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José Manuel De Prada

For most of my life I have lived in Barcelona, although I was born in Salamanca, a city in the west of Spain. I studied English Language and Literature at the University of Barcelona, and English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, New York. In 2010 I obtained a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Alcalá de Henares, in Spain, with a thesis about the lion stories of the /xam Bushmen (Mitos y creencias de los bosquimanos /xam: relatos orales acerca del león). My more recent book is Cuentos populares de África ("Folktales from Africa", Madrid, 2012).

In 1988 I read Bleek and Lloyd’s Specimens of Bushman Folklore (1911) and from that moment the study of oral traditions and their bearers has been my main field of interest. I have a special fascination with the idea of storytelling as a human need, and with the connection between memory and survival, ethics and aesthetics, in traditional narratives. My first experiences in the field in Spain and South Africa opened my eyes to the potential of combining fieldwork with archival research, an approach that my involvement with the APC has contributed to reinforce.

After more than two years of residence in South Africa as post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for Curating the Archive at the University of Cape Town (2010-2012) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (2012-2013) I returned to Spain, although I am involved in several projects in South Africa, one of them the recording of the oral narratives of the Upper Karoo people, an "open archive" which in many ways complements and continues the /xam tradition documented in the 19th century by Bleek and Lloyd. My work in progress includes an edition of Louis Anthing’s reports and letters from Bushmaland in 1861-1863 about the extermination of the /xam, to be published by the Van Riebeeck Society, an annotated edition of J. M. Orpen's landmark 1873 article on the rock art and mythology of the Maluti San (in collaboration with other scholars) and a small collection of the Karoo oral narratives I have recorded since 2011. I am also working on a book and exhibition celebrating the culture and arts, ancient and contemporary, of the communities that live near the giant radiotelescope that is currently being built in the Karoo (SKA). Early in 2014, I was made Honorary Research Associate at the Department of Archaeology of the University of Cape Town.