Team work on Lesotho’s history and historians at APC
At the beginning of 2021, the APC launched a Research Group focused on the history of Lesotho and neighbouring areas. Convened by Ettore Morelli, it includes Patrick Whang, Sibusiso Nkomo, Carolyn Hamilton, Mojalefa Koloko and Katleho Shoro, while other APCers join the discussion on specific occasions.
The group’s work is particularly attentive to archives left behind by various historical actors, including scholars, writers and journalists, Sotho royals, missionaries, and colonial officers, covering the 19th and 20th century.
One of the long-running threads has been the exploration of the works of Moshoeshoe’s sons, Tlali, Tsekelo and Sekhonyana, written between 1850 and 1890.
These texts, copies of which are held by the Grey Collection at the Cape Town campus of the National Library of South Africa, by the Western Cape Provincial Archives, and by the Morija Museum and Archives in Lesotho, open up rich avenues of understanding 19th-century Sotho currents of thought, including how history was deployed by King Moshoeshoe and his sons. These texts laid important foundations for the writings of Azariele Sekese, ZD Mangoela, Thomas Mofolo and Daniel Kunene and demand engagement alongside texts produced by 19th-century Paris missionaries in Lesotho, from Samuel Rolland to Eugène Casalis, Thomas Arbousset and David-Frédéric Ellenberger.
The Research Group has been engaged in the close reading of these texts, as well as their transcription, translation, digitisation and contextualisation: in other words, a new archival curation for FHYA is in the works.
The Research Group has also been a great opportunity to discuss ideas and challenges related to our fieldwork activity, future and past. Patrick Whang was able to report to the group on his fieldwork in Lesotho in the first half of the year, with a similar report from Katleho Shoro on her trip to Morija Mission. Whang is now preparing another trip to Lesotho, with Sibusiso Nkomo, in the upcoming months. Historians often work on their own, but not at the APC.