I am typing this piece in a tiny town in Portugal. We are here visiting my husband's family to introduce our small twin boys. Last week we were in England spending some time with my own family. My sons are half Portuguese, a quarter British and a quarter South African (although that last quarter has some rather diverse roots too if traced a few generations back). In England, my children played with my cousin's daughters – who are half British, a quarter Israeli and quarter Polish. This week they are playing with a different cousin who is half Portuguese and half New Zealander and another who is three quarters South African and one quarter British. At home they have second cousins who are half Portuguese, a quarter South African and a quarter Hungarian. As one can see, my family's nationality is rather blurry – as is the concept of nationality itself. Somehow – my immediate family at least – has found some shared identity to call our own. We have a sense of what it means to be a Dos Santos.
Michele Forinash (2007) asked in an editorial early in September, "what 'makes' a music therapist?". My experience is that, in South Africa, answering that question can be quite complicated. What sense do we have of what it means to be a music therapist in this particular country, with so many influences, so many needs and so many questions?
Previous Voices editorials written by African editors have included or invited a number of rather complex questions relating to what it means to be a music therapist in South Africa and Africa. Pavlicevic asked,
In 2005 I asked,
In February 2007, Oosthuizen posed the question,
Kofie has enquired
At the University of Pretoria we have just completed the selection process for our new group of students to begin next year. This is the fourth group that I will be involved with as part of the training team and, more than ever before, I am questioning how we prepare graduates to be music therapists in South Africa and Africa. We are required to train individuals to work effectively in a dynamic, shifting field and in a growing, changing country both of which will no doubt be different (radically perhaps in some ways) in a few years time. Teaching our students what music therapy "is" does not appear to be an appropriate final goal. It is not enough. Teaching them to ask relevant questions needs to be high on our priority list, no matter how uncomfortable that may be for the students concerned.
In the 1980's and 1990's South African psychologists debated intensely how their discipline could become more relevant to the local socio-political context. This debate was labelled a "state of crisis" (de la Rey and Ipser 2004, p. 544) referring to the crisis in confidence regarding psychology's ability to impact social problems in South Africa. One of the responses to this "crisis" was a turn to including a community focus. De la Rey and Ipser (2004, p. 546) state that "changing the demographic profile of psychology as a profession and an area of scholarship has also been used as a criterion to assess the relevance of South African psychology". Proposals for how psychology could move away from its white elitist image included embracing indigenous knowledge and encouraging communication between psychological practitioners and traditional healers. It was also suggested that South Africans may require their own unique psychology (Bodibe 1993 in de la Rey and Ipser 2004).
South African psychology has aligned itself with international movements towards post-structuralism, feminism, multiculturalism and diversity however there has not been the development of uniquely South African theories and methodologies. Rather, there has been a widespread acknowledgment of the intrinsically political nature of psychological knowledge (de la Rey and Ipser 2004). According to Macleod (2004, p.613), psychology in South Africa has "a long way to go" before it can truly claim relevance. Macleod (2004, p. 613) states further that "psychology needs to produce knowledge and practices that not only reflect the (multiple and diverse) sociopolitical concerns of the country, but also contribute to overcoming the multiple sources of social inequities and diffractions characteristic of South African society".
Music therapy faces similar challenges. To what degree are we able to impact social problems in South Africa? If demographic profile is an indicator of relevance for our profession too, then we are painfully irrelevant. The questions psychology has asked concerning indigenous knowledge and traditional healers resonate strongly with the questions posed by African music therapists and musicologists mentioned above. We too are increasingly drawn towards a community focus. Do we need a unique music therapy, or, as Painter and Blanche (2004, p.521) ask in relation to psychology, are we indulging in "superficial exoticism at the expense of confronting the real issues facing the discipline and profession internationally?"
Although my heritage lies far from South Africa I am a South African. My children are South African. In my family we have colourful roots and contrasting practices but we are firmly, proudly, deeply South African. As I think about my profession and particularly about training a new group of music therapists I reflect on how we are creating our identity in South Africa. How do we acknowledge diversity, internal and external voices, and the ever increasing number of questions that seem to emerge, whilst training music therapists who are critical, effective, relevant and passionate about serving in South Africa and Africa?
De la Rey, C. and Ipser, J. (2004). The call for relevance: South African psychology ten years into democracy. South African Journal of Psychology. 34(4). 544-552.
Dos Santos, A. (2005) Intentional Leadership: Growth, Empowerment and High-Heeled Shoes. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colsantos010805.html
Forinash, M. (2007) What "Makes" a Music Therapist?. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colforinash100907.php
Kofie, N. (2006) Singing Away Stress at Ghanaian Workplaces: A Case for Music Therapy in Industry? Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colkofie060506.html
Kofie, N. (2007). Lest We Repeat Past Prejudices: Reflections on a Chat With a Traditional Healer. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colkofie260207.php
Macleod, C. (2004). South African psychology and 'relevance': Continuing challenges. South African Journal of Psychology. 34(4). 613-629.
Oosthuizen, H. (2007) Drumming in the Rain: An Experience of the First Year of Music Therapy. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/coloosthuizen010107.php
Painter, D. and Blanche, M. (2004). Critical psychology in South Africa: Looking back and looking ahead. South African Journal of Psychology. 34(4). 520-543.
Pavlicevic, M. (2001a) Moments. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colpavlicevic110601.html
Pavlicevic, M. (2001b). Open Doors. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colpavlicevic171201.html
Pavlicevic, M. (2002a). With Sound and Silence. [online] Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colpavlicevic250302.html
Pavlicevic, M. (2002b). Other Music: Community Sounds [online] Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colpavlicevic090902.html
Pavlicevic, M. (2003a). In the beginning [online] Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colpavlicevic100303.html
Pavlicevic, M. (2003b). Listening, Hearing, and Improvising Meaning [online] Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved October 22, 2007, from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colpavlicevic180803.html
Dos Santos, Andeline (2007). Asking Questions in Africa. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=colsantos221007