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Overview

The most recent of the Archive and Public Culture research initiative’s quarterly workshops took place from 29 November to 1 December 2010. A vast range of academic papers were presented and workshopped at this hotly discursive three-day event. Here is a selection of abstracts of some of the papers, which were presented.

Mbongiseni Buthelezi: (En)countering Shaka: Constituting a Public and Speaking the Ndwandwe Past in KZN

In this chapter of my doctoral thesis I consider the culmination in the Zwide Heritage Celebration of 20 years of efforts by the Ubumbano lwamaZwide to mobilise Ndwandwe descendents into a cohesive group. I show how the event brought together a section of the larger Ndwandwe diaspora, this section being a fragment of the public that the Ubumbano lwamaZwide is attempting to constitute for its efforts to resuscitate the telling of the Ndwandwe past. I then argue that the body of izibongo, izithakazelo and amahubo performed at Ndwandwe gatherings are the rhetorical terrain on which the Ndwandwe are contesting extant Zulu-ist versions of the past in order to reinsert narratives of the Ndwandwe into public history.

David William Cohen: Reading Lubogo and Writing the Busoga Past

When, in the 1920s, YK Lubogo began to compose the first extended written account of the Busoga (Uganda) past, he organized his study (A History of Busoga only published in 1960, 1962) in a manner that gave each pre-colonial state a chapter of exposition, even if in some instances there was but a single typewritten page of material offered.  This was an inclusive and in some senses exhaustive means of organizing disparate material in orderly fashion.  Lubogo’s approach cohered with Protectorate interests in encompassing all parts of the region within its administration; moreover, it ratified in expert local voice protocols of inclusion that appeared rational and consistent in concept and economical in implementation.  All sorts of differently scaled and organized entities were drawn up into Lubogo’s text as roughly similar, yet Lubogo’s text can also be read as reflecting a more complex and differentiated sense of Busoga’s past.

There were ambient pressures—reflected in Lubogo’s project--to give emphasis to those observations and reconstructions of pre-colonial Busoga that could mark Busoga as part of, and representative (if only in microcosm) of, a wider region’s culture, economy, and society, whether this be the Lakes Plateau region or the wider Bantu-speaking region extending from the Atlantic coast to the Indian Ocean.  In a sense this was the program of Lubogo, who sought to establish Busoga on a broader stage of political incorporation in which pre-colonial political entities were recognized by the British and incorporated into regional and local governance and administration within the Protectorate.  How did YK Lubogo, in his remarkable volume, keep in view local variation, innovation, and dysfunction while recognizing continuities with and resemblances to broader and larger political process in the region?

Victoria J Collis-Buthelezi: Of Romance and Tragedy, Male Friendship

This paper is chapter four of my doctoral dissertation, Under her Crown: Cape Town’s Black Victorians Writing Selves and Citizen Others. In it I excavate the conflicting black male heroisms of Clements Kadalie’s autobiography, My Life and the ICU (1970), and Henri D. Tyamzashe’s ‘Summarised History of the Industrial Commercial Workers Union’ (1941) as models of archival preservation and as anticolonial narrative forms. These two texts are ICU texts—written by members of the national or local executive of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa (ICU). The ICU was formed as opportunities for black Victorians—the black elite, who were often mission-educated and who believed in the English empire as a vehicle for securing their civil rights and equality for the black world—were shrinking.

The South African state was stifling black urbanization, black immigration the country and therein black cosmopolitanism. The national executive of the ICU comprised members of mission-educated black elite who were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the black Victorian mode of making demands on the state. Kadalie was the founder and National Secretary of the ICU and Tyamzashe, Research and Complaints secretary and the editor of several of its journals. I argue that their chosen forms of narrative and heroism that they champion are directly related to the kind of archive, or ‘counter-archive’, of the ICU that each wishes to preserve for the postcolonial future he imagines.

Jose Manuel de Prada: ‘Di-xεrretən and the Lioness’: A /xam myth and its landscape

This paper is the first of two aimed at proposing a method for transcribing and editing the /xam kukummi (tales, accounts) collected by W Bleekand LC Lloyd in the 19th century. In this one, I focus on the editing issues, and argue the need to edit the English versions of the texts (most of of which were translated by Lloyd in collaboration with the /xam informants), not only modernizing her English, as other editors have done, but also by making informed changes in it based on the /xam original, which can be accessed by means of  DF Bleek´s Bushman Dictionary and her grammatical sketches of the /xam language. Using as a theoretical basis the work of Dell Hymes on the presence of ‘measured verse’ in Chinookan narratives, I also propose to lay out the texts in short lines, identifying some the linguistic markers and other traits that make this viable. As an example of the method proposed, I offer an edited version of the story ‘Di-xεrretənand the Lioness’ arranged in short lines. In connection with this story, I suggest its possible association with the hill at the farm Springbokoog, in the Northern Cape, which is home to some of the most remarkable rock-engravings in the area.

