April | October

APC October - November 2019 Workshop: Collated Abstracts

Precious Bikitsha: History in Public Life final essay

I am doing my Masters research on Nontsizi Mgqwetho, looking at her social, political and literary networks. Therefore I am tailoring this essay to suit my Masters research. One of things that I need to do for my thesis is to try and understand the whole of the public sphere of which Mgqwetho is operating in; whether it is in parties, newspapers or the church. This paper is interested in how the public sphere is working in the early 1900s and how people are talking to each other. One of my potential sources is to see what is happening at Abantu Batho, a Congress aligned newspaper where Mgqwetho worked as a journalist and published her poetry from the period 1919-1920. However, the newspaper is largely unavailable and I cannot read it myself but fortunately Peter Limb’s The People’s Paper: A Centenary History and Anthology of Abantu-Batho is available for me to use.

I am trying to understand Abantu Batho but I cannot go into primary research because the runs of the newspaper are not available. So for this paper I propose to mine the The People’s Paper for what the various columns they manage to collect together and the articles written by the contributors for something that I am interested in which is: this question of how are people discussing things and what role does the newspaper play and what clues does the newspaper give me to how things are being discussed. In the absence of primary sources I am mining the book- both the collection of columns that they got and the articles. Not focusing on Mgqwetho at all. What can I get out of that book to tell me about this wider public sphere at the time. My focus is not quite the same as theirs, my focus is on the constitution of an imagined black public sphere which the newspaper plays a role. How do discussions happen? How do ideas circulate and how is the newspaper in that? From this I’m getting a sense of who is reading the newspaper but getting a sense of how it goes wider and what these circles of the intelligentsia would have been discussing.

I will first give a short history of Abantu Batho, then I will look at circulation and look at who is writing and how discussion and debate is happening around the newspaper. Then I will look at how the black public sphere is talking to each other, whether it is in debating societies, parties, concerts and other gatherings. Finally, I will look at what are the signs of women participating in the black public sphere.

Lesley Cowling: Rogues, revolutionaries and nation-builders: The commercial black press in South African public life

South Africa’s commercial black press have been described as an outgrowth of the early black press, a collection of independent publications owned by African elites. However, the intervention of white capital into the sector in the 1930s caused “cataclysmic” change (Johnson 1991, 20). White-owned companies acquired most independent black publications, making the black-readership press “a captive press” (see Tomaselli and Tomaselli 1982, 12). The owners constrained the political role of the papers (Couzens 1976, 12; Switzer and Switzer 1979, 10) and the economic conditions of the period shaped the type of journalism that black papers produced in particular ways, often pushing them towards sensationalism and tabloid content (Manoim 1983, 5). However, commercialisation expanded the reach of the publications, which made them particularly influential among their readership. Despite the constraints of white ownership, certain publications had significant impact on South African society by virtue of their reach, and positioning. Black readers were targeted for their buying power and value to advertisers, rather than imagined as “the public” or “a public”. However, a number of publications moved beyond generic tabloid and information content to create relationships with their readers that offered them the opportunity to imagine themselves as publics, and reflect upon their role in South African society. Some of these imagined publics differ quite distinctly from each other – the swashbuckling, nihilistic and hyper-sophisticated writers of the 1950s Drum magazine constructed a different world from the nation-building journalists of Aggrey Klaaste’s Sowetan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The World under Percy Qoboza explicitly aligned itself with the BC movement and the 1976 protests in Soweto by schoolchildren, while the recently established tabloid Sun invests in community focus and a “helping hand” approach. This book proposes to investigate Drum magazine of the 1950s, the World in the 1970s, Sowetan’s role in nation-building, and the short era of City Press as a Pan-African publication. The book locates itself in discussions of black publics and modernity, and the ways in which commercial considerations shaped those projects. The proposal also seeks to provide a rationale for the book project and to locate it in current scholarship on the black press and South African media history.

Daniel Dix

I will be presenting a project I have recently completed as part of my MA coursework. The project is related to my thesis research, and is focused on notions of publicness in Durban during the responsible government period from 1893 to 1910. Drawing on literature that traces both white and black participation in the emergent public(s) of Durban during this period, my aim in the project is to map the public landscape. The project involves a historiographical and theoretical engagement with notions of the publicness more generally and as they have been applied in the case of the Colony of Natal, and aims to contribute to a broader understanding of the inter-relatedness between the various engagements in publicness within this period.

Angela Ferreira: A historical survey of the archive’s role in identity formation and land restitution

The land debate in South Africa has remained momentous throughout the democratic era. In more recent years, land disputes have undergone somewhat of an upsurge as indigenous San, Khoisan and Korana South Africans began voicing their demands for redress and restitution. As such, words including ‘tradition,’ ‘aboriginal’, ‘indigenous’ and ‘tribe’ have been elevated to the forefront of contemporary sociopolitical discourse. In November 2017, National Assembly passed the Traditional Khoisan and Leadership Bill which currently awaits ratification. While at face value the Bill desires to ‘recognise Khoisan leadership structures and communities not yet addressed in law,’ its underlying repercussions have split politicians with some arguing that it will merely serve to concretise indigenous groups’ marginalisation and rekindle apartheid-style tribal and ethnic divides. While remaining cognisant of these overarching political conflicts, the purpose of this research is to focus more on the responses of so-called indigenous communities to the Bill’s introduction in 2015 and its subsequent passing in parliament, and it considers where so-called ‘coloured’ communities—those essentially rendered ‘tribeless’ by the apartheid state— fit into efforts at redress. These ‘coloured’ communities remain marginalised in South Africa because they were not ‘white enough’ under colonial and Apartheid rule and they are not ‘black enough’ in the ‘new’ South Africa. Consequently, they are increasingly emphasising their connection to one constituent element of their identity — Khoisan.

Combining oral history with archival research, the study follows a recently formed ‘coloured’ communal group or civil society comprised of the descendants of Fynn, Ogle, Dunn, and Lochenberg, to name a few. This contemporary movement stems from the struggles of a ‘coloured’ constituency located in Harding, Kwa-Zulu Natal, who since the 1980s have been vested in a political struggle to regain the land taken from their ancestors by colonial and apartheid legislation including—but not limited to—the 1913 Land Act and the 1952 Bantu Authorities Act. The research investigates this community’s efforts to use history as a tool to reshape their identity and ultimately reinstate a sense of belonging through shedding the pejorative catchall racial category of “coloured.” The project further considers how this communal group uses the archive both to express and reify their appeals for official recognition as a Khoisan community and validate their requests for rights to the resources that past racial and oppressive legislation denied them.

Throughout, this historical survey remains aware of land restitution’s precarious proclivity for conflating chieftaincy, identity and land ownership. With this in mind, it pores over the role of land politics in chieftaincy and Khoisan revivalism and investigates how independent actors and communal groups muster the archive, oral traditions, memories and genealogical imaginings to construct the idea of a ‘tribe’ and secure and proclaim their belonging. Through developing this localised study of identity and inclusion, the research strives to broaden scholarly understandings of how the public uses the past and the archive as a device to negotiate, shape and restore ethnic identity and how this, in turn, impacts a community’s belonging, security and rights to access resources.

Sizakele Gumede: Harriette Colenso and the Zulu struggle against imperialism: an investigation of support rendered to the Zulu royal house and Usuthu, 1884-1913.

The proposed study intends to investigate support that Harriette Colenso rendered to the Zulu royal house and its Usuthu adherents, this done by answering the research question: What roles did Harriette Colenso play in the Zulu struggle against imperialism?

The study approaches the research question by tracking and analysing events, situations, factors and circumstances that threatened the Zulu royal house and Usuthu. Then the significance of Harriette’s interventions highlighted by examining among others; their contributions, implications, consequences, and where possible their extent of impact to the survival of the Zulu royal house.

