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Odendaal, Rehana. “Wits Imagined: An Investigation into Wits University’s Public Roles and Responsibilities, 1922-1993”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2020.

This thesis examines the public roles and responsibilities of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in the period 1922-1994. It does this through a close investigation of four moments in the history of the University, namely the foundation of Wits (1910s and 1920s); early debates about the entry of Black staff and students (1930s and 1940s); the Academic Freedom protests (starting in the mid-1950s) and the formation of the Wits History Workshop (from 1977 to the early 1990s). In each of these moments, social roles and perceptions of public responsibility were actively asserted or challenged through engagements between internal-university constituencies and external communities.  The thesis identifies three core roles for Wits University over this period: providing technical and professional training; generating and authenticating expert knowledge and shaping people’s ideas of citizenship. The practical and conceptual understandings of these three roles, however, have shifted over time as the University’s conceptualisation of the communities it serves has changed. These shifts have happened in conversation with different civic and state actors. The thesis has found that ideas of the public roles of Wits are informed by an institutional sense of self-referential authority accumulated through various moments and practices in the University’s history. This self-referential authority depends on a selective recalling of particular events and the ability of multiple narratives about the University’s identity to circulate simultaneously. This self-referential authority draws on Wits’ origins as an institution of late-Imperial modernity and its legacy as a so-called ‘open’ university. Understanding the practices and legacies that have created these narratives through an examination of the University’s history, is particularly important in the present moment when the future public responsibilities of South African universities are being vigorously questions and debated.


Fagan, Henry Allan. “The Wider KwaZulu-Natal Region circa 1700 to the onset of Colonialism: A critical Essay on Sources and Historiography”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2020.

This dissertation is an extended essay dealing with historical productions on the late independent era (the late “pre-colonial” epoch) of the wider KwaZulu-Natal region. The project pays particular attention to the development of the historiography and examines how it has shaped and in turn been shaped by the source material over time. Attention is also drawn to issues with terminology and disciplinary convention, including the distinction which is traditionally made between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ sources. The dissertation’s scope extends beyond the discipline of history to interrogate how influences from the fields of anthropology, art history, archaeology, and literary criticism have shaped the production of history. It also examines the productions of African intellectuals whose works were excluded from the discipline of history during the late colonial and apartheid eras.  Among other things, this essay draws attention to historiographical breaks in the literature and considerers where paradigm shifts and epistemic ruptures can be discerned.


Zaayman, Carine. “Seeing What Is not There: Figuring the Anarchive”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2019.

Absences in archives render as impossible access to the fullness of the past. Yet, within the post-apartheid sociopolitical milieu, demands are made of the slivers of evidence in colonial archives to yield more than they contain, to provide material from which counter-colonial narratives may be fashioned. I understand these demands as pressure exerted on archives. In this thesis, I consider this pressure in relation to historical narrations of the lives of two women from the colonial period of the Cape: Krotoa and Anne. Krotoa was a Goringhaicona woman who acted as an interpreter between the Dutch and the Khoekhoe in the early colonial period at the Cape (from 1652). I examine extant literature on Krotoa to show the various ways in which authors have responded to the pressure on the archives in which she appears and how they have dealt with absences within them. I then discuss a number of instances in the archives to demonstrate that the imprint of absence is clearly visible in these archives. Anne was a Scottish noblewoman who lived at the Cape from 1797 to 1802. I investigate the literature about Anne to show how scholars have responded to the pressure on her archive primarily by overlooking the absences within it. I then consider two aspects of Anne’s archive to demonstrate that it, too, bears the imprint of absence. In contrast to approaches to absence that seek to fill in the gaps in archives, I argue that paying attention to the imprints of absence enables us to begin to grasp something of absence in its own right, that is, the negative space of an archive that constitutes a form of absolute absence. I have named this absolute absence in archives the “anarchive”. Identifying the imprints of absences as indicative of the anarchive has led me to instantiate the anarchive through figuration. This is achieved via visual art methodologies in which I systematically avoid reconstruction and instead convene an archive of photographs whose subject, and the curatorial rationale behind their display, is emptiness and transience. My figuring situates the anarchive centre stage and proposes engagement with it as a means of escaping the constraints of archives. When the full extent of the anarchive is brought into view, the limitations of archives are sharply delineated and their ability to control our understanding of the past is rendered absurd.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/31019


De Greef, Erica. “Sartorial disruption: an investigation of the histories, dispositions, and related museum practices of the dress/fashion collections at Iziko Museums as a means to re-imagine and re-frame the sartorial in the museum”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2019.

