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Research Development Workshop 2016 abstracts

2016

9 – 11 November 2016

Public Intellectual Life Book Project: Carolyn Hamilton, Lesley Cowling, Litheko Modisane, Rory Bester, Indra De Lanerolle and Anthea Garman

Book proposal and rationale
Carolyn Hamilton and Lesley Cowling

Introduction and key concepts of the book
Carolyn Hamilton and Lesley Cowling

This paper located the book in a theoretical landscape, defined the research in relation to public sphere theory and its critiques, as well as social imaginary theory and theories of circulation and take-up (Gaonkar, Taylor, Warner, Appadurai). The paper approached “the public sphere” as a concept that animates social processes and institutions, and flagged some of the forums that, taken together, present as if they are a unitary public space for discussion. It also focused on the sprawling, uneven and sometimes explosive interactions that appear to take place “off stage”, sometimes including radically dissonant contributions that may even reject the very idea of public debate, with its terms and conventions. The paper presented a clutch of concepts and methodologies that enable us to grasp how public matters come under discussion, both in relation to, and outside of, a classical mode of rational critical debate.

Circulating Visual Forms and the Accrual of Public Critical Potency: Argument and Methodology
Carolyn Hamilton, Rory Bester and Litheko Modisane

This paper explores the capacities of visual forms, such as films, documentary photographs and exhibitions, to animate public engagements and lays out a methodology for tracking their circulation and take-up. The public lives of certain visual forms, and their contribution to processes of public engagement, may extend well beyond so-called public spaces of cinema, exhibition venue and discussion panel, engaging many who never enter those spaces. We focus on the circulation of both the visual forms themselves and of the many kinds of take-up that they generate in order to bring into view something of this “well-beyond”. This essay focused on visual forms and the various kinds of take-up that they engender, offering a conceptual vocabulary and a methodology for tracking the visual as public intervention.

Media essay
Lesley Cowling and Pascal Mwale

This essay examined media and public debate, drawing on the research produced over the years in the media node of Public Intellectual life project (precursor to the Public Life of ideas research group) and Wits Journalism. It argued that the ways in which the dynamics of debate are facilitated in the media and the implications for the “convening” of public discussion in society are under-theorised, and proposed several analytical concepts for understanding debate in the media, such as “orchestration” and “babelisation”.

Internet and social media
Indra de Lanerolle

This paper examined the rise of social media and other web-based platforms as forums and drivers of public debate, and examinesd the implications for public life.

The Public Lives of Archives
Carolyn Hamilton

This paper theorises the role of archive(s) – both the epistemological archive and the repositories named “archives” – in public life. It argues that the presence of an archive is invariably a power-laden assertion; the establishment, and existence, of an archive is an active political intervention and claim. Archival materials are dynamic, undergoing losses and gains of all kinds, being relocated, reclassified, relabelled and recontextualised. The essay reveals the way in which archives and public, political and academic discourses, shape and reshape each other across time, and how this process is constituted and contested. 

The Media and the Black Pimpernel
Litheko Modisane

This paper showed that the production and circulation of the “Mandela myth” can be traced to the years during the apartheid era when Nelson Mandela was operating underground.  The media attention on Mandela, representing him as trickster through the persona of “the Black Pimpernel”, combined with his absence from public life, reinforced the power and reach of his persona. The paper suggested that invisibility of can be a powerful resource in the making and consecration of public figures.

The Wounded Subject, and Regimes of What is Sayable
Anthea Garman

This paper looked at the emergence of the wounded “embodied” subject in public deliberation and protest, and discussed regimes of what is “sayable” in public life. It also examined the categories of people that count as “who”, as opposed to those designated as “what”, and how this “who”-ness or “what”-ness licences who can speak and who is listened to.

The Pollinate’s Progress
Rory Bester

Using the Black Modernism(s) exhibition at the Wits Art Museum as a case study, this paper examined the roles and effects of curatorial and exhibition practice in public. It looked at the debate that emerged out of and returned into the exhibition, and shows how the exhibition as “pollinate” is constituted through acts of circulation, repetition and recognition.]