So far the study has identified four roles that Harriette Colenso played. The brokerage role on behalf of King Dinuzulu and the Zulu royal house and Usuthu on matters that involved British and colonial politicians and government authorities, which so far is the leading role to have received considerable scholarly attention. The advisory role through Harriette’s intervention on crucial affairs of the Zulu royal house and uSuthu leadership. The benefactor role mainly evident through Harriette’s financing of Dinuzulu’s defence during his treason trials. Harriette’s self-appointed guardian role over Dinuzulu from his teenage years to adulthood. The advocacy roles whereby Harriette championed for and defended imprisoned Zulu people.

At the workshop the focus will be on establishing what we learn and the insights that may be deduced from Harriette’s advocacy role; this done by analysing and evaluating the case of the Embo prisoners (1898–1902) as reconstructed from the archives.

Carolyn Hamilton and John Wright: Politics in the mobile, flexible and aggressively expanding Ndwandwe polity in late 18C and early 19C

Ndwandwe was a large polity in south-east Africa which broke up during the reign of the first Zulu king, Shaka kaSenzangakhona. In this chapter we discuss its emergence as one of the most significant political formations of the second half of the eighteenth century. Ndwandwe developed as a predatory peregrine polity with an intrusive leadership centered on a renownedly fearsome and potent kingship. We highlight Ndwandwe's particular kind of historical mobility and flexibility and the relevance of these features in an extractive polity.

In the course of our examination of Ndwandwe, we keep an eye on three other expanding polities, Mabhudu immediately south of the trading port of Delagoa Bay (today Maputo), the Ngwane polity immediately north of Ndwandwe, in what is today southern Swaziland and Mthethwa to the south-east. We attempt to account for why it was that Ndwandwe expanded in the way that it did and why the territory from north of the Phongolo river to the Mhlathuze river emerged, as we see it, as something of a “nuclear zone” in which active political aggrandizement was taking place. In conceptualizing the area as a nuclear zone at this time, we are mindful that this is not the beginning of political centralization in the region. Centralisation in southern African goes back at least as far as Mpungubwe in the eleventh century. Our intention rather is to focus attention on what seems to be a particular time of marked political dynamism and change.

Verne Harris: A Time to Remember, A Time to Forget: Fred Hampton, Nelson Mandela and the Work of Memory

Harris explores the work of memory and the right to forget for both individuals and collectivities. He problematizes the remembering-forgetting binary, posits a distinction between remembering and remembrancing, and asks how healing can be enabled. He engages writing by Frantz Fanon, bell hooks, David Rieff and Yosef Yerushalmi on these themes.

Cynthia Kros: How did Miss Ramsbottom know about Sophiatown?

The title comes from a chapter heading in the draft of a book I was commissioned to write by Jeppe High School for Girls in Johannesburg for their centenary in 2019. Alice Ramsbottom was one of a trio of extraordinary sisters who were all principals of girls’ high schools (the other two were Parktown and Potchefstroom) in the mid-20th century. I was given pause for thought about how Miss Alice Ramsbottom knew about Sophiatown when – at the request of Jeppe Girls’ I interviewed one of their Old Girls, Hillary Hamburger (Wes), now in her mid-80s – and she told me a story concerning her Headmistress in the early 1950s. Struck by the realisation when she was in Standard 8 (Grade 10) that most poor people in South Africa were black, according to Hillary’s telling, and wanting to do something to help, she initiated a drive to collect Easter eggs. She was subsequently inundated by Easter eggs brought to school by her fellow pupils and had no idea what to do with them. When she appealed for help to Miss Ramsbottom, the latter apparently said: “Oh that’s very nice of you! I know exactly who to give them to. We will pack all the Easter eggs into my car and will go out to Sophiatown tomorrow.” The next day, they duly drove the 16 or so kilometres to Sophiatown from Kensington, met with and had tea with Trevor Huddleston and handed over the Easter eggs.

Obviously, it was by no means Miss Ramsbottom’s first trip to Sophiatown or her first encounter with Huddleston. I was intrigued, and my research led me to, what I think, is a little-known history of liberal Johannesburg in this period. I have a dual purpose in proposing work around this book – and particularly this chapter. The first connects to my general interest in bringing history into the public sphere and addressing questions such as, what does it mean to write a book commissioned by its subjects? The second is to explore the possibilities for research work on the principals of Jeppe Girls’ from the middle 1930s to the middle 1950s as a way of tracing contemporaneous intersections of liberal constituencies and networks in Johannesburg.

The reason the commissioning agents at Jeppe Girls’ wanted me to interview Hillary Hamburger was that they were under the (mistaken) impression that she had been school friends with their most famous alumnus, Ruth First. Although they were not exact contemporaries, as it turned out, Hillary, Ruth and others, such as well-known actor Molly Seftel and future founder of the Market Theatre, Barney Simon (at the Boys’ School) did all belong to what they understood as a common group composed of the children of Lithuanian refugees. Even as teenagers they were conscious of their particular cultural and left-wing political heritage, and this adds another fascinating ingredient to the mix.

Ayanda Mahlaba: Thesis Title: To the Black Women We All Know[1]: Three Women’s Contemporary Mobilizations of History in Relation to Questions of Status, Belonging and Identity in Mpolweni Mission, KwaZulu-Natal

Thesis Question: What do the narrations of history by three generations of related kholwa women from Mpolweni Mission tell us about how women produce and mobilize history and the history of Mpolweni Mission, KwaZulu-Natal?

For some years I have been involved in editing a book with the provisional title Ezakudala/Tsa Kgale: Exploring the Archive of Times Past. My fellow editors are: John Wright, Helen Ludlow and Mbongiseni Buthelezi. The book, as we have described it in previous workshops and conferences is designed for undergraduates, educators, heritage professionals and interested non-specialists. It has mutated quite significantly from being a cautionary text to discourage common ethnic and racial stereotypes, through attempting to meet some of the demands generated by the call for decolonisation in the 2015-6 Fallist protests to its present form, in which 20 or so specialists from a range of disciplines tell the stories of their encounters with a particular archive of the ‘precolonial’. Of course, since it is a mutation, the manuscript still contains versions of its original DNA, but we have become much more concerned to excite our readers’ imagination, and to broaden their sense of what an archive is, and what adventures are to be had in interacting with one, than in trying to making sure, as we once were, that they grasp debates about culture or understand particular historiographical shifts.

Our hope, notwithstanding what I have said above, is that through engaging with the authors’ accounts, readers will be inspired to make conceptual shifts, to endeavour to understand more about the making and subsequent lives of the archive, and to embark on their own archival work. Our book is nearly finished. Wits University Press has sent an indication of interest, and we need to be in a position to submit the manuscript soon. However, as yet we do not have a conclusion. I would like to use the opportunity offered by the APC Research Development Workshop to try to formulate one, which brings together the salient points that emerge from the quite diverse archival experiences recounted by our contributors, while at the same time giving readers a nudge to take the next step on their own journeys.

[1] I borrow the title from Kholofelo Maenetsha’s 2014 novel, To the Black Women We All Knew, Modjadji Press, 1-216.

