subject. In South Africa, the effects of this failure have been perpetuated by the country’s recent apartheid history, which institutionalised colonial difference under the guises of cultural preservation and, later, multiculturalism. This paper will speak to the insufficiency of Western aesthetics to account for the colonial subject as artistic being by reconsidering the politics of an apartheid-era opera company, the Eoan Group, and a recent curation of the group’s archival traces.

The Eoan Group presented elaborate performances of works from the Italian operatic canon between 1956 and 1976, thus effectively establishing an operatic tradition in South Africa. However, as members of the so-called ‘coloured’ population group, they operated under severe restrictions, both physical and ideological in nature. Their musicianship, branded as aspirational and complicit in the apartheid agenda, is deemed to have participated in the establishment of Western Art Music as elite culture.
In this paper, however, we shall argue for a reconsideration of the Eoan aesthetic through the critical framework of Walter Mignolo’s (2013) ‘decolonial aestheSis’.

With ‘decolonial aestheSis’ Mignolo proposes a delinking from the globalised epistemologies of the West, in order to develop a performative mode of knowledge production rooted in the enunciative moment. This model emphasises the validity of non-Western ways of knowing, and distances itself from the canons of modern, postmodern, and altermodern aesthetics. In so doing, it allows for the opportunity to expose contradictions of coloniality by thematising categories other than beauty or rationality.

We shall apply the concept of decolonial aestheSis to the narrative of the Eoan Group by tracing its tenets in a 2013 exhibition titled Lingering Absences. Drawing on material from the group’s archive, the exhibition foregrounded issues of segregation, dislocation, and erasure. With film footage stripped of sound; a wall of bodiless voices; seating plans detailing racial segregation; and images accompanied by their contemporary soundscapes, Lingering Absences enacted a performative epistemology. Our paper will take this as a starting point to consider how oral histories, material archives, and the geo-politics of colonial subjectivity form part of a radically transformed enunciative moment. This, we shall argue, represents an opportunity for an intercultural reading of Western Art Music in relation to epistemologies of the Global South.
Period25 Oct 2016
Event typeConference
LocationRio de Janeiro, BrazilShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational