The Fire in the Voice

Songs and Sounds on Queer South African Life

  • Ernst van der Wal Visual Arts Department, Stellenbosch University
Keywords: queer voice, South Africa, sonic landscapes, music, race, Umlilo


This article investigates queer vocality as it impacts on contemporary experiences and imaginings of race, gender and sexuality within the South African context. By examining the very applicability of queer (as term and methodology) within the South African context, and paying particular attention to its relationship to voice, this article explores how ideas surrounding race, gender and sexuality bears on South Africa as a sonic environment. The work of South African performing artist Umlilo is specifically drawn upon as the basis of this investigation. As a self-identified queer, black, non-binary artist, Umlilo offers a vocal challenge to patriarchal, racist, hetero- and/or cisnormative conventions, and this article explores how such challenges are brought into effect and into voice.