Vernacular Archives

17 Dec 2019 - 07:00
History Access Logo. Image courtesy of History Access, UCT.


The second History Access graduate conference was held at UCT from the 19th to the 21st of November 2019. The conference, featuring special lectures, performances and student papers, was designed to develop capacity in critically engaging southern African vernacular sources and archives.

The conference opened with a special lecture by Dr. Bodhi Kar on “Vernacular Archives: Notes from the Global South”. Kar drew attention to the origins of the word “vernacular” in verna, a slave born of a slave mother, arguing that “vernacular” is thus not a synonym for indigenous. It is a word that signals a relation of unequal power. English, previously vernacular in relation to Latin, was made into a master language as a result of colonialism.

As the presentations progressed a rich conversation developed among the participants about a range of vernacular concepts and epistemologies. Papers were presented by a number of APC research students linked to History Access: Precious Bikitsha (Debates and discussions in Umteteli wa Bantu); Himal Ramji (Translating W.W. Gqoba’s “Isizatu sokuxelwa kwe nkomo ngo Nongqause”); and Wade Smit (The History of oThongathi: The Creation of the Colonial Sociological Experiment of ‘the Tongaati’.)

APC Chair, Carolyn Hamilton delivered the keynote address, “Umlando, Ukuqamba and Stating Their Own Views: Recalibrating the History of Intellectual Thought in the KwaZulu-Natal region.” The conference ended with a special lecture by Athambile Masola from the University of Pretoria on “Ukuzilanda in Noni Jabavu’s memoirs: Drawn in Colour and The Ochre People”.

For the full programme, see