Original Research - Special Collection: Practical Theology

Performing the sacred – Aspects of singing and contextualisation in South Africa

Elsabé Kloppers
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 2 | a5477 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i2.5477 | © 2020 Elsabé Kloppers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 March 2019 | Published: 31 March 2020

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Elsabé Kloppers, Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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After an introduction and views on inculturation (i.e. adapting the liturgy to the context within which it is ‘performed’ or the context influencing the liturgy), the focus shifts to ‘incarnation’ and ‘contextualisation’ in a broader sense, to also include the transformation and adaptation of the ‘sacred’ for the secular or political sphere. Practices of performing faith through texts and music within diverse liturgical, spiritual, cultural and political contexts in South Africa are discussed. Aspects taken into account are the possible influence of landscape or seasons on the expression of faith and the possible sacro-soundscapes that could come from different contexts, such as the impact of the Karoo landscape on Khoisan descendants singing the sacred; performances in a contextualised music idiom, such as the Genevan Psalms in a Khoi music idiom; and celebrating the Church Year in different hemispheres. The discussion focuses also on contextualising within political contexts – that is, where political space is ‘sacralised’ through sacred songs and where sacred songs are given political meaning or changed for the political sphere. The article closes with the possibility of songs from Africa being sung in other countries and the meaning it could have, or could be given. It is argued that contextualisation from one context to another context of the sacred, or from a ‘secular’ to a sacred context, as well contextualising the sacred into the public (‘secular’) or political sphere, could lead to contexts and spaces being changed, enrich the performance of the sacred, stimulate creativity, allow for new processes of attributing meaning, change values and motivate people, form new identities and thus also could lead to changed communities.


Contextualisation; Inculturation; Sacred; Performance; Singing; Songs of Struggle


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