Song Walking explores the politics of land, its position in memories, and its foundation in changing land-use practices in western Maputaland, a borderland region situated at the juncture of South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. Angela Impey investigates contrasting accounts of this little-known geopolitical triangle, offsetting textual histories with the memories of a group of elderly women whose songs and everyday practices narrativize a century of borderland dynamics. Drawing evidence from women’s walking songs (amaculo manihamba)—once performed while traversing vast distances to the accompaniment of the European mouth-harp (isitweletwele)—she uncovers the manifold impacts of internationally-driven transboundary environmental conservation on land, livelihoods, and local senses of place.
This book links ethnomusicological research to larger themes of international development, environmental conservation, gender, and local economic access to resources. By demonstrating that development processes are essentially cultural processes and revealing how music fits within this frame, Song Walking testifies to the affective, spatial, and economic dimensions of place, while contributing to a more inclusive and culturally apposite alignment between land and environmental policies and local needs and practices.