Thokozani Mhlambi: Definition in transition

In previous APC workshops I have presented the concept of izinyanga, as an umbrella term designating particular skills in sensing: this would include healing, music composing, metalwork, stone-masonry, amongst many others. This paper situates the term izinyanga as we understand it today via two key phases in the transition towards the modern South African state: the one phase culminates around the 1870s and the other in the 1910s. The first phase refers to the period of missionary contribution (and gradually educated Africans contribution), towards the development of literary Zulu. The missionary influence had as its initial interest the compilation of a religious language in isiZulu, to explain Christian ideas to growing African congregations. Missionaries in Natal, such as Colenso and Callaway, had interest in the concept of izinyanga, and the repertories that accompany it. This is attested to by the detailed entry Colenso gives to the term in his dictionary. Callaway also wrote about it. The other moment is when African men who were healers seeking formal recognition within biomedical discourse, mobilized the term izinyanga as a way of referring to themselves. In this process of legitimation, some healers were excluded from using the term to refer to themselves; in many instances those who were excluded were women. The colonial government effectively endorsed the definition of these men, when it began granting licenses to healers based on a narrow definition of izinyanga. The argument I am making is that one of the effects of the narrowing of terms like izinyanga was to take its concepts (and institutions) out of the ambit of potentiality, from which African pursuers of self-government (self-definition) could then draw from in making arguments for freedom and autonomy.

Such a storehouse of information and concepts was crucial for the early African intellectuals, and what they saw as important in the building of a new Africa. One such intellectual, Tiyo Soga, for instance, wrote on the pages of his newspaper, Indaba in 1867 as follows:

What are the corn-pits, the cattle kraals, the boxes and the bags? What are the skin skirts’ pockets, and the banks for the stories and fables, the legends, customs and history of the Xhosa people and Fingo people? This is the challenge, for I envisage in this newspaper a beautiful vessel for preserving the stories, fables, legends, customs, anecdotes and history of the tribes. The activities of a nation are more than cattle, money or food. A subscriber to the journal should preserve the copies of successive editions of Indaba and at the end of the year make a bound volume of them. These annual volumes in course of time will become a mine of information and wisdom which will be a precious inheritance for generations of growing children.

Soga’s explicit turn to the preservatory, in his prompt to readers to make bound volumes at the end of each year’s collection of editions, demonstrates this emphasis on a storehouse concepts and information which edifies pursuits of African self-definition. That Soga was able to articulate this so early following the colonial encounter, is viewed as “prescient” by cultural theorist, Ntongela Masilela (2018), who sees in it an indication of “the genius of the man,’ and believes that it was this vision that was “taken as a gospel by later generations of New African intellectuals.”

The storehouse of African concepts and information became crucial in the liberation struggle debates of the middle of the 20th century in Africa and the Americas. The works of expounders of such African storehouses of information, such as Cheik Anta Diop, John Henry Clarke, Mazisi Kunene, amongst others proved very useful in informing those debates on university campuses, community centres and journals across the globe.[1] It goes without saying then that in the future as well, the storehouse will remain useful for African people (and I am sure people all over the world) looking for tools-to-think-with in the process of defining their own realities.

[1] Kunene taught at UCLA, where he grew a community of black alumni, who cherished learning about Zulu cosmologies and other aspects.

Clarke gave lectures and talks on African empires that were well attended from the 1970s to the 1990s in North America, Africa and Europe.

The Black Arts Movement which featured the likes of Amir Baraka, CLR James, Koerapetse Kgosietsile, found encouragement in this storehouse in its community education initiatives.

Susana Molins lliteras: Archive on the Margins: The Fondo Kati and the Production of History in Timbuktu

Book Abstract:

Timbuktu has recently become known as ‘the iconic archive’ used to signify indigenous African writing and knowledge production before the advent of colonialism. Nevertheless, an older association of the city as an impossible-to-reach, almost mythical location still lingers in popular imagination. Today, Timbuktu’s fame as a site of learning in Africa known to both the Islamic world and the West is being ‘rediscovered’ through the popularisation of, and research on, its famed manuscript collections. However, one particular private, ‘family’ manuscript collection, the Fondo Kati, has deliberately positioned itself apart from other libraries in Timbuktu. In first place, it claims a unique genealogical heritage linked to medieval al-Andalus and by extension modern-day Spain. Secondly, it ascribes a central role, and importance, to the marginalia of the collection—as opposed to the main texts of the manuscripts themselves. Unless we understand the processes of the creation, reception and success of this archive in different contexts and by different publics, we will fail to appreciate how, despite apparent contradictions, the Fondo Kati reflects modalities of knowledge production in and about Timbuktu. Thus, the archival biography of the Fondo Kati presented in this work demonstrates how historical knowledge in and about Timbuktu is continuously produced, reproduced and refashioned. It privileges the imbrication of textual, written ‘evidence’ with the circulation of oral sources and stories, combining regimes of historicity and temporality. This production of knowledge in and about Timbuktu similarly reveals a particular understanding of Africa, challenging notions of its ‘marginality’ and positionality in world history.

Melathisi Mthembu: The recovery of Xhosa historiography through amaqhalo AkwaXhosa (Xhosa proverbs) in Zemk’iinkomo Magwalandini by WB Rubusana: A historiographical analysis of amaqhalo akwaXhosa as history texts

This paper focuses on Xhosa oral traditions in the production of history as employed in Zemk’iinkomo Magwalandi by W.B Rubusana. In the writing of amaqhalo akwaXhosa (Xhosa proverbs) and iimbali (historic narratives) the living archives were consulted to share the knowledge they possess about black people and their past, (Gqoba: 2015). The paper specifically focuses on amaqhalo as history text ready to be historiographical analysed in order to recover marginalised Xhosa history.

The South African history discourse influenced by Eurocentric notions in knowledge production has not yet treated the history embedded in our various oral traditions and forms as valuable canons of history, (Tisani: 2000, Mkhize: 2018).The interest on Zemk’iinkomo Magwalandini lies on the scholarly contributions that affirm Xhosa oral traditions and forms in knowledge production, archiving and dissemination thus offering new avenues into decolonising.

I argue that the contributors into Zemk’’iinkomo Magwalandini understood the value of oral forms and traditions in producing African centred knowledge. Amaqhalo in Zem’’inkomo Magwalandini archive different histories, historic themes and perspective on knowledge itself. In this historiographical analysis, such histories will be positioned within the broader history discourse in South Africa. Thus this paper positions itself within knowledge production discourse, the debate on land and various other themes.

This paper is unique through centring understandings from idiomatic perspectives and significantly contribute in facilitating decolonising of knowledge production, archiving and dissemination. Critically important is the centring of marginalised African languages, voices and intellectuals.

Key words: Gqoba, W.B Rubusana, Amaqhalo, decolonising, African intellectuals, Iimbali

Sibusiso Nkomo: Reviewing Lesotho’s history: evaluating what is known

This review pulls together from various secondary sources, including confidential colonial records, newspapers, theses stretching from the 1970s to now. It also deals with information written in various languages, including Sotho, English and Afrikaans.

There are clearly differences, those who wrote during the protectorate; the official information, newspaper reports in Lesotho and across South Africa. Then there is the information reviewed post Lesotho’s independence about the colonial period.

I utilise three contrasting sources, Hyam, Machobane and Du Toit to reflect the British, Sotho and Afrikaner view on Greater South Africa expansionism.

Himal Ramji: ‘Two biographies and some newspapers’

This paper will hopefully serve as a first chapter (after a long, droning introduction) to my PhD, which is about the making of a history for Nongqawuse and the Xhosa cattle-killing (1856-7). This chapter focuses on two main publications. The first is Charles Brownlee’s Reminiscences of Kaffir Life and History (1896), and the second is the debate started by William Wellington Gqoba in the Xhosa-language newspaper, Isigidimi Samaxhosa (1888). Central to the work is the development of new ‘sociotechnical imaginaries’ through which new actors could discourse historically, through a variety of methods, and coming to quite different conclusions.