Alexandra Dodd: Secular Séance: Uncovering the Victorian postmodern in contemporary South African art and literature

This text is a work in progress as part of the development of my PhD thesis proposal. Over the past few decades there has been an extraordinary global efflorescence of texts and images that revise or rehearse the themes and aesthetics of works that initially sprung to life during the 19th century. Contemporary refigurings of the Victorian archive take on new meanings and resonances in a South African context where the Victorian era invokes the epicentre of the colonial moment, the high pointof imperialism when Britainnot only consolidated its existing empire, but expanded its colonial possessions in an unprecedented way. From an epistemological perspective, the Victorian archive is strongly tainted because of the centrality of race and the racial sciences to 19th century modes of knowledge production.

My central pursuit is to reframe this body of research and practice within a contemporary postcolonial context, by first looking at postcolonial notions of the archive, and then exploring selected examples of South African artists and writers who have drawn on Victorian era archives in the production of postmodern/contemporary ‘texts’. The ‘shadow rhetorics’ of this genre seem charged with an intention to disrupt and revivify rote thinking about the past and how it shapes our present. In my research, I will be exploring the ways in which contemporary South African artists and writers are wrestling with this country’s troubled Victorian inheritance and countering limited contemporary understandings of the 19th century to forge liberating conceptions of the present.

Jo-Anne Duggan: The right to memory?

Since 1990 a number of laws have been passed that aim to limit or control memory in one way or another. This paper asks if there is a ‘right to memory’, describes a typology of forgetting that may be useful in reflecting on the way in which legislative instruments and judicial processes impact on memory. Using examples of memory laws and truth/reconciliation/justice processes from a number of countries, the paper sets out areas for further investigation into the relationship between, memory, truth and justice – and the archive. It is a very tentative beginning.

Megan Greenwood: On St. George’s Cathedral  and Bearing Witness to the Past

This paper situates the activities and vision of the Crypt Centre of Memory and Witness, St Georges Cathedral, Cape Town, within the broader contemporary South African context. It examines the interrelationship of the Crypt Centre’s vision, exhibitions and practice of attending to the past and to bearing witness with contemporary deliberations about the public sphere and the shaping of citizenship. Through this process, it seeks to demonstrate a duality at play; the Crypt Centre’s activities helps establish the Cathedral's contemporary relevance as a capillary space of public engagement while at the same time offering coordinates of ontological orientations for citizenry within and beyond a ‘post- new South Africa’ context.

Carolyn Hamilton: The Emergence of Ntungwa as the Elite in the Zulu Kingdom Under Shaka

Daniel Herwitz:Recovering the Past: MF Husain’s Live Action Heritage

Xolelwa Kashe-Katiya: Remembering and Forgetting District One: Prestwich Memorial and the Formation of a New Society in Cape Town

This paper was prepared for submission to the Centre for African Studies as required for the completion of the coursework for Critical Issues in Heritage Studies (CAS5009S). It will also inform my research thesis that seeks to explore contested notions of identity and ownership with regards to human remains that have been mobilised or repatriated in post-apartheid South Africa. District One refers to an area of Green Point in Cape Town that was used as a ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ burial ground which stretched from Buitengracht Street to the Green Point Common. Most of the people who were buried on District One belonged to what some researchers have referred to as the ‘colonial underclass’ that included slaves, servants, sailors, indigenous Khoisan, African labourers, Muslims and free blacks.

Excavations in 2003 revealed centuries-old skeletons that were followed by heated public debates, with opposing positions being assumed by civil society, the academy, developers, heritage practitioners and government officials. In 2005, the District Six Museum, South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), the City of Cape Town formed the Prestwich Place Project Committee (PPPC) that resolved to build a dedicated memorial in which these human remains could be reinterred with dignity. The Prestwich Place Memorial or ossuary currently or visitors centre represents a ‘gateway’ towards the memory of District One, however, the gateway itself seems to be disappearing into obscurity with development in the area. The conflict over the Prestwich Placehuman remains is etched on the memorial in the form of the exhibition; the modest structure represents a muting of history of dispossession against the backdrop of a gentrified landscape. The improvisation and shifting of responsibility by present society as represented by the memorial has contributed to the silencing of a traumatic history, the complexities of redress, the use (and abuse) of the notion of identity.

