Journey of Song

Journey of Song

Public Life and Morality in Cameroon
Clare A. Ignatowski
Distribution: World
Publication date: 02/28/2006
ISBN: 978-0-253-11159-3
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During the long dry season, Tupuri men and women in northern Cameroon gather in gurna camps outside their villages to learn the songs that will be performed at widely attended celebrations to honor the year’s dead. The gurna provides a space for them to join together in solidarity to care for their cattle, fatten their bodies, and share local stories. But why does the gurna remain meaningful in the modern nation-state of Cameroon? In Journey of Song, Clare A. Ignatowski explores the vitality of gurna ritual in the context of village life and urban neighborhoods. She shows how Tupuri songs borrow from political discourse on democracy in Cameroon and make light of human foibles, publicize scandals, promote the prestige of dancers, and provide an arena for powerful social commentary on the challenges of modern life. In the context of broad social change in Africa, Ignatowski explores the creative and communal process by which local livelihoods and identities are validated in dance and song.

Author Bio

Clare A. Ignatowski is a visiting scholar at the African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania.


“. . . provides a window into the interactions between the gurna [ancestral dance] institution and forms of scialization, governing, justice, and communication. The reader is invited into Tupuri society through dance and song and allowed to experience daily life that includes death celebrations dances, rainy season dances, and state—sponsored dances. —Leeds Africa”
 — Studies Bulletin 69 2007

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