 

Archive Activism Panel: Verne Harris, Jo-Anne Duggan and Theresa Edlmann.

The Archival Platform has received funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies to produce and disseminate a report on the state of archival activism in South Africa. The report is intended to: provide an overarching assessment of the scope, state and effects of archival activism and the ways this has shaped public debate and impacted on perceptions of nationhood and citizenship over the last two decades; and to highlight the tremendous amount of work that has been done around the archive and in terms of what might be called ‘memory building’’ and the important debates about the meanings of reconciliation, memory, citizenship and nationhood. In many ways, the Archive Activism Report is complementary to its 2015 Report, State of the Archives: An Analysis of South Africa’s national archival system.  While the Archive Activism report focusses on the period 1994-2016, it aims also to provide historical contexts to the work which it details.  A number of the initiatives used as case studies were inaugurated, or have roots, in the apartheid era. 

The report ‘unpacks’ definitions for the terms ‘archive’, ‘activism’ and ‘social justice’. By archive we mean a phenomenon – embracing both noun and verb, both artefact and action. By activism we mean the harnessing of energy for political and social change.  Social justice, for us, is informed by the ideal of a society which: puts into practice the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of South Africa’s Constitution; reaches for a fair and compassionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity; and seeks a fundamental hospitality in relation to those ‘othered’ by prevailing relations of power.

The Report focuses on institutions and initiatives falling into five categories – those which: mobilise the archive for social justice in the public interest – using the South African History Archive (SAHA) as a  case study; mobilise the archive for social justice in support of particular communities – using Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) as a case study; mobilise the archive for wound work (by which we mean the diverse range of processes used by individuals and collectivities to work with the damage suffered by them through violations in the past) – using the Nokulunga Gumede Reconciliation Memorial in KwaZulu-Natal, the Legacies of Apartheid Wars Project at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape and the Human Rights Media Centre in Cape Town, Western Cape. As case studies; those that steward archival collections related to activism for ongoing activism– using the Mayibuye Centre as a case study; ‘addresses the silences in the historical record in order to promote social justice – using the Wits History Workshop as a case study; and those that document ongoing activism for use in the present and the future - using #rhodes must fall as a case study.

The six categories described above determine the basic structure of the Report, with each chapter focusing on a particular category. 

 

Erica de Greef: En Vogue and Out of Vogue - Investigating the collection and display of ‘fashionable dress’ at the South African Cultural History Museum

 In this chapter I present a study of a particular set of items of material culture that have been collected, conserved, and curated by the South African Cultural History Museum (SACHM), now part of Iziko Museums. The museum professionals involved with these objects have – interchangeably – identified the collection of these objects, mostly, as costume, but also as textiles, dress, clothing and fashion. I investigate the founding of this sartorial collection and its formation over time, dating from the early 1920s, tracking through the divisive 1960s, and, into the troubled 1990s and new millennium.  The key feature of this collection is its predominantly colonial (and later, apartheid) character, which presents the greatest challenge for the curators and collection managers to work with this collection in a post-apartheid democracy. The collection almost entirely represents cultural history as European. A very small component of Oriental and ‘other’ African objects exist within the collection, and only recently (since the early 1990s), have dress/fashion objects of indigenous cultural origin entered the collection. I trace the contours of the collection, its changes over time, and even its stasis, through a number of close readings of selected objects, so as to better understand the collection policies and practices that entrenched the cultural segregation from other sartorial objects that operate in different ‘fashion’ systems, and, the temporal segregation from a contemporary discourse of fashion and a contemporary public. I am interested in understanding the ways in which the past practices and dispositions continue to mark (and inhibit) these previously ‘embodied’ objects, preventing them from engaging in meaningful ways in the contemporary context of museum decolonisation and transformation.

