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Soweto: the sound of the vuvuzela dominates the mass 0

SOWETO, JOHANNESBURG– In Johannesburg even religious functions are dominated by the vuvuzela. People watching matches on television may find their noise annoying but here in South Africa these plastic trumpets are a vital part of the party, not just of the stadium.

9 a.m., Sunday morning, Zondi parish. We are in the heart of Soweto, the Johannesburg suburbs where the fight against apartheid began in 1976. Today nearly two million people live here. During the Sunday mass, two thirds of the congregation is wearing a Bafana T-shirt. Ladies show off head coverings covered in football themes and wigs sporting the traditional South African colours. Every detail tells the story of how people are joining the party and are willing to celebrate this event. Here, celebration is a serious thing, even when it definitely is extra-ordinary.

The sound of the vuvuzela comes smack on time. As the ceremony begins, the congregation spells its enthusiasm for the World Cup by playing the South African instrument. Behind the altar two priests, one South African and the other German, smile and take part in the passionate celebration. Here, smiling during mass is not forbidden. Singing, dancing, playing and rejoicing have their time and space. For the World Cup, South African churches have promoted a specific prayer book in their parishes, “A Church on the ball: prayer book”.

On the first page, on top of several notes for pilgrims and fans of the World Cup, there is the vuvuzela again: “a unique trumpet, typical of the South African tradition”, says the book, “played with so much enthusiasm that it breaks people’s eardrums during football matches, aiming either to support a team, or scare off the other players”.

At Zondi, the idea of hushing the vuvuzelas would be considered at the very least as weird. If the local inhabitants knew that some foreigners consider it a disturbance they would be astonished. Would they see bongos in the same way? The people of Zondi, which is not far from Vilakazi Street, where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived during apartheid, would be surprised if they did.

“Blow harder!” Is how Archbishop Tutu has answered criticisms. On June 16 in Cape Town, Desmond Tutu delivered a speech in front of a group of young people assembled for ‘Youth day’, the day dedicated to youth in South Africa.

He took the opportunity to defend the vuvuzela: and highlighted that it is important that South Africans celebrate this glorious event and that foreigners need to accept local traditions, including vuvuzelas, which have become a main feature of the World Cup.

Tutu was wearing a Bafana T-shirt and a yellow and green cap with a flag. He went on  stage with the football star Clarence Seedorf, who said that he had been snubbed for a TV ad with the Dutch national team. The young people welcomed them roaring, singing the South African national anthem and, of course, blowing on their vuvuzelas.

By Emanuela CitterioAfronline.org World Cup correspondent

Download the 2010 World Cup prayer book – pdf version

Picture by Emanuela Citterio

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