After graduating in 2011 with a PhD in History from the University of the Western Cape, I have found my comfort zone challenged through relocation to Johannesburg. New horizons notwithstanding, I am finalising a book manuscript based on my doctoral thesis which examined the life and scholarship of Dorothea Bleek. An honorary research fellowship at the Rock Art Research Institute as well as a fellowship in the African Humanities Programme of the American Council of Learned Societies (2012–2013), have contributed to this project in which my aim has been to build on my earlier readings of Dorothea Bleek’s archival materials for the writing of a richer and more complex picture of the history of rock art research and the emergence of fieldwork in southern Africa, told through the medium of biography.
This endeavour is part of a broader desire to open the archive of Dorothea Bleek to public view, a move that reverses what may be perceived as a silence or disavowal of her presence in the larger and more famous Bleek and Lloyd project of ‘bushman researches’. My short book, By Small Wagon with Full Tent: Dorothea Bleek’s journey to Kakia, June to August 1913 (Llarec 2011) represents a small first step in this direction.
An additional research interest focuses on constructing a disciplinary genealogy for southern African rock art scholarship in which the iconic Sehonghong rain-making painting, drawn from a site in the high Malotis of south-eastern southern Africa, becomes the starting point for an investigation into particular epistemic regimes and colonial and post-colonial projects of knowledge construction in the humanities and sciences across time and space. In addition, I am interested in the texture and detail of early rock art research in southern African landscapes, and what such an investigation can say about the gendered nature of scholarship in late colonial Cape Town and beyond.