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Ancestral Stories

Don’s story: Part Two
Heather MacAlister describes Don’s first meeting with his mother.

Don’s story: Part One
Heather MacAlister tells the story of her husband’s search for his birth mother - and how she was found, through some determined archival sleuthing!

Anecdotes and Archives: Scottish South Africans?
Katie Mooney tells the story of her family drawing on diverse sources: family anecdotes, archival documents, tales of fiction, memories and facts.

My tears over the grave of my father
Vuyani Booi shares his experience of searching for, and finding the grave of his late father, a journey which affirmed the significance, value and meaning of family memories.

Invented digital traditions
Dineo Skosana writes about how, in the past, funerals of the well renowned, political activists and prominent members of the society were recorded, whereas today funerals of commoners are increasingly being videoed.

Auto-archiving in Muslim Communities on the Cape Flats
Saarah Jappie notes that,  for so-called 'coloureds' in Cape Town, the experience of archive has historically been marked by absence. On one hand, the relationship with state institutions and the 'official' record has been one of exclusion, in the form of both underrepresentation and limited access. On the other hand, due to generations of social, economic and physical dislocation, families have often been dispossessed of personal materials that speak to the past.  While these inadequacies have kept history out of reach for many, recent years have seen the rise of a new archival consciousness within one particular segment of this group - the Cape Muslim community. In this post Jappie considers the way in which heritage activists and cultural enthusiasts have come to revisit the past, engaging with existing records and establishing novel repositories of their own over the past two decades or so.

Historical evidence crucial for decisions about custom
In this post, originally published on Custom Contested Mbongiseni Buthelezi reflects on how history and its making influences contemporary laws and debates about custom. He notes that legal arguments about chieftainship, customary rights and entitlements often make reference to the past and asks:, What is the place of historical research in litigation?’ How do we construct an accurate view of customary practices as they have evolved over time in order to make arguments about customary law? And where might we find the evidence to help us construct such a view?

The King, the 'Nhlapo' Commission and the Archive
Frances Eberhard considers the battle over the VhaVhenda kingship and concludes that contestation of prevailing interpretations of traditional leadership impact seriously upon the realisation of constitutionally protected rights.

Transmission and Embodiment of History in the Thokoza Sangoma Tradition
Liam Keene writes about the thokoza sangomas and the way in which they embody history and reconcile historical conflict through spirit possession and by training as a sangoma.

Tradition, custom and political power in eThekwini, KZN
Grant McNulty reflects on the tensions that exist between the modes of governance that exist in the present in KwaZulu Natal. On the one hand, there is a new modern democracy, which is based on records and emphasises citizens with individual rights and responsibilities, and on the other, chiefly governance based on the traditional and customary, maintained through memory and orality, which conceives of people as chiefly subjects.

Chiefs, Tradition and Record Making in the last 150 years
Grant McNulty notes that traditional leaders are increasingly subject to bureaucratic procedures, administration and a powerful demand for accountability through the documentary record. He argues that, in KwaZulu-Natal, where the institution of traditional leadership is deeply entrenched, the realm of custom and tradition now intersects in more direct ways with the bureaucracy and records of the state than it did during the colonial and apartheid periods, exerting a much greater call on the amakhosi to participate in the world of records and record-making.

What are the implications of the Traditional Courts Bill for Women?
Dineo Skosana reports that some scholars have argued that the Traditional Courts Bill, currently under review by the National Council of Provinces, undermines the rights of women.

Human Rights, Praise Poetry and Ancestral Resonances in the Present
Goa Gaberone asks, “if we live in a time in which we complain about police brutality because of our awareness of our human rights, when we think about the long-ago past how do we make sense of the almost willy-nilly boasting about committing violence against enemies as seen in oral art forms that many individuals, families and clans use to trace their pasts? Do they incite or encourage violence?”

Number 79377 In memory of Lydia Williams ex-Cape-slave woman
Lucelle Campbell writes about her quest to find the unmarked grave od an ex-Cape Town slave woman named Lydia Williams.

Deepening democracy: the family photo archive
Emile Maurice, writes about the importance of remembering the richness and complexity of black life under apartheid and considers the role of family photo archives in acknowledging and honouring 'ordinary people' in public life.