Note: En Vogue draws on the title of the exhibition of fashionable dress held at the SACHM, En Vogue: Formal Wear/Deftige Drag 1920-1960 (November 1988 – February 1989). The phrase is often used in English to refer to something fashionable or current, as in vogue or en vogue, evoking a sense of French chic.

 

Maria Esperanza Rock: About uses and purposes of the archives in the reconstruction of local history: The case of the urban history of Lota Alto

Important initiatives in the creation of oral archives have been deployed throughout the world, collecting valuable local histories and cultural information. Various methods have been used in the collection process: audio recordings, videos, which are sometimes accompanied by photographs and heirlooms.  What we want do here, is reflect on how we can use the information stored in these archives and analyze the public value that these have for local communities in current historical contexts.

Therefore, we will show through the particular case of Lota Alto (a small mining town in southern Chile that grew out the industrialization of Chilean coal) the importance of cultural studies and the use of memory to reconstruct part of the local history. In this particular case we can demonstrate the importance of recorded memories in the reconstruction of its urban history, and at the same time the consolidation of a local identity.  By showing how the streets and buildings became important archives of a remembered past and how they returned to the present under the category of cultural heritage.

To systematize an urban history, it is necessary articulate different tactics for collecting information where perhaps the most enriching comes from orality and ethnography. For example the use of qualitative methods in participatory and oral techniques that forms an important part in the urban historical reconstruction of the town, both in understanding historical documents and recognizing urban properties, thus allowing the recovery of part of the Communities dignity that usually fades over the years.

Interesting is the reflection as to why this history is relevant in terms of auto-recognition and recognition of a past perpetuates to this day inside the city. Questioning why there is a latent need to put it in terms of cultural heritage, is understanding it under the complexities of a diverse cultural landscape. In this case we intend to review how we can use the oral memory archives and how cultural studies are a public service when they manage to systematize relevant information on a specific group of people under a particular context. During the investigation we found the social context of history and its public vocation when it manages to be representative.

 

Anette Hoffmann: Nobody will want to join the next war’: the intricate traces of Mohammed Nour’s presence in Germany, between 1910-1922

 Mohammed Nour’s presence in Germany between 1911 and 1921 has left traces, which interconnect war, colonial linguistics, and art in disconcerting ways. These extraordinary rich, yet often incommensurable archival traces form the basis of the second chapter of Listening to the Colonial Archive.

According to his life story Mohammed Nour came to Germany in 1911 with a group of performers of an ‘Ethnic Show’ (Völkerschau). During his internment in a camp for civilians, in Ruhleben (Germany) Carl Meinhof recruited him as a language assistant for the Hamburger Institut für Kolonialsprachen. His voice recordings make available Nour’s narrative of his role in a colonial intrigue, which is related to the Somalian Dervish Movement. The recordings also transmit fragments of a political debate. While his spoken words present Nour as a young Muslim intellectual, visual traces of his presence in Germany show the exhaustive exploitation and representation of Nour as an exotic body: he was photographed, drawn and painted, his larynx was x-rayed, he appears on a propaganda photograph and two postcards that presented the ethnic show in Halensee (Germany).

The politics of representation and visualisation by artists and scientists, as well as the archival biographies of those images pose the question of how we think of artworks as part of the colonial archive at large and what it means to re-assemble the dispersed visual representations of ‘the exotic model’. Aspects of the historical connection of war, incarceration, science, and art have been read along some of their archival traces, yet much of the connections of the objects are durably obscured by disciplinary separation.

This part of the book follows re-assembles the traces of Nour’s presence so as to unlock archival segregation and to show how he became a racialised object of scientific and artistic curiosity before and during World War I. Further, translation of his voice recordings, together with his life story in a grammar of Somali, unwrap fragments of a local political debate of the early 20th century. The presence of these fragments of African historiology show the immense significance of research on historical sound archives. The disparate strands of part two contribute to a larger discussion on politics of representation, and the segmentation of representations of African POWs into art collections, the recordings of the Lautarchiv in Berlin, but also colonial linguistic publications.