Nessa Leibhammer: From anonymity towards identity: possibilities of cultural recovery for Southern Natal

This paper is part of a long-term project within the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative, titled Ethnologised Pasts and their Archival Futures. It is more specifically located within a pilot project that considers the scattered archive of the later pre- and early colonial period of KwaZulu-Natal between the Thukela and Mzimkhulu Rivers.

A state of ‘radical depersonalisation’ is most often associated with the display of pre- and early colonial African material culture in museums and art galleries.  The paper considers innovative strategies for representation enabling shifts in the dynamics of display and reception.

One of the contributing factors to the depersonalization of African material held in museum collections is that it has been separated from its historical narratives. Information regarding its makers, users and collectors is largely lacking. Without this it is inevitable that the material is cast as ‘timeless’ and ‘tribal’. This paper presents three instances where museum objects were reunited with aspects of their previously lost histories.

Jesmael Mataga: ‘Hall of Chiefs?’: Monuments, Objects and Exhibits in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe

Grant McNulty: Traditional Authority and the use of history in contemporary Umbumbulu

Following the transition from minority to majority rule in South Africa, traditional leaders have played a formal role in South Africa’s local government, often performing similar and competing functions (service delivery, allocating land and socio-economic development) to municipalities. This has resulted in important political challenges and compromises, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) where the institution of traditional leadership is deeply entrenched.

Contemporary Umbumbulu provides fertile ground for understanding the intersection of forms of municipal government and traditional leadership, and the way in which history is mobilised in various contexts to consolidate power, gain access to resources and achieve certain political aims. In the paper, I show that in addition to roles of governance, the municipality (through its community outreach heritage project, the Ulwazi Programme), claims to be a custodian of ‘heritage resources’, broad notions of indigenous knowledge, history and traditional culture that have been refigured and are applied to an agenda of socio-economic development. Traditional leaders also realise the developmental potential of these resources and their value in consolidating power.

In the Ethekwini Municipality where the balance of power has shifted from the IFP (which has longstanding ties with traditional leaders) to the ANC, they understand that the one resource they still command (or embody), is the archive of traditional culture and practices. In some cases, they are the archive, not only as an institution and through the cultural knowledge they transmit from generation to generation but also as direct, living descendants of important ancestors. This is an archive that the ANC government wants to infiltrate but cannot. While it positions itself as custodian of broad notions of ‘indigenous knowledge’, ‘traditional culture’ and ‘history’, (linked to socio-economic development and political power), the traditional leaders remain the custodians of indigenous ideas, practices and culture.

Thokozani Mhlambi: Lalela Zulu: The early years of black radio broadcasts in Zulu, circa 1940-1944

This project seeks to uncover the making of black radio in South Africain the years of its inception, focusing mainly on the Zulu language broadcasts. It hopes to capture that moment of intrigue, wonder and fundamental change in the way in which listening habits were carried out and understood. The moment is important in the history of South African music. It triggered the birth of studio music recording and created a demand for the radio-set as an object. In its appeal to a broader audience of literate and illiterate, it sparked the formation of a South African listening public. A public of disciplined bodies that understands the habits of listening; from the switching-on of the set to attentive listening in silence. It also facilitated the presence and domestication of the radio-set within the African home. Radio could account for a whole world out there in the presence of one’s home, therefore actively situating the Zulu speaking person into a global imagined community of listeners. In so doing, linking citizens in different territories into a community of Zulu speakers – people who would otherwise not have known of each other.

Michael Nixon: Kirby’s Collection of Photographs

Gerrit Olivier: ‘The land is still the same’ and In the Footsteps of Marlow: Eben Venter’s Trencherman

My submission for the November seminar includes a draft introduction to a book on the treatment of land in Afrikaans literature, provisionally entitled The land is still the same and providing an outline of chapters. The second part is an analysis of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (2002), which will be followed by comparisons with other classical colonial texts and with Eben Venter’s Horrelpoot (2006).        

