The exploration of liberation in the Rodriguez movement

Apartheid originates from the Africaans language, meaning “separateness”. It refers to how the white minority in South Africa held majority of power over the population, leading to racial segregation. This caused resistance across the country; many protest groups came together to fight the apartheid laws and the people behind it. Music played a special role in South Africa during the apartheid era, it gave people the strength to fight for their rights as human beings. American Musician Sixto Rodriguez was not a well-known musical figure in the US,  but his music spoke volumes to the people suffering racial discrimination in South Africa. The journey of his career was made into a documentary in 2012, directed by Malik bendjelloul, Searching for Sugarman. The film promotes Rodrigiuez as an influential role model, liberating people of South Africa and help making the injustice of South Africa known.


Michael Titlestads’ article, Searching for the Sugar-coated Man, critiques the aim of the movie. He highlights that the movie likes to represent Rodriguez as a “poet of the Streets”, the film was made to make its audience feel good, sugar coating the facts as a consequence. Jonathan Hyslop in the article titled ‘”Days of Miracle and Wonder”? Conformity and Revolt in Searching for Sugar Man’ ,agrees with Titlestad in the way that the representation of the anti-apartheid struggle was confused and unclear. Many of the people who appeared in the film who admire Rodrigues were racially white when indeed the anti-apartheid movement rooted at the racial oppression of coloured South African pupils. Hyslop made the important point that Rodriguez was a clear musical motivator of the 1970s and 80s, not downplaying his talents, but that he was not the only nor the front runner musician/song-writer in producing music that inspired change. Hyslop has less of a cynical view of the Rodriguez movement and celebrates all the creative minds that drove political movements in the 70s and 80s.



Hyslop, J 2013, ‘”Days of Miracle and Wonder”? Conformity and Revolt in Searching for Sugar Man’, Safundi, vol.14, no.4, pp. 490-501

Titlestad, M 2013, ‘Searching for the Sugar-coated Man’, Safundi, vol.14, no.4, pp. 466-470



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