Tracey Randle

Solms-Delta’s 'Museum van de Caab' was inspired and shaped by narrative as a medium of expressing history. André Brink’s novel A Chain of Voices (1982) provided catalyst for creating a museum in a particular format and an archival investigation that uncovered the fragment of the life of a slave woman named Philida. This discovery spurned another novel by Brink called Philida (2012) - linking Solms, the farm, and a Chain of Voices through a vastitude of printed pages. It eventually led even to a musical beyond the grave, another set of words written and then sung by the probable descendants of mixed slave, indigenous and European origins. Philida's story rests on a series of reverberations that were refracted and reflected by archive, narrative, fiction(s), and song.

Nashilongweshipwe Sakaria: Erasure is not Permanent

This paper is a reflection on my archival performance project called Ondaanisa yo Pomudhime (Dance of the Rubber Tree), ‘a ritual of movement between embodied, spatial and institutional archives.’ This contemporary performance culminates from a 2018 research and art residency at University of Hamburg working on a colonial photography archive housed at Museum am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK). This paper therefore critically reflects on the multiple elements of this process-based work and how it invites radical engagement on notions of erasure, presence and ephemerality. This work uses cross-archival references to intervene in the colonial-nationalist archives in speaking back to its institutional violence. This Oudano repertoire which is expressed through the textuality, gesture and sonic elements thus brings together lived and desired experience, materiality and landscapes to work towards ‘detoxifying’ and queering the museums, theatres and archives that host Ondaanisa yo Pomudhime. This work which has been performed in multiple contexts in Germany, Namibia and Switzerland is a claim of space in dominant institutional knowledges that rely on marginalizing other subjectivities.

Fabian Saptouw

The digitisation of archival material is a standard practice in many locations across the globe and various processes are in place to allow the preservation of material from the past through these techniques. Limited attention is however paid to the way this strategy of preservation influences our understanding of the digitised archival objects. The transfiguration of the object liberates much of its content, particularly its textual information, from its material form. This information is accessible in a format related to the original item but requires the viewer to engage it through a digital reproduction.

My primary argument is that this displacement of the content of the archival object through the process of digitization causes an ontological shift in the status of the object. Since the information is accessible elsewhere; the primary function of the archival object is no longer to be the conveyer of textual content. This causes a major shift in the status of the object and its related value. This shift is significant enough to categorise the archival object and the digital object as two distinct objects each with its own set of material properties. The digital object is regarded as the primary source of the information due to the fact that a web-based interface or online database democratizes access to the information.

This paper will examine the intellectual implications of the digitization process of the |xam notebooks, originally authored by Wilhelm Bleek, Lucy Lloyd and their collaborators |han≠kass'o, Dia!kwain, Tamme, |uma, !nanni and Da during the 19th century. The data is accessible as the Digital Bleek and Lloyd project - an institutional collaboration project by the University of Cape Town, Unisa, Iziko South African Museum and the National Library of South Africa. One of the key goals of this paper is to establish what is at stake when documents and textual objects are digitised.


This paper will form part of a larger research project and the other archives that have been provisionally included in the scope of my investigation are the Timbuktu manuscripts and the Darwin Correspondence Project.

Wade Smit: The history of oThongathi the town: The creation of ‘the Tongaati’

Research focus: History of place, place as archive, language and history

oThongathi is a small, coastal town in the province now known as ‘KwaZulu-Natal’, with a complex story and role in South African history. Prior to European colonisation the area was home to many groups of people who built their homes and communities along and around the uThongathi river. European arrival to oThongathi began in 1824 according to Maasdorp[1] who states that this was the year in which “English hunters and ivory traders arrived at Port Natal, and made their way along the north coast route”. In 1837, English missionary Allen Francis Gardiner founded the ‘Hambanati’[2]mission church which was abandoned a year later with iSilo uDingana’s murder of Piet Retief[3]. In 1846 the colonial government set up a commission to select sites for the construction of European town, where the sites were “spaced sufficiently far apart to prevent undue competition between them regarding their growth”[4]. One of these sites was along the uThongathi river, chosen for, probably among other reasons, “agricultural possibilities” and “Zulu labour”. After trying and failing to cultivate cotton in this area (it was deemed too expensive to clear the “dense bush”), sugar cane was attempted instead.

I will be discussing the creation of the European town of ‘the Tongaati’, how it constituted its sense of place differently than the communities it disrupted and destroyed, how it claimed and dominated that space, how this constitution of ‘place’ was a negation of its history and those of the people who lived there, spawning a notion of ‘historia nullius[5], and how its name and identity are connected and changed over time. Particular attention will be paid to the concepts of umbuso, space and place, ubumbaxambili bendawo, place as a living archive of the accrual of pasts, and how these concepts can help to make sense of a place whose identity changes when viewed from different angles.

[1] Gavin Grant Maasdorp. “A Socio-Economic Survey of the Indian Community in the Tongaat-Verulam Region”, (Masters dissertation, University of Natal, 1966)

[2] ‘Go with us’

[3]Ofanayo: 4 ; Colin Webb. “Captain Allen F. Gardiner’s Journal for 1838”, (Natalia, Vol. 3 (1973): 9-12)

[4] Maasdorp: 4

[5] Lorenzo Veracini. “Historylessness: Australia as a settler colonial collective”, (Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 10(3) (2007): 271-285, DOI: 10.1080/13688790701488155)

Hedley Twidle: Experiments with Truth

Narrative non-fiction and the coming of democracy in South Africa.

Published in the African Articulations series from James Currey / Boydell & Brewer, 2019.
African paperback edition available via
The Book Lounge and Clarke’s.

Over the last decades, South Africa has seen an outpouring of life-writing and narrative non-fiction. Authors like Panashe Chigumadzi, Jacob Dlamini, Mark Gevisser, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Antjie Krog, Sisonke Msimang, Njabulo Ndebele, Jonny Steinberg and Ivan Vladislavić have produced a compelling and often controversial body of work, exploring the country’s ongoing transition with great ambition, texture and risk.

Experiments with Truth is the first book-length account of the new non-fiction in South Africa. It reads the transition as refracted through an array of documentary modes that are simultaneously refashioned and blurred into each other: long-form analytic journalism and reportage; experiments in oral history, microhistory and archival reconstruction; life-writing, memoir and the personal essay. The case studies here trace the strange and ethically complex process by which actual people, places and events are shuffled, patterned and plotted in long-form prose narrative.

While holding in mind the imperatives of testimony and witness so important to the struggle for liberation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the book is increasingly drawn to a post-TRC aesthetic: to works that engage with difficult, inappropriate or unusable elements of the past, and with the unfinished project of social reconstruction in South Africa. The case studies place southern African materials in a global context, and in dialogue with other important non-fictional traditions that have emerged at moments of social rupture and transition.

“The whole literary enterprise was a compromise between several desperate drives and urges, something even more profound than what is often referred to as ‘writing your way out of a situation’.”

— Es’kia Mphahlele

John Wright: The Making of the Qwabe isizwe

Contextualizing note

In this paper I present an advanced (and still to be compressed) draft of a chapter for a book that Carolyn Hamilton and I are writing at the invitation of Cambridge University Press for a series on identities in Africa. The title of the book is Making Identities in KwaZulu-Natal: History and Politics in South Africa 1750-1830. In its introductory chapter we will spell out in detail our methodological and conceptual approaches, and outline how these inform the substantive historical arguments which we put forward in the ensuing seven chapters. In each of these chapters we will bring out the historical circumstances in which the sources of evidence pertinent to it were made, and then offer a close reading of the evidence on the ways in which political practices and discourses played out in the particular region of KwaZulu-Natal that the chapter deals with. One of our central purposes is to bring out differences in the politics and the making of identities across different regions. I have been responsible for making a first pass at writing the chapter on the making of the Qwabe isizwe. The contents of the chapter are outlined in the first section, ‘What this chapter delivers’.

