Bokkies/Moffies: cinematic images of black sexual identity in Zonk! (1950)

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In the late 1940s and 1950s, there was a cluster of films made in South Africa that focused on the black experience. The first of these were Jim Comes to Joburg released in 1949 and Zonk! in 1950, both representing black identity in ways that mark a shift away from earlier fomulations of black people as savages or servile. Zonk! and the later film Song of Africa (1951) both made by African Film Productions are presented as musical revues within a theatrical context, featuring a range of black songs and performance styles. Zonk! is extraordinary in that a small set of songs opens up questions of sexual identity. These songs are enacted by two men as a central couple, with an all-male backing troupe that sometimes mirrors or re-enacts aspects of the central couple's performance. One of the songs, for example, features a routine chorus: Oh Jan tog, squeeze my… ('Oh Jan please, squeeze me…') where all the singers dance together as couples, 'squeezing' their partners. Later in the film, a detailed narrative display and song-and-dance routine is developed around one of the same all-male troupe cross-dressed as the female manager in a compound 'restaurant', and playing the stereotypical heterosexual role of 'woman' in relation to the men's sexual advances. Zonk! is an essentially conservative film, both in its production base and the values it expounds overall, yet it embraces what might be seen as a radical crossing of boundaries that questions established perceptions of identity and particularly of black sexual identity in the early 1950s. In this sense it proposes identities, albeit ambiguously, beyond perceptions of national identities at that time. This is the terrain that this paper seeks to explore.
Translated title of the contributionBokkies/Moffies: cinematic images of black sexual identity in Zonk! (1950)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25 - 43
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Volume16 (1)
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003

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Publisher: Carfax


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