The Cow: A bridge between the living and the dead
Uhuru Phalafala writes about the significance of cows as a presence, a vessel, a bridge and a god in Sepedi culture and explains why, even in the direst situations of hunger, the cow will be preserved.

Sekoele Basotho: Protecting Initiation through the Law in Lesotho
Sebinane Lekoekoe considers the issues that shaped Lesotho’s the Protection and Administration of Customs on Initiation Schools and Other Related Customs Bill, intended to bring back the dignity of and respect for traditional initiation rites.

Archives and Human Rights: The Case of Slavery in the Cape
Lucy Campbell reflects on the potential of archives to play a role in restorative justice, with particular reference to the history of slavery in Cape Town.

A document of union-ship in an archive
Dineo Skosana considers love letters and other information about intimate relationships that enter the archive and asks what kind of documents should be considered personal and which might be accessed without restriction.

Love in the time of imperialism: Krotoa 'Eva' van Meerhof
Lucelle Campbell relates the touching story of the marriage of Krotoa, a Khoe woman, to the European surgeon, Pieter Van Meerhof in 1666.

Archives as a source of love to be cherished: O.R. Tambo and Adelaide Tambo.
Vuyani Booi writes about archival resources which speak to the ways in which leaders of the liberation movement and their families kept together by sharing love.

Creative acts of love
Nokhanyo Mhlana reflects on the fragments of expressions of the love scattered in archives and collections around the world.

Inyathi Ibuzwa kwabaphambili / Wisdom is learnt from the elders
Nokhanyo Mhlana argues that some information can be kept and preserved through written archives while other information is passed on from generation to generation through oral narratives and ways of life.

Archives in a Diverse Country
Mbongiseni Buthelezi reflects on the need to expand the definition of 'archive' beyond the narrow traditional view.

Ukubaluleka komvimba abagcina amafa ethu/The significance of institutions that preserve our heritage
Vuyani Booi responds to a provocation we set ourselves for us at the Archival Platform to think about what archives mean in a diverse country and raises some important points!  

Dressing for Christmas
Dineo Skosana interrogates the tradition of acquiring new clothes for Christmas and wonders how and where it originated

Iikrisimesi zam
Mqombothi,braai mutton from a freshly slaughtered sheep,loud talks and laughter,our 86 year old granny are the highlights of Nokhanyo Mhlana’s christmas celebrations.

'Ou Mens Onder Die Komberse' Old People Under The Blanket and Kitchen Dutch
Lucille Campbell honours the memory of the ancestors who brought their unique cuisines into Cape homes.

“Nomadic Cannibals” Ilanga Newspaper’s Historical take on Amabhele
Musa Hlatshwao reports on the controversy unleashed by an article about the history of ‘AmaBhele’ published in Ilanga earlier his year.

Cannibals as ancestral graves: Moshoeshoe's devoured grandfather
Musa Hlatshwayo's story on the Amabhele and the public outrage that has allegations that they were secretly cannibalistic reminds Jo-Anne Duggan of the rather different story of Moshoeshoe and his engagement with the people who devoured his grandfather.

Cannibals, Ancestors and the Future
Mbongiseni Buthelezi asks, how we make sense of past conflicts once we bring the ancestors into view.

Genealogy South Africa: Quo Vadis?
Jo-Anne Duggan reports back on a Genealogical Society of South Africa workshop to discuss the way forward for genealogy in South Africa.

African Identities: Shades of Belonging
Katie Mooney reviews five short films by the Institute for Reconciliation and Justice which explore issues of identity and belonging.

Reflecting in order to heal
Lucy Campbell reflects on the use of the past in Tariq Mellet’s blog site, “The Camissa People” and Charlene Maslomoney’s book I'm Not Done Yet: Allowing Possibilities.

Dreaming to create the future
Mbongiseni Buthelezi reflects on Ngugi wa Thiong's Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir.

National versus personal heritage: what to celebrate on 24 September?
Katie Mooney wonders how her heritage, which knits together Zambia, Scotland and South Africa, and other small heritages fit in with Heritage writ large.

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