APC 10-12 April 2019 Workshop: Collated Abstracts

Precious Bikitsha: The poet who rouses the court and censures the king’

After the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910, both black and white people alike were thinking about what it means to engage in the public sphere. For black people, the limited democracy meant that they were excluded from white public life and in response, I argue, a black counter public sphere began to emerge. This paper will examine the poetry of Nontsizi Mgqwetho, specifically looking at how she enters into debates and discussions of what I see as the emerging black public sphere, separated out from the racially exclusive public sphere of the racialised democracy of the Union. Mgqwetho was a black radical woman who was determined to exert a form of citizenship to which she clearly believed she had a right, even though the racial orders denied this, and she did this in a poetic form. Mgqwetho’s poetic form proved to be a richly endowed vehicle for the mediation of the immensely complex and often contradictory realities of the day. Mgqwetho’s poetry, I argue, reveals the imagining of a black radical citizen who is also a woman. As a modern imbongi[1], Mgqwetho was commenting on power. Centering my discussion on her poem, “Imbongi ye Zibuko” (The poet of the ford), published in Umteteli wa Bantu in the early 1920s, I begin to explore in detail how she crosses over- “fords”- multiple divisions: praise and criticism; oral and written; imibongo and Western poetic forms; isiXhosa and hybrid urban languages; the traditional and the modern; “tribal” and Christian; rural and urban; male and female.

[1] I will not be writing terms like imbongi in italics because I believe it is part of our scholarly language in South Africa and are part of a wider national vocabulary. I will help the foreign reader with a gloss in the paper.

Daniel Dix

I shall be presenting an early draft of the research proposal for the minor dissertation which forms part of my MA in Historical Studies (coursework and research). Within the field of colonial governmentality, much has been written on the state, the archive, and ‘native policy’, in general and with specific reference to Natal and Durban. Despite this, relatively little is known about the magisterial system, in terms of both its envisioned and actual roles. The proposed research shall involve an examination of the Durban magistracy during the period of responsible government, between the years 1893 and 1910, owing to the extensive secondary literature on the region during this period, very little of which deals directly with the magisterial system. It is my aim to explore the magistracy as ‘bureaucratic apparatus’ at two major levels: by first reading ‘along the grain’ in order to map the envisioned role of the magistracy within the context of Durban, and by subsequently exploring the magistracy’s actual existence and affects within the period. The sources with which I plan to engage include published government records, unpublished and published magisterial records, and other miscellaneous sources which relate to the magistracy within the colony at the time. It is my aim to contribute to an under-developed understanding of the role of the magisterial system in bureaucratic colonial power.

Sizakele Gumede: Harriette Colenso and the Zulu struggle against imperialism: an investigation of support rendered to the Zulu royal house and Usuthu, 1884-1913 (Notes towards an MA Thesis Proposal)

The proposed study intends to investigate support that Harriette Colenso rendered to the Zulu royal house and its Usuthu adherents, in attempts to answer the research question: How did the Zulu royal house survive during the period of the reign of King Dinuzulu (1884–1913) when it was the British imperial and colonial governments’ target for elimination?

While there is consensus in that the Zulu royal house was at its most vulnerable during the period of the reign of King Dinuzulu, that it survived despite the British imperial and colonial governments’ attempts to annihilate it, and that Harriette spearheaded campaigns in its defence, however, no study has devoted to examining the specifics of how exactly the Zulu royal house survived, what it was up against, and how or what Harriette contributed.

Prior scholarship implies that the Zulu royal house survived due to Harriette’s endeavours. No study exists that unpacks and confirms this indirect claim, an authoritative evidence-based study may substantiate or reject it; but irrespective of the outcome, the study will have produced a verifiable base for future research.

While Dinuzulu’s reign lasted 30 years, existing literature focus on the king’s two treason trials and Harriette’s involvement with politicians and government authorities. Many years of the king’s reign and Harriette’s endeavours in other spheres remain under-researched. This gap renders archival research a requisite for the completion of this study.

Simon Hall and Abigail Moffett: Divining value: cowries and the global as ancestral realm

Cowrie shells, (Monetaria annulus and Monetaria moneta), are found in the wider Indo-Pacific regions. The global distribution of cowrie shells attests to their exchange over long distances and their symbolic value in diverse cultural contexts. In addition to their commodification as a form of currency, cowries have functioned to adorn and elaborate clothes, living and ancestral bodies, and ritual art and burials in many settings through time. An ethnographic review of cowrie use in the hitherto overlooked context of southern Africa, suggests that particular qualities of the shell, such as colour, patina and shape, imbued the shell with culturally specific value, particularly in divination practices. It is suggested that cowries, as part of divination sets, were active in divination because of their origin in the (maritime) ancestral realm that invoked ancestors and anchored divination in notions of ancestry, fertility and healing. Furthermore, cowries were conceived of as animate objects, and embodying the resting place of ancestral spirits. Consequently, cowries not only acted as metaphors for concepts of ancestry, fertility and ‘coolness’, but were metonymically active in ‘cooling’ and healing. This review of cowrie use is set within a broader discussion relating to theory and archaeological approaches to the evaluation of ‘exotica’ as agents of power and change in Southern African farming societies over the last 2000 years. We suggest an additional, and perhaps, fundamental emphasis on the cultural classification of global ‘exotica’ as coming from the ancestral realm. It is this foundational biographical ontology that underpinned and sanctioned the exercise of power, from the scale of individual personhood through to the authority of political leaders.

Carolyn Hamilton and Grant McNulty

The paper builds on the insights of Bhekisizwe Petersen (2018; see also 2000) on how the “Black Humanities” came to be closed out of the racially-exclusive white universities in South Africa. It tracks how, for much of the twentieth century, the production of written history by black intellectuals was effectively exiled in a variety of literary forms - novels, poetry, plays and newspaper articles. In the 1960s, Africanist scholars sought actively to incorporate African sources into their historiography. This primarily took the form of the use of what were conceptualized as “oral traditions.” Oral traditions, understood to be relatively formal narrations handed on across the generations, came to be defined as a particular type of historical source, needing a specialist methodological toolkit. (See Vansina, 1961) What academic historians then collected, mostly from rural narrators, were, in fact, narratives shaped by decades of engagement by Africans with the demands of the colonial and later apartheid governments for historical materials rendered in a form capable of supporting the kinds of chiefly administrations that the governments relied on. The paper engages critically with the way in which the written productions of history by black intellectuals, typically operating in urban settings, were consigned out of the field of historiography as literature, while the oral productions of history by black thinkers, typically in rural settings, were in turn, positioned as sources. The paper then draws out the implications of the way in which this double maneuver not only denied historical authority to both of these forms of history production, but favoured the narratives of the rural informant as historically more authentic than the writings of the urban intellectual, thereby lancing both forms of historical production of their discursive potency. The paper offers thus an historical perspective on the pressures on the academies today to grapple with the limits of the existing disciplines and the weight of the Black Humanities developed over the last century by intellectuals and thinkers outside those disciplines.

Reconceptualising the Archive: the Five Hundred Year Archive exemplar (working title)

Carolyn Hamilton and Grant McNulty

Informal Topic Proposal

Note: We now plan to incorporate the first section (first two paragraphs, below) into the two parts that follow it.

The first section of the proposed contribution will briefly tackle head on the rationale for reconceptualising the archive from global south/post-colonial/decolonial perspectives. It will, of course, point to how colonial archives have shaped the histories of the regions in ways that are now strongly contested, but it will also set out some of the challenges that have emerged in recent years to the substance of the normative concept of archive itself. Amongst other things, it will cover briefly how a nineteenth-century, essentially Rankean, notion of archive – centred on the idea of archival items as documents from a particular time (i.e. contemporaneous with the events to which they attested, typically produced at the time as part of those events) and as preserved in as inert a form as possible – was exported by Europe, most notably to its colonies.