 

Duane Jethro: Aesthetics of Power Book Proposal

This book looks at heritage formation, material culture and the senses in processes of post-apartheid nation building. It focuses on aesthetics of persuasion and the politics of authentication. Aesthetics of persuasion refers to the ways in which stakeholders craft material cultural forms as convincing heritage indexes and how those forms are perceived by their intended audiences as persuasive. Politics of authentication refers to how stakeholders position material cultural forms as legitimate heritage markers amidst debate and contestation. The book contributes to South African and international literature on history, heritage, religion and memory through its distinctive theoretical focus on aesthetics and the senses. It is innovative, furthermore, in being grounded in both textual and qualitative data that includes interviews and field notes gathered during periods of participant observation. The book looks at four post-apartheid heritage projects. Firstly, it discusses Freedom Park, a monumental state driven heritage project situated in the capital city Pretoria. Freedom Park commemorates those who died in the struggles for humanity which is intended to stand as the defining representation of South Africa’s cultural history, heritage and diversity. Designed for the post-apartheid nation, Freedom Park was also a functional heritage tourism destination that invited visiting tourists to experience and engage with its nationalist, ‘African’ cultural heritage narrative. Second, it looks at the market driven venture, the Sunday Times Heritage Project which paid homage to newsworthy historical events and figures that featured during the 100 years of the eponymous newspaper’s existence through pieces of site-specific art memorials. The memorials were designed to recover particular histories and engage particular publics, who often engaged with them in subversive, destructive ways. Third, the book tunes in to the vuvuzela, a plastic noise-making instrument that became popular globally during the FIFA 2010 Football World Cup. Designed and marketed to South African football fans, the vuvuzela’s popularity led to contestation amongst different stakeholders who struggled over its commercial and symbolic ownership using arguments about its emblematic status as a South African and African cultural heritage object. Fourth, it looks at notions of taste and consumption as they were developed in the context of the rebranding of national heritage day into national barbeque day. This chapter interrogates the stakes vested in the idea of heritage, practices of nation building, and the circulation of these ideas through notions of taste a consumption. Focusing on these examples, this book shows how these materially based projects were formed as seemingly authentic, legitimate post-apartheid heritage markers, how those acts of forming involved the reshaping of the senses and sensibilities as modes of apprehending the past, and finally, the modalities of belonging and citizenship they enabled.

 

Cornelia Knoll: Imagining Diversity: Heritage, Identity and Place-making in Berlin and Cape Town

This project will critically engage with practises of heritage making and place-making at two heritage institutions, namely, the District Six Museum in Cape Town and the Friedrichshain - Kreuzberg Museum in Berlin. This is a comparative analysis focussing on heritage, identity and memory in South Africa and Germany. The aim of this research is to find out how these different institutions use the language of heritage to engage in practises of place-making as part of the process of recovering identities that appear to be at risk of being lost. This research will apply anthropological methods to interpret tangible heritage such as art and material objects, but also intangible heritage, such as storytelling and artistic interventions to understand how these institutions evoke and promote a sense of place and identity in times of crisis. It will especially be concerned with the differences and similarities in how these vastly removed community museums go about their heritage work.

 

Gerald Machona

No abstract available

 

George Mahashe: The Body as the Ultimate Recording Device

The paper constitutes a linking piece between two sections of a Phd thesis that considers questions of visuality, considering what type of subjectivity is required to occupy visuality. The wider PhD considers a quest to locate and engage photographic residue depicting Balobedu during the close of the 19th century.

