Music and the African Girl Child: Sustainability and Resistance in Pot Drum Music
Music and dance are integral parts of girlhood in the southeastern part of Nigeria, where I grew up. Most of our training and activities focused on molding girls to become better women, desirable maidens for marriage, and ultimately good wives; the girls’ dances also serve this purpose. However, gender violence affects this process in musical performance spaces. By examining the Avu Udu—a pot drum dance practiced by Owerri, Igbo girls in southeastern Nigeria, I argue that girls utilize music to resist traditional gender norms, and to protect themselves from a society that ignores their psychological well-being and fails to protect them from gender-based violence. Because of the complexity of the girls’ performances and lived experiences, this article further addresses a range of issues. The analyses of selected songs, dances, bodily gestures, and lived experiences of the girl dancers (between ages six to fifteen) show that the viability and sustainability of the Avu Udu depend on the Igbo’s conventional archetypes of patriarchy. Narratives, history, and existing scholarship account for changes in Avu Udu dance that stem from transformations in Nigeria’s social, political, and economic conditions. The roles that music plays in shaping the girl child and her response inform the intersections of music, gender, and resistance in Igbo, Nigerian culture. This research places the African girl child at the center of timely issues pertaining to social justice.
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