This move established the dominance of the written text over other custodial forms. It demanded, in the colonies, forms of attestation (“sources”) that were contemporary with, and typically part of, the events to which they attested and that were not produced after the fact, for the purposes of historical persuasion. In many colonies, few materials, other than excavated archaeological items, could meet these criteria. The extent to which Europe’s own pre-Modern history depended on texts produced after the events to which they referred, and often for purposes of historical persuasion, was obscured in this move. The first section will attempt to handle the complex conceptual issues involved in this particular critique of the normative concept of archive in as clear and concise a way as possible, and could be reworked, and tailored for the volume, when we know what other pieces in Part Two cover.

The second part of the proposed contribution takes as its case study one of the instances where the political effects of the export of this particular notion of archive are most starkly etched: the rendition of southern Africa before sustained European travel to the area as effectively “archiveless”. Positioned as it is in the far south of the African continent, the region had only the most attenuated connections to global networks of trade before the 1700s in the Cape and before the 1800s in south east Africa (the contemporary South African province of KwaZulu-Natal) situated beyond the reach of the trade-facilitating Indian Ocean monsoon. In pre-European times the region was without writing. The exported (Rankean) concept of archive, coupled with the political discourses of colonialism, effectively positioned oral and performed custodial forms as being archivally deficient. They were seen to lack the technology necessary to record events and information accurately and to store and retrieve it in an unchanging form. Along with material culture, these custodial forms were deemed to be timeless, unreliable tradition.

The positioning effects of this concept of archive determined the consignment of these other custodial forms to ethnographic museums, ethno-musicology, folklore and so on, a range places that were not “archive”, and processed them through disciplinary apparatuses other than history. The result is that there is an abundance of material marooned in institutions and in circulation in social life, with confounded archival potential.

The third, and longest, part of the proposed contribution focuses on a digital intervention, the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA), which reconceptualises archive, and makes efforts to undo the confounding,. In the form of an online digital archival exemplar, the FHYA convenes and makes accessible visual, textual and sonic materials drawn from multiple repositories that are pertinent to the southern African past before European colonialism, and creates a space for the accretion of new knowledge and perspectives. The digital format breaks down the confounding disciplinary and institutional silos, moving beyond existing misidentifications, classifications and categorisations. It reframes the materials concerned in terms of provenance and curation histories, and makes the whole fully searchable in ways determined by the user and not by an indexer or cataloguer. Our contribution would include a critique of existing digital archival software which, we argue, is prisoner to many of the assumptions that the reconceptualised archive challenges. All through the third part, we show how the digital exemplar does not simply take existing collections and make them accessible online, but rather how the digital affordance unpicks entrenched knowledge categories and creates opportunities for the making of entirely new connections across historically disassociated materials.

Tomohiri Kambayash: History Learning and Political Consciousness: Examination of Zulu Historical Writings

This study will reveal the reach and contents of Zulu nationalism in the 1930s and 40s through an examination of Zulu teachers and students’ understanding of Zulu history. In particular, by utilizing teaching materials of Zulu language/history education and the essays submitted to Zulu Tribal History Competitions in 1942 and 50, I will inquire into how Zulu students coped with the curriculum change which, according to studies on Black South African educational history, shifted its focus from “Europeanization” to “Retribalization” after the First World War.

Firstly, I will examine the claim that Zulu historical writings as a way of cultural resistance. If I may categorize roughly, there are two views on the situation of using history in the first half of the twentieth century in KwaZulu Natal. One strand sees history as the site of resistance. For example, Bhekizizwe Peterson argued that by writing historical novels and poems from the 1920s, “the African elite started to foreground culturalist forms of resistance.”[1]The other argues that interest in history was deeply connected to the administration which used “tradition” as a way of governance. Marks argued that Africans who participated in Zulu Society, offspring of Natal Native Teachers Union aiming to preserve pure Zulu language and culture, shared their interests in Zulu history and culture with white officials. Their collaboration established Zulu ethnic consciousness, “which hampered radical vision.”[2] To these two positions, I will claim that the former perspective disregards the fact that these books were used as textbooks in educational institutions, while the latter ignores how the conservative type of Zulu ethnicity spread through education. By examining the paper of the Zulu Society, mainly correspondence between Charles Mpanza, the Secretary of the Society and Daniel Mck. Malcolm, the Chief Inspector of Native Education in Natal, I will reveal what kinds of moral lessons were expected to be taught by reading the Zulu history books in the classroom.

Secondly, I will argue that writing tribal histories is a way of controlling the production of history in that emphasizing the tribalism reduces the radical potential of Zulu historical writings. As many studies have shown the Zulu royal house had ambivalent symbolic meanings. While it worked as a model in native administration, it also had a power of rallying Zulu men in resistance to colonial authorities.[3] Most studies on the use of Zulu history as well as the set books in Zulu history and literature class focused on the Zulu royal family. In contrast, almost all the essays submitted the competition traced the history of specific tribes, following the instruction of Malcolm, the judge of the competition. I will argue that Malcolm’s emphasis on the need of stopping “detribalization” and the way he read the essays by collating the contents of the essays with Bryant’s Olden Times in Zululand and Natal, suggests that the tribal histories were the attempts to imposing the conservative interpretation of Zulu history. The allover effect of the competition was to give the impression that Zulu speaking people was neatly divided by the tribes and the governance by the chiefs had a legitimate tradition.

[1]Bhekizizwe Peterson, Monarchs, Missionaries & African Intellectuals (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, Inc., 2000), 17. Bhekizizwe Peterson, “Black Writers and the Historical Novel: 1907-1948,” in The Cambridge History of South African Literature, ed. David Attwell and Derek Attridge, African Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 291–307.

[2] Shula Marks, “Patriotism, Patriarchy and Purity: Natal and the Politics of Zulu Ethnic Consciousness,” in The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, ed. Leroy Vail (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 234.

[3] Carolyn Hamilton, Terrific Majesty: The Powers of Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Historical Invention (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Helen Bradford, A Taste of Freedom: The ICU in Rural South Africa, 1924-1930. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987); Michael R. Mahoney, The Other Zulus: The Spread of Zulu Ethnicity in Colonial South Africa (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012).

Billy Kensiton: Seeing Through the State - Political Trials & Commissions of Inquiry as Archival source material

Government Commissions of Inquiry, and trials against political dissidents, are notoriously biased affairs. Both the functionaries of the state that instigate these proceedings, and the individuals that are targeted by them, have reasons to elide, or obscure the truth, in an attempt to avoid prosecution, or towards the furthering of the state's agenda. These dynamics become even more pronounced in the context of Apartheid, and the increasingly radical opposition to Apartheid. Given all of this, why and how should historians approach these sources?

In certain moments, the state is compelled to think before it acts. It is my contention that - all of the biases of racialism, anti-communism, Christian Nationalism, etc. included - a Commission of Inquiry must nonetheless be read as the product of a certain form of intellectual effort. My attempt, therefore, is to read the 1972 Schlebusch Commission (which targeted Nusas, the Christian Institute, the University Christian Movement, and the South African Institute of Race Relations) as the product of extensive reading and writing, on the part of Members of Parliament, and the so-called Intelligence Services that supplied information and initiative. The Commission itself admits to having produced 3,388 pages of transcripts from the proceedings, and to have read through 13,000 pages of subpoenaed documents, before producing their own 1,200 page report. What the state knew about their opposition, and how they cared to interpret it, has a significance, which helps to understand not only the nature of State power under apartheid, but also the nature of the opposition itself, as the resistance to apartheid was necessarily shaped and disfigured by the repression they faced, in a myriad of different permutations.

For my presentation, I will present some of the findings of the Schlebusch Commission, some of the difficulties of digging deeper in the archives, and some of the broader context of this Commission, in terms of a series of political trials and bannings that followed in the years to come. All of this research is informed also by interviews with half a dozen or more people that were targeted by the Commission, and/or were politically active in the aftermath of it.