The two sections being linked span a section considering the space created by contemporary art's deployment of artist within a variety of transformation projects, particularly within cultural institutions, such as former museums of ethnography, who seek to include marginalized subjectivities in mainstream narratives. The section considers the wider idea of institutional critique as a key methodology. The second section looks specifically at the film essay and consider wider fine art practices, such as video art and the collage, in an effort to fledge out the trajectory of the practical component that has evolved into a camera obscura. it explores in particular, the camera obscura’s placing of the physical body in the place traditionally occupied by a photographic sensor-putting the body in a position of seeing, which is different from looking.

The paper specifically aims to fledge out the centrality of the body in relation to institutional critique's visual strategies, the installation and video art based film essay, and the camera obscura. It explores the idea of the body as a receptor of sensory input, a concept derived from an engagement with the practice of dreaming. This invitation to dream is occasioned by a rumour of a dream offered to a missionary by a Molobedu person while in Berlin, Germany during the 1897 Transvaal Exhibition. This invitation draws attention to the body's ability to integrate a variety of sensory input, such as visuals and audio. For example, when one dreams, one can never quiet tell if they saw, heard or felt an idea, implying a multi-sensory experience.  While the thesis is specifically engaged with the visual, it explores how the idea of the wider photographic scale (beyond the photograph) integrates other sensory input to create a physically immersive experience. The paper links Brett Bailey's Exhibit A (2010), kimsooja's To Breathe: Bottari (2013), John Akomfrah's Peripeteia (2014) and my Camera Obscura # (2016), exploring these works’ deployment of the physical body as a devise in the experience of these artistic presentations.  These works all put the body in some form of sensory relation with physical space and an experience of time.

 

Thokozani Mhlambi: Loudspeaker Activations in South Africa in the 1940s

The hailing of loudspeakers during the Second World War changed the sounds people heard and how they listened. It radically altered perceptions of listening and the circulation [of information] in public spaces occupied by black people. Public locations (such as beer halls and in open areas next to compounds/hostels served) were punctuated through audio markers. Furthermore, given the limitations placed on the broadcasts with designated times of broadcast and the brief moments given to music, even their routines became calibrated through sound in time and space.

Sometimes this state-led appeal to the sonic sensory was done simultaneously with an eradication of visual stimuli, as evident in the downplaying of the role played by black soldiers in the war and the denial of permission to conduct public processions for black soldiers from other parts of the African continent.

In this presentation, I introduce the story of the first loudspeaker broadcasts aimed at black audiences in South Africa that took in the 1940s. I demonstrate how the South African state tried to activate the African public’s imagination, using loudspeaker broadcasts, as well as other commemorative forms such as Ingoma dance performance held in Durban.

In response to the call for contributions that propose experimental methodologies, the approach used here is that of performance-as-research. Something that near resembles the court poets (Imbongi) who would use their voices to praise the king, but more than just that they used the moment to appraise authority, and provide social commentary whilst still supplying entertainment to the publics they addressed.

This appeal to the performative is also incorporated into the loudspeaker broadcasts.

The necessity of the experiment comes from the tension in the academy of receiving creative output as research. I would like to explore how through the performative gesture one can at once generate ‘new’ knowledge, whilst providing a platform for reflection through the creative act.

 

Susana Molins Lliteras: Iconic Archive as Cultural Heritage: The manuscript collections of Timbuktu

The manuscripts of Timbuktu (Mali) erupted in the forefront of the world’s cultural heritage scene in 2012/13 with the political instability in Northern Mali and the joint French-Malian recapture of the city in January 2013 after ten months of rebel occupation. Rumours about the burning of “the library of Timbuktu” and more than “25,000 of its ancient manuscripts” spread like wildfire, if only to disappear a few days later, just as suddenly as they materialised. While the rumours were later proven baseless—as most of the objects had in fact been moved to Bamako during the occupation—the narrative of “precious cultural heritage in peril” still prevails today.

