The psychodynamics of orality: Reflecting on protest songs during and after apartheid in South Africa

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 39, issue 3, 2019 , pages: 305–314
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2019.1672340
Author(s): Mokgale MakgopaSchool of Human and Social Sciences, South Africa, Mmaphuti MamalekaSchool of Human and Social Sciences, South Africa


During the apartheid era in South Africa, protest songs were effectively used to challenge the dominance of the now defunct government. It was through protest songs that previously oppressed black South Africans expressed their emotions. Protest songs aim at bringing about an interaction of a people’s conscious and subconscious behavioural forces. 27 April 1994 is regarded as a watershed moment in the history of South Africa. This date brought about political changes in the country. This article seeks to determine the impact of protest songs by applying Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychodynamics with its focus on the dynamic relations between conscious and unconscious motivations. One major characteristic of protest songs is that they are viewed as songs that belong to the category of topical songs. As these songs are sung and performed, the following question is always asked: What is the primary objective of singing the songs? In order to answer this question, Sigmund Freud’s theory shall be used to analyse the selected songs.

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