Ayanda Mahlaba : To the Black Women We All Know: Three Related Women’s Contemporary Mobilizations of History in relation to Questions of Status, Belonging and Identity in Mpolweni Mission

Research Question: What do the narrations of history by three generations of related kholwa women from Mpolweni Mission tell us about how women produce and mobilize history and the history of Mpolweni Mission?

My MA thesis has been concerned with exploring the oral narratives of three related women from my maternal family, namely Gogo MaHlubi, Mamkhulu Ntombenhle, and Mam Phindile. My interest is two-fold. First, I am interested in how these women interlocutors produce, reproduce and mobilize history and how the history of Mpolweni Mission, which has been invisible in the historiography of mission stations in the province that is now called KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), is rendered visible in the process. Second and last, while these women constantly produce, reproduce and mobilize history, I attempt to think about how themes of identity, status and belonging surface as they do so. I am questioning how Black women use the embodied practice of historical narration and for what reasons. For me then, through this thesis, it becomes clear that there are multiple reasons and contexts that women mobilize history for. This paper focuses primarily on Gogo MaHlubi’s acts of historical narration. To grapple with her narrative and what it reveals about the aforementioned themes, I deploy the following theoretical frameworks and put them in conversation with each other: David William Cohen’s idea of combing history; Isabel Hofmeyr’s provocative approach of scrutinizing the prevailing notion of the African grandmother as storyteller while also raising questions about how traditions of male and female storytelling shape each other; Babalwa Magoqwana’s innovative work on centering uMakhulu as both an institution of historical knowledge and a body of indigenous knowledge in a context where this institution has been invisibilized and Uhuru Portia Phalafala’s use of the concept of the ‘matri-archive’ (defined as “…oral traditions passed on from matrilineal members of the family to their (grand)children as a key system of knowledge”) in reading Keorapetse Kgositsile’s oeuvre. I highlight the uses of these theoretical frameworks while simultaneously pointing out their limitations and how I move beyond them. In this paper, I argue that Gogo MaHlubi, in her narrative mobilizes the history of her maiden family as the notable kholwas in Mpolweni Mission, the Hlubis because this family had status (in its material and immaterial forms), which is why she herself continues to define herself as a woman of status. She tapped into the history of this family to cope with difficult situations in the past and still continues to invoke this in the present moment as she reflects on the various periods of Mpolweni Mission. The status of the Hlubis has allowed her and her relatives to lay political claims in the form of a land claim, which is still ongoing. History for Gogo becomes a mechanism to lament the volatility of the times they live in and to draw parallels to the past as part of doing the former.

Lebogang Mokwena

In the South African literature on museums, transformation is often presented as a post-1994 phenomenon; the ethical imperative aimed at reversing the legacy of the black majority’s political, economic, and cultural domination. In this paper, I seek to demonstrate the many other waves of museum transformation with a special focus on the 20th century political history of South Africa. Taking 1910 as the starting point of my analysis, I adopt (with some adaptation) the generally accepted periodisation of South African 20th century political history (1910 - 1948; 1948 - 1989; 1990 - 2014; 2014 - the present) against which I map the development and transformations of the country’s museum landscape. Ultimately, this paper contributes to the literature on the relationship between politics and the museum, not only challenging the tendency to present this institution as staid and unchanging but also enriching this debate through a careful specification of the features of the museum that are enduring and those that have and continue to be subject to change.

Susana Molins Lliteras: Epilogue to Book Project

Archive on the Margins: The Fondo Kati and the Production of History in Timbuktu

Epilogue—Re-discovering ‘lost’ manuscripts

The epilogue reflects on another recent ‘discovery’ made in relation to a manuscript found in the Fondo Kati collection, purportedly one written by Gordon Laing. This 19th century Scottish explorer is credited with being the first European to reach Timbuktu in the modern period and was subsequently killed two days after leaving the city. In a bizarre and mysterious twist to the story, the copious journals recounting his journey were lost, burnt or stolen amid a web of alleged deception among Europeans trying to claim the prize of being ‘the first’ to arrive in the city. A palimpsest manuscript of the Fondo Kati collection—English and Arabic superimposed—is again claimed to ‘solve’ some of these mysteries yet is largely unreadable. Thus, this manuscript and the stories surrounding it serve as a perfect lens through which to reflect on the larger framework and significance of the Fondo Kati within its context in Timbuktu.

Rehana Odendaal: Orality at Robben Island Museum

The paper presented at this workshop is an attempt to revisit a paper that I completed in 2014 for a course on oral history. Originally the titled “Robben Island Narratives” the crux of the research paper is to understand the role that orality plays at different levels of the Robben Island Museum as both a commercial memorial space and a space which contributes to the narrative of a post-apartheid South Arica. Robben Island Museum is a key heritage site in post-Apartheid South Africa and a site of pilgrimage for over a million visitors from around the world. As a ‘living museum’ the role of former political prisoners as tour-guides on the Island, particularly within the maximum-security prison, is one of its defining features. This produces the expectation that guides are willing and able to impart personalised knowledge and experiences of Robben Island with visitors through their personal narratives. This research project investigates the complex relationship between the official narrative produced by Robben Island Museum and ex-political prisoners’ experiences of the Island through four life history style interviews with different ex-political prisoners. Although orality is the main channel through which these histories are conveyed, the relationship between physical space and remembering is also explored and found to have important limiting influences on the memorialising process. The role of Robben Island in the context of the South African national narrative of post-Apartheid reconciliation is found to be more strongly linked to the notion of ‘change’ than ‘healing’ and has a strong historical element.

Anandaroop Sen: Law in the time of Expeditions: Notes from the North Eastern Frontiers of British India (1872-1898)

This article probes the intertwined histories of law and violence and the subjects such histories harvest. It focuses on legal governance in the eastern frontiers of British India, a cusp region between contemporary South and South East Asia, in the late 19th century. Two major colonial expeditions, one in 1872 the other in 1890 brought parts of this frontier, the Lushai Hills (contemporary Mizoram state in the Indian Union) and neighbouring Chin Hills (located in contemporary northern western Myanmar) into the folds of the British Empire. In the article I focus on a trial of a tribal chief arrested during one of these expeditions. The trial opens up questions of customary practices, extractive labour, punitive cultures, gender, substantive and procedural practices of law. In addressing some of these knots I hope to map a production of legal subjects at the frontiers of the British Empire in the welter of expeditionary violence. The violence of these expeditions paved the way for the legal organization of the Hills as ‘Scheduled Districts’—tribal areas kept outside the Indian Penal Code (1861)— in the final years of the nineteenth century, a period when global empires clashed in this geopolitical region. The French were pushing their frontiers from South East Asia; the Burmese kingdom – once an empire – finally collapsed; the Chinese/Manchu empire advanced more forcefully in Yunnan towards the Burmese border, and the British moved east across Burma and into the Shan, Wa and Kachin and Chin states. All over these tracts, small polities were squeezed when global powers enforced hard borders through their territories. The Lushai and the Chin hills were a part of this broader shift in momentum, pieces in this puzzle.

How did law work in times of expeditions? What were the procedures of this legal functioning when there was no statute body of law to refer back to? How are exceptional legal arrangements to be conceptualized within the colonies which were often understood and governed within a generalized state of exception? These are some of the questions my larger book project is interested in where I explore the legal forms and functions of colonial expeditions in the British Empire in South and South East Asia across the nineteenth century.