This paper will examine the evolving and competing narratives that have emerged in public discourse on the manuscripts of Timbuktu as cultural heritage, both in African and transnational contexts.  What are the consequences and imperatives that drive the designation of the manuscripts, manuscript collections, libraries and their content as both world heritage, and at the same time, private, family heritage? Other themes—such as the exponentially ever-increasing “numbers game;” the dynamics of the interplay of donor-driven funding with the priorities of manuscript owners, curators, local authorities and researchers; and the manuscripts as symbols of Africa’s written heritage and positioned as part of an African Renaissance discourse—will help elucidate the complex dynamics of the manuscripts’ multiple roles in contemporary public culture.  This paper proposes that understanding the manuscripts of Timbuktu as iconic archive is a useful entry point to untangle and reflect on the changing practices of cultural heritage in Africa.

 

Rehana Odendaal: The Interactive University – Introduction and some cursory conclusions

This paper is a draft of the introductory chapter of my Masters’ thesis which is still in progress. It seeks to outline the core theoretical concepts that inform my historical analysis of the publicness of Wits University and link it to some of the core issues in contemporary debates around the decolonization of South African Universities. Based on the work of on three of my substantive chapters, I will also start to postulate some core arguments / conclusions. Input into more appropriate literature or flagging gaps in these arguments will be greatly appreciated.

 

Himal Ramji: Presenting the history of southern Africa before colonisation: The pedagogical constraints imposed by content prescriptions of the South African school history curriculum

This paper serves as broad exploration of some possible ways to describe and analyse the presentation of southern African history before colonisation in the CAPS history curriculum. For the purposes of this paper, my focus is on the pedagogical constraints which are implied in the content prescriptions. These prescriptions, as with all educational prescriptions (as per Freire) – the content and its framing –  impose certain limitations on what can be taught, and how it can be taught.

I wish to look at how the power relations surrounding the CAPS history curriculum might affect or manifest in the content and its framing. Bourdieu’s concept of ‘Pedagogic Authority’ proves useful in theorising these relations, regarding the imposition and inculcation of the dominant culture which, for Gramsci, occurs in the phases of the ‘Active’ and ‘Creative’ schools. In analysing the effects of authority and power on the presentation of curriculum content, it is important to understand the variations of History as a discipline through the school phases, and how this affects the framing and pedagogical possibilities of the content in these phases. Simply put: where does southern African history before colonisation fit into these phases, and why might this be the case? And, how do we teach and learn about this history? 

Fundamental to this study of the imposition and inculcation of culture authorised culture upon (and by) the citizen/subject is an analysis of the actual aims of CAPS and how these come into play. Identifiable, historically and in literature, are two major poles of power which appear to hold disproportionate spheres of influence (regarding education and curriculum): a proposed ‘national’, and a proposed ‘global’; which in the curriculum is constructs a certain presented truth, or set of ‘truths’. This requires an interrogation of both of these ‘spheres of influence’, and the ways in which they manifest in the curriculum to produce these truths. 

 

Tracey Randle

No abstract available

 

Emma Sandon: Films with a Mission

This paper forms part of an introduction to an edited book collection, Films with a Mission.

The paper will outline some of the key issues and questions in historically assessing missionary film collections. A number of British missionary societies, both Protestant and Anglo-Catholic, adopted film in the first half of the twentieth century: missionary film collections include those of the Church Missionary Society, the Church of Scotland missions, the London Missionary Society, the Methodist Missionary Society, the Salvation Army, St. Joseph’s Missionary Society and the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The study will encompass comparative approaches to interpreting these missionary films, shot in Africa and India. It will examine how, on the one hand, individual British churches invested in film to compete with other denominations, including foreign churches, in recruiting, converting and raising funds, whilst, on the other hand, being involved in interdenominational collaborations in film production and cinema exhibition to promote missionary work and Christianity, through the International Missionary Council (IMC) and the Missionary Film Committee (MFC). The study will thus assess the significance of the take up of the new mass media technology of film in evangelical strategies by British Christian missions in the modern period.

