Vuvuzelas and theology

Sometimes a familiar old publication still has the ability to make you sit up and take notice. Like when the wonderful Penny Red started writing a lifestyle column for the Morning Star: of course you’re pleased for her, and the result is worth reading, but the juxtaposition of the Morning Star and the whole concept of “lifestyle” makes me wonder if these are the droids we’re looking for.

And so we turn to the popular issue of the moment, the vuvuzela. One expects, of course, the tabloids to run big on the vuvuzela; one even expects the Grauniad to deal with it in an achingly postmodern way. What one doesn’t expect is to see it being discussed in the good old Church Times:

THE VUVUZELA, the plastic horn that has dominated the 2010 World Cup, is Africa’s revenge on the West, a South African theologian says.

The president of the South African Council of Churches, Dr Tinyiko Maluleke, interviewed by ENI in Edinburgh last week, praised the vuvuzela for the volume of noise it makes. Dr Maluleke described the one-note instrument as a “missile-shaped weapon”, which forced the world to wake up and acknowledge Africa’s past sufferings.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu told The Sun on Wednesday: “The vuvuzela is part of our culture. We cannot separate them from the soccer fever.”

By the middle of this week, the website had attracted 84,000 votes to ban the instrument, and 9000 votes in its favour. The BBC has received more than 500 complaints about the background noise on its broadcasts. There are also fears about hearing-loss among fans; and football man­agers say that they can­not commun­icate with players on the field.

But Dr Makulele said: “In the 19th century, white missionaries sided with colonials and gave blacks the Bible, while they took the land. Now, we have created the vuvuzela, which is one of the most obnoxious in­struments: very noisy, very annoy­ing. It will dominate the FIFA World Cup. I see the vuvuzela as a symbol, as a symbol of Africa’s cry for acknowledgement. . .

“We see it when Africans are em­barrassed to be African in their own vernacular language, to relate to their culture positively: the schizo­phrenic relationship that Africans have to their traditions, their cul­ture, and their religions.”

A South African newspaper, the Mail and Guardian, has reported that the vuvuzela is commonly used in church services in neighbouring Bots­wana. One Botswana church­goer, Jacqueline Chireshe, explained: “The vuvuzela is a biblical instru­ment; it is a trumpet, and God expects us to blow the trumpet in offering praise to him.”

Last year, members of the Nazareth Baptist Church, founded in 1910, unsuccessfully argued that they owned the copyright on the instrument, which was used on an annual pilgrimage to a mountain in KwaZulu-Natal which they consider to be holy.

Every day’s a school day, isn’t it? In related news, Archbishop Nichols is concerned about vuvuzelas. I humbly suggest that +Vincent may have more pressing matters on his plate.


  1. Dave Weeden said,

    June 18, 2010 at 6:46 am

    *By the middle of this week, the website had attracted 84,000 votes to ban the instrument, and 9000 votes in its favour. *

    Well, that’s what I call an unbiased, scientific survey.

    I don’t get the hate thing. I’m not much of a footie fan, outside the World Cup, but football crowds make noise. It’s better than “You fat bastard” for a start. It’s a South African noise. What do the critics want, the Bach Cello suites? Discrete smattering of applause from the stands and the rattle of jewellery from the corporate seats?

  2. Dr Paul said,

    June 18, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    It’s funny to hear telly commentators complain about the drone of the vuvuzelas when practically every programme on the telly except sport gets drowned out with superfluous background music.

    Will the world’s football fans bring home their vuvuzelas to make them part of their own football culture?

    How about making them the instrument of choice at the 2012 Olympics?

  3. jamie said,

    June 19, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Most of the vuvuzelas are made by the Zhejiang Ninghai Ji Ying Plastic Products Factory, as you can see here:

    …so perhaps it’s a case of emerging Chinese hegemony.

  4. Dr Paul said,

    June 19, 2010 at 10:57 am

    According to the Daily Telegraph, the Catholic authorities in Britain don’t want people to play vuvuzelas when the Pope arrives here in the autumn, as they lower the tone and cause a disturbance.

    My weekly posting from the National Secular Society has a handy link telling us where we can buy these infernal machines. Just the thing to drown out old Ratfinger’s ramblings, I reckon.

  5. Tim Johnston said,

    June 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Penny Red is appalling!
    but does provide great entertainment material ….

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