Katleho Shoro: Teachers’ relationships with poetry in English classrooms: A case of two schools, a few classrooms and multiple (invited and uninvited) languages

he prevalent conclusions from those interested in seeing the making of potential poets and poetry-appreciators at high school level are that poetry teaching and learning are stifled in classrooms by various factors from the kinds of poems added to high school curriculum; the way questions are posed for poetry assessment; the lack of poetry writing in the classroom; to low levels of literacy and broader hinderances in teaching effectively in EFAL schools in the country. A belief amongst these concluders is that poetry is essential. Concluders are, thus, constantly working to increase the desire for poetry in young learners. In this paper - with the conclusions and beliefs within close proximity but suspended in the air and waiting for grounding - I explore the relationships that English teachers from Thaba Jabula Secondary and Mondeor High School, have with poetry. These explorations are grounded in classroom poetry lesson observations, general conversations with researchers, teachers and learners, as well as interviews my team and I conducted with teachers in 2018 as part of the South African Poetry Project (ZAPP). At this stage of the paper, I am teasing out some of the threads and interesting points raised particularly within the interviews. One of these threads is developing as such: the teachers’ own relationships with poetry and particular poems determine how they teach, how far they will go in trying to make learners understand the poems, and how they project how their learners will and do receive the poetry/poems during lessons. Another embryonic observation is: those teachers who do not have a teaching degree and are in their early days of teaching are generally more enthusiastic (or desperate) about finding multiple methods, including multimedia, to teach poetry. There are two young teachers at the heart of this observation. A vital part of their general teaching method includes the inviting languages other than English into the classroom as well as intentionally learning of the languages spoken by learners within and outside of the classroom setting. I will, thus, also discuss some of the spillovers and potentials of multiple languages in English classrooms and poetry lessons as the paper unfolds.

Wade Smit: Akumfula walutho!: A history of place set in oThongathi, KwaZulu, using R.R.R. Dhlomo’s historiographical methodology

Research focus: An exemplar of a decolonial South African historiography of place

Rolfes Robert Reginald (R. Dhlomo) was a prolific novelist, journalist and historian who wrote in isiZulu and English between the 1920s and 1970s. He showed in all his work a concern for the historical legacy of black South Africans under colonial and apartheid rule, and through his five historical novels (each based on figures Zulu royalty) he created a historiographical method that is both subversive and decolonial. These historical novels were, to Dhlomo, attempts to preserve historical narratives for future South Africans, since he feared a loss of identity in a globalising world. His response, in his own words, might be called ‘isu lokuloba ngomlando’, or, ‘method/strategy for writing about history’/‘historiographical method’ (Dhlomo, 1954: vii; 2011: i). This method, and its five primary sub-strategies I outlined and examined in my Honours dissertation.

In my Masters research I wish to conduct a ‘history of place’, centering a physical location or area in place of the royal figure/Zulu king. Dhlomo’s methodology placed Zulu kings at the centre of his historical texts and he used them as a pillar against which to analyse and sample the sociopolitics of South Africa, the lives of everyday people, and the question of legacy, heritage and national history. By replacing the royal figure with a place, I will be able to use Dhlomo’s method to reflect similar questions through the various stages and ages of uThongathi as a town specifically.

oThongathi is a town with an incredibly layered history. From about the 1500s to the late 1800s, we know that there were many small groups living in this area[1], and along the uThongathi river after which the town is named, a famous archeological site known as the Sibhudu cave stretches this habitation back by tens of thousands of years. By the late 1800s to the early 1900s, however, larger states such as the amaThuli and amaCele moved in to this area and broke these smaller groups up. Shortly after came the invasion and settlement of European missionaries and farmers, mostly of sugar (Watson, 1960). These sugar farms in oThongathi had become a large and successful sugar estate by the 1920s, and it was these ‘sugar barons’ who continued to build the European town of ‘the Tongaati’ using the sugar profits, and conducted sociological experiments in racial segregation and town planning until at least the 1950s (ibid). It is a site that has seen a lot of historical shift and change, and a place which some residents still insist must be called ‘oHlawe’ – after a tributary that feeds into the uThongathi river.

My Masters research hopes to provide an exemplar of a South African decolonial historiography that draws on not only southern African epistemologies and oral traditions, but on the work of black Africanist historians and academics like Magema Fuze, Charlotte Manye Makgomo Maxeke, and many others. This type of methodology, found buried in texts largely ignored because they were written in isiZulu, I argue is essential to South African humanities research and scholarship, particularly in the use of South African languages and the concepts and epistemologies they contain (and are partial to) in the process of decolonising our universities.

[1] Many of whose names we still know (Hamilton, 1985; Wright, 1989)

Greer Valley: Legacies and Afterlives of Dutch Colonialism: Told and Imagined Histories in Contemporary Exhibition Practice in the Netherlands and South Africa.

Ph.D. Thesis

This dissertation considers whether curatorial interventions can address the legacies of colonial power and subjective authority embedded in museum practice. Among the objectives of the dissertation is to survey emergent curatorial methods and methodologies of exhibition-making that can potentially unsettle the colonial/colonized gaze in institutions that were specifically designed for this purpose. In the first chapter of the thesis, the Rijksmuseum exhibition, Goede Hoop, South Africa and the Netherlands from 1600 (2017) is discussed to examine how Dutch exhibition curators represent the shared colonial history between these two countries. This chapter looks critically at the notion of a shared history, especially since it is important to consider from whose point of view this history is told. I have chosen specifically to analyze the Goede Hoopexhibition to connect the politics of exhibition practice to notions of epistemic justice and social intervention. Of interest to me, is that in the case of South Africa there is a pervasive and public material presence of Dutch architecture and symbolism yet in the Netherlands, there is no corresponding presence of South African history or culture. By focusing on the Goede Hoop exhibition, I interrogate how the cultural mirroring evident in the exhibition curation reflects ideas about subject and object, self and other and engage with the complexity of the decolonial phenomenon as it manifests in European exhibitions about colonialism. Given this focus, the key research question is: Considering the curatorial disjuncture of the Goede Hoop exhibition, what new curatorial methods and new methodologies of exhibition-making have emerged that can potentially unsettle the colonial/colonized gaze in institutions that were specifically designed for this purpose? To address this question, I make use of the conceptual frame, the exhibition as social intervention, to look critically at representations of Dutch colonialism in exhibition practice in the Netherlands and South Africa.

John Wright: Thununu kaNonjiya visits James Stuart in the Big Smoke to talk about history

This paper is a slightly revised version of the Killie Campbell Memorial Lecture which I gave at the Killie Campbell Africana Library in Durban on 17 October 2018. The first part outlines what little is known about the life of Thununu kaNonjiya. He was a man of the Qwabe clan who was born in about 1814 and who grew up in the Zulu kingdom of Shaka and Dingane. In the 1840s he and his family moved to the newly formed British colony of Natal. Later in his life he became an acknowledged authority on the history of the Zulu kingdom. In May 1903, when he was a very old man living near eShowe in Zululand, he received an invitation from James Stuart, a magistrate in Durban, to visit him at his home to discuss what Stuart would have called ‘Zulu history and custom’. Which Thununu duly did. The conversations he had with Stuart extended over a period of three weeks. The second part of the paper outlines the early part of Stuart’s career as a Natal colonial official and as a researcher into the ‘Zulu’ system of governance. What was it that induced him to invite Thununu to visit him? The copious notes that Stuart made on this occasion form part of the James Stuart Collection now held in the Killie Campbell Library. The third part of the paper takes up a question of a kind that historians have only recently begun to ask. What was it that impelled the 89-year-old Thununu to accept Stuart’s invitation, and undertake what must have been quite an arduous journey to talk about the past with a colonial official who, as far as we know, he had never met? In conclusion, the paper comments on the implications of asking questions of this kind about the intellectual history of the KwaZulu-Natal region in the colonial era at a time when calls for the decolonising of South Africa’s past are growing stronger.