General Introduction
Vhusha for Nobles, Commoners and Christians
The Ritual Songs and Dances of the Commoners' Vhusha
Ndayo Dza Vhusha - Educational Songs and Dances of Vhusha
This is the first in the four-part series of papers Blacking published in 1969 on Venda girls' initiation schools. He begins with a 'General Introduction' to the initiation cycle, in which he argues that initiation allows women to achieve positions of status within Venda society which bring them several benefits. The introduction is followed by a section entitled 'Vhusha for Nobles, Commoners, and Christians', in which there is a detailed account of the phases of vhusha initiation. His descriptions reveal the power relations among women within the school and their articulation with the wider political structure of Venda society, foreshadowing his preoccupations with the political implications of musical performance. In the next section, 'The Ritual, Songs and Dances of the Commoners' Vhusha', Blacking describes the procedures of entry into vhusha, followed by a meticulous documentation of the sequence of songs and accompanying movements the novices perform during the first - and principle - stage of vhusha. His close attendance to the performative activities of the initiates pre-empts his focus upon the social meanings of music-making and of the bodily experience of dance. The final section, 'Ndayo dza Vhusha - Educational Songs and Dances of Vhusha', documents local exegesis of the educational and symbolic content of the songs and dances in preparing the girls for adulthood. Even as he wrote, it is apparent that he questioned the symbolic efficacy of these discourses, since the initiates seemed to be uninterested in them. Later he would revise his perspectives in terms of the experiential power of performance, which also impacted upon the development of his educational philosophy. The two final sections have been illustrated extensively with Blacking's recordings and film footage. The transcriptions derive from Blacking 1970.