 

Andres Torres: Analysis of the cultural significance of two architectural archives: Tucapel and Nacimiento Fort historical monuments from southern Chile

The origin of the Tucapel fort in the city of Cañete and Nacimiento fort in the city of the same name dates back to the Spanish colonization process in the XVI and XVII Chile These military buildings, each with its historical and territorial signification, made part of a complex network of fortifications that allowed expanding the south of the Spanish crown in Chile border and set the beginning of its urban history thus recognizing its value as military areas, and later public exchange.

In the twentieth century, these two forts were declared Historical Monuments by the National Monuments Council, being the only buildings of this type in the Biobio region that have this asset category as well as being the origin of the urban network of each cities where they are located.

Currently both fort met cultural functions as having redefined exchange spaces from use and public administration.

This work analyses these historical monuments in its current dimension of public spaces for cultural and heritage significance in order to understand processes of re-signification and urban assimilation property of the past in the present by way of architectural archives.

How is that buildings that were military fort during colonial times, in the twentieth century become Historical Monuments? Why was a military fort transformed into a public square?, Why is the  Tucapel fort is valued architecturally if not there hint of its material presence ?. What happens in practice of the neighbourhood in relation to these spaces? These are some of the question that we going to deal with.

 

John Wright and Cynthia Kros: Isithunguthu – one who knows but is made to forget

The word ‘isithunguthu’ is today hardly known outside a small circle of scholars. It does not appear in modern isiZulu dictionaries, nor is it known to isiZulu-speaking academics whom we have consulted. There is no entry for it in A.T. Bryant’s major Zulu-English Dictionary of 1905. Researchers have to turn to the fourth edition of Bishop John Colenso’s Zulu-English dictionary, also published in 1905, to find it. Here it is given as ‘One flustered or put out, made to forget by being scolded or cross-questioned, though well-informed’.

In effect, the word was rediscovered in 2013, when John Wright was working through texts in the James Stuart Collection in the Killie Campbell Africana Library in Durban. He came across a scribbled marginal note that records one of Stuart’s interlocutors, Thununu kaNonjiya, as observing to him in 1903, ‘You can write and remember but tina [si] izitungutu nje’: for our part, we are simply izitungutu. It was an intriguing enough statement for Wright to make his own note of it. At his suggestion, the statement was taken up and launched into the academic world in the title and epigram of the programme of a conference on southern Africa’s past before the colonial era being organized in 2014 for 2015 by Carolyn Hamilton, holder of the research chair in Archive and Public Culture at UCT.

What did Thununu mean in this statement? In using the word ‘izithunguthu’ (the plural of ‘isithunguthu’, in modern orthography), to whom was he referring? Why did he describe himself to a colonial official as one of their number? What did Stuart’s writing down of oral accounts of the past imply to him? From his position as an elder deeply involved in shaping such accounts, it seems to us, he was commenting on how the writing of the past was ‘capturing’ (we use the word deliberately) oral histories made by izithunguthu like himself.

It was a statement that bore witness to an extraordinarily important moment in the historiography and the intellectual history of what is now the KwaZulu-Natal region.

In this paper, we will briefly discuss what little we can find on the biography of the word isithunguthu, and describe how it was rediscovered and taken up by academic historians. Drawing on perspectives on Stuart’s texts developed by Hamilton, we go on to discuss his notes of his conversations with Thununu, as recorded in volume 6 of the published James Stuart Archive, in a way that combines historical contextualizing with a close textual reading. Our aim is to try to hear both Stuart’s and Thununu’s voices more clearly, and hence to try to elucidate something of the wider significance of the word izithunguthu.

 

6 – 8 April 2016

June Bam-Hutchison

Lesley Cowling

Andre du Toit

Erica de Greef

Jo-Anne Duggan

Carolyn Hamilton

Verne Harris

Duane Jethro

Talya Lubinsky

Rosa Lyster

George Mahashe

Gerald Machona

Rehana Odendaal

Himal Ramji

Tracey Randle

Vibeke Viestad

John Wright

Sandra Young