Kylie Thomas: Visual Disturbance: The deaths of Biko and the archives of apartheid

Hedley Twidle: From ‘The Origin of Language’ to a language of origin: A prologue to the Grey Collection

This piece attempts to chart the curious, contested space occupied by the Grey Collection in contemporary South Africa: how this once celebrated but now forgotten bequest housed at the National Library of South Africa might be (or might not be) approached, used or appreciated; the complex networks of exchange across the southern hemisphere through which it was constituted under British imperialism; its curiously dual nature and its afterlives, or lack of them.

Paying attention to a provocative series of ‘doublings’ that structure the archive – among them the division between medieval European treasures and nineteenth-century ‘indigenous’ materials, as well as the Jekyll and Hyde like double-act performed by George Grey and Wilhelm Bleek  – this account suggests that while several approaches (particularly the more celebratory narratives surrounding the Bleek and Lloyd Collection) seek to separate out the uncomfortable and enlightened elements of colonial text-making and translation, it is their co-presence within the language act which constitutes the ongoing, uncomfortable but also enabling paradox of working with such materials.

Marlene Winberg:The Kulimatji Thesis: Towards a Conclusion

This discussion paper works towards the conclusion of my Kulimatji research project. Up until very recently, the Namibian !kun children’s part of the 19th century Bleek and Lloyd Collection has been viewed as an appendix and language learning exercise for Lucy Lloyd. Prior to this research project, we had little contextual information and knowledge of the !kun boys’ childhoods in pre-colonial north east Namibia- our impressions of their childhoods were vague; my thesis proposes that the !kun children’s archive has been confined to silence. A close reading of related historical documents alongside the textual and visual components of the collection puts the children in the context of a larger group of displaced children who were brought to the Capeby colonial authorities during the 1870s and 1880s.  My reading redefines the !kun collection as a complex conversation between Lloyd and the children, accompanied by the powerful acts of personal storytelling and image making in her house. My conclusion proposes that contemporary !kun speakers from north Namibiaand southern Angola(whose language is directly related to the dialects that was spoken by the children), could further illuminate their work and thus assist in breaking their silence.

Jill Weintroub: Owning the Image: Tracing rock art in the field with Helen Tongue, 1905-1907

This paper looks at how landscape features in Dorothea Bleek’s early rock art research. It examines Bleek’s initial excursions into the field in southern Africa and describes her 1905-7 trips with fellow school teacher Helen Tongue to rock art sites in the mountains of the south eastern Cape and Lesotho, and to rock engravings located on the hot dusty plains of the Karoo. Drawing closely on Bleek’s texts in the book produced after these trips, the paper explores the research methods and processes employed by Bleek and Tongue during their weeks in the field. It situates Bleek’s fieldwork in the context of her tertiary education in late Imperial Germany, and in relation to her later fieldwork excursions throughout southern Africa in search of language samples as well as material culture and rock art. It further situates her research in relation to subsequent rock art scholarship in the South African academy. It argues that Bleek’s cautious, empiricist findings of the early twentieth century around the age, authorship and meanings of rock art have been overlooked and discredited in the turn to shamanism paradigms which dominated its study and interpretation in the 1970s and 1980s.

The paper interrogates Bleek’s view that the painting tradition was produced by “natural” people enjoying an idyllic lifestyle in a pristine landscape, and that their love of painting stemmed from the ‘large part pleasure, and the search for pleasure, play[ed] in the life of primitive people’. It documents her sustained view that most paintings were a representation of what made the people depicted on the rocks ‘bushmen’ – specifically their daily activities such as hunting, dancing and masquerade, cattle raids and battles. Long before it was fashionable, she believed paintings could be interpreted in terms of some of the myths she had read in the notebooks collected by her father and aunt during their ‘bushman researches’ at Mowbray in the 1870s.

John Wright: AT Bryant and the Lala

This paper is the second in which I look at the history of the identities of the African people who lived in the southern Natal-northern Transkei region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It begins by discussing the received meaning of the term Lala as it emanates from Alfred Bryant’s influential Olden Times in Zululand and Natal, first published in 1929. It goes on to examine the ways in which the term had been used in the literature in the half-century or so before Bryant’s time, and then looks at the changes in the ways in which Bryant himself used the term in his writings between 1905 and 1949. It concludes with a brief discussion of the critical examinations of the term made by academic historians since the 1970s.

Carine Zaayman: Remnant and Ruin: Sketches of the anarchives of Lady Anne Barnard and Krotoa in book form