In this thesis I investigate and interrogate the historical and current compositions, conditions and dispositions of three collections containing sartorial objects of three formerly separate museums – the South African Museum, the South African National Gallery and the South African Cultural History Museum. Although these three museums were amalgamated in 1999, along with eight other Western Cape institutions to form Iziko Museums, each separate sartorial ‘collection’ retains the effects of the divergent museal practices imposed on its objects over time. I employ the concept of ‘fashion’ in this thesis both to refer to the objects of the study, as well as to the socially-determined set of ideas and ideals surrounding notions such as taste, aesthetics, belonging and modernity. Sartorial objects in museums present strong physical evidence of both deeply personal and extremely public relationships as the traces of and capacity for embodiment imbue these objects with metonymic, subjective and archival capacities. In addition, I employ the contracted form dress/fashion to trouble the commonly held separate notions of ‘fashion’ as a modern, dynamic and largely Western system, and ‘dress’ as ‘traditional’ and an unchanging African sartoriality. I contend that through the terms ‘dress’ and ‘fashion’ – two opposing and segregating tropes still largely present in South African museums – the forms of agency, mutability and historicity applied to Western ‘fashion’ objects, have been and continue to be denied in the collection, classification and curation of African ‘dress’. I use a sartorial focus to unpack the development of and conditions pertaining to each of the museums in this study, namely an ethnographic museum, a cultural history museum and a fine arts museum. I interrogate the three separate phases of dress/fashion objects in these museums, that is, their entry into the collections, their classification and their display. Following each historical investigation, I use a single object-focused strategy to reflect on the specific conditions, dispositions and limitations of these three separate sartorial ‘archives’. I choose to identify and analyse all the trousers found across the three collections (as well as some significant examples that were excluded), as these particular sartorial objects both reflect and offer critical insights into distinct, and often divisive, definitions of gender, politics and socio-cultural attitudes, many of which also changed over time. I offer close readings of a number of trousers (both in and absent from these collections) that make evident the ways in which these divisions have been scripted into the taxonomies, disciplines and exhibitions at Iziko Museums. These practical and conceptual divisions perpetuate the artificial segregation of these museum objects. The divisions are also reflective of wider divisive museal practices that persist despite the efforts of Iziko Museums to transform and integrate their practices and their collections. Drawing on the sartorial as an alternative archive I am able to show the types of histories avowed and disavowed by different museal practices. In addition, the close readings expose the distinct and persistent colonial and apartheid underpinnings of sartorial classification and representation across the three Iziko Museums’ collections almost twenty years after the merger. The trousers readings furthermore, make a number of decolonial affordances evident, as the objects reflect not only alternate histories, but also shared pasts prompting alternative contemporary interpretations. Via the dress/fashion collections, this thesis offers a sartorial approach to ‘decolonising’ the museum. This includes both a reframing of various museal practices and principles, and a contemporary re-imagining of histories and their related identity narratives. Despite contemporary critiques and attempts to transform the disciplinary practices, and various cultural and social distinctions still present in the collections and exhibitions at Iziko Museums, segregation and problematic hierarchies still persist. I show how when considered as an archive, the sartorial makes evident other histories, relationships and interpretations. This approach can contribute towards a new, interdisciplinary dress/fashion museology as both a means of disruption and revision at Iziko Museums, contributing towards new contemporary capacities to curate the sartorial offering alternate, decolonial interpretations of past, present and future South African identity narratives.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/30393


Mahashe, Tebogo George. “MaBareBare, a rumour of a dream”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2019.

This multi-part PhD submission builds on Premesh Lalu’s (2009) assertion that an understanding of the subjectivity of the colonised is irrecoverable from the colonial archive. It does this through my quest for, and my encounter with, fragments associated with an episode of travel to Berlin by some Balobedu in 1897 and, subsequently, by myself in the present. This confrontation with the archive facilitates a meditation on an idea of khelobedu, as a subject effectively trapped by classical anthropology struggling to understand it (khelobedu) as a contemporary reality. Khelobedu is, amongst other things, the language and religion of Balobedu from north-eastern Limpopo province in South Africa. It is used in this PhD project as a conceptual tool to express the complexity inherent in the multiple subjectivities that I inhabit, encounter, respond to and mobilise; that, effectively, I practice. I adopt a range of creative fine art methods to engage khelobedu outside of the prescribed and constraining methodologies of established academic disciplines historically developed as appropriate for the study of African cultural life. My methods involve travelling, dreaming and creative practice as process. Travel has entailed my journeys to Berlin to consult colonial archives related to Balobedu, as well as wider travel to other places (such as Dakar) to visit contemporary art institutions and attend key events profiling my chosen artistic methodologies. I have employed Balobedu dream practices as a way of understanding, and claiming, Balobedu subjectivity, as premised on political agency and opacity. The methodology of creative practice has necessitated the making and staging of art exhibitions and installations within the contemporary art circuit; and persistent documentation of my installations and travels (conversations, cafe encounters and so forth) as artistic process as well as of the demands of practice as a subject itself — specifically instituting several iterations of a camera obscura installation as a response to my dissatisfaction with the documentary impulse that I understand to 'trap’ khelobedu. These methodologies emphasise the idea of play and participation aimed at forming a habit of practice. They collectively contribute to the PhD project as both diagnostic of, and a way of challenging and offering a resolution to, the problem of coloniality in the academy. These processes of practice reiterate that the subjectivity of Balobedu is not just to be sought in the colonial archive but persists, and is recoverable, in contemporary Balobedu such as myself. Through the practices at the heart of this PhD project, I establish that my being a Molobedu cannot be separated from my positions as artist and academic, and so insist on an understanding of Balobedu as contemporaneous, always 'in time’ with all of time’s complexities, recognisable to contemporary subjectivities. The imperative to resist coloniality and to risk a departure from the conventions of the PhD in order to imagine and express khelobedu determines the form of the thesis as an open-ended proposition, emphasising practice and, for now, provisionality.

 Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/30544


Ramji, Himal. “Producing the Precolonial: Professional and Popular Lives of Mapungubwe, 1932-2017”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2018.

This thesis tells a history of the production of the object that is ‘Mapungubwe’, and, in turn, explores what meaning Mapungubwe has been made to impart into the concept of the ‘precolonial’. Methodologically, I take the past as fundamentally lost, and history as a recoupment of this loss: history as a discovery. History writing, then, is an act of discovery in which the loss itself is created – a loss to match a reciprocal discovery. With each different mode of loss and discovery, we encounter new subjects or agencies, able to navigate through the processes of making Mapungubwe. In this, ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ history can be explored for their subjectivity to conditioning regimes of knowledge, without giving sanctity to professional (archaeological, historical or scientific) knowledge. 

The work is divided into three parts, each dealing with a different ripple in the making of Mapungubwe. The first chapter covers the archaeological production of Mapungubwe, from the first excavational work in the 1930s, until more recent work, during the 2010s. During the 20th century, the topic of Mapungubwe, indeed the topic of the African past was cloistered in academic archaeology, particularly around the University of Pretoria. It is only after the end of apartheid that Mapungubwe beings to open up, at which time it is taken up by the state, and integrated into multiple educational and heritage projects. The second chapter looks at the introduction and progression of Mapungubwe in the South African national history education curriculum after 2003, at which time it is also made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Order of Mapungubwe. The chapter analyses the narrative presentation of Mapungubwe in the existing curriculum, and through what conceptual devices this narrative is constructed. The third chapter discusses the explosion of Mapungubwe into popular discourses, about a decade after its implementation in the education and processual concretisation as heritage. This deals with the dominant narratives, symbolic and conceptual sets (mnemonic infrastructures), and cultured thematics through which Mapungubwe is entered into the popular sphere.  

I make use of sources from various different disciplines, including archaeology, history, politics, education and history education, literary theory, fictive writing, sculpture, poetry, and touristic longform writing and advertising. The thesis has methodological and topical significance. I use ‘loss’ as a conceptual category in the analysis of history writing, that allows for a consideration of the breadth of public productivity in recouping the past. In this engagement with loss/discovery, I displace the sanctity of science, so as to consciously consider the representations of Mapungubwe in popular spheres, which have not yet been taken seriously. Finally, it is also to give some idea about the power ascribed to Mapungubwe as an event, a rupture in the precolonial, giving meaning and nuance to the period in history, which becomes constitutive of our contemporary understandings of the world, past and present, flung into the future.


Bloch, Joanne. “Letting things speak: a case study in the reconfiguring of a South African institutional object collection”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2016.

In this thesis I examine the University of Cape Town (UCT) Manuscripts and Archives Department object collection, providing insights into the origins of the collection and its status within the archive. Central to the project was my application of a set of creative and affective strategies as a response to the collection, that culminated in a body of artwork entitled Slantways, shown at the Centre for African Studies (CAS) Gallery at UCT in 2014.The collection of about 200 slightly shabby, mismatched artefacts was assembled by R.F.M. Immelman, University Librarian from 1940 until 1970, who welcomed donations of any material he felt would be of value to future scholars. Since subsequent custodians have accorded these things, with their taint of South Africa's colonial past, rather less status, for many years they held an anomalous position within the archive, devalued and marginalised, yet still well-cared for. The thesis explores the ways in which an interlinked series of oblique or slantways conceptual and methodological strategies can unsettle conventional understandings of these archival things, the history with which they are associated, and the archive that houses them. I show how such an unsettling facilitates a complex and subtle range of understandings of the artefacts themselves, and reveals the constructed and contingent nature of the archive, as well as its biases, lacunae and limitations in ways that conventional approaches focusing on its evidentiary function allow to remain hidden. This set of slantways strategies includes the use of a cross-medial creative approach, and my focus on an a-typical, marginalised and taxonomy-free collection. Also important is the incorporation of my visual impairment as avital influence on my artwork, leading to an emphasis both on unusual forms of seeing and on the senses of smell, touch and hearing. Furthermore, my choice to follow a resolutely thing-centred approach led me to engage very closely with the artefacts' materiality, and subsequently with their actancy as archival things, which in turn influenced my conceptual and creative choices.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/20272


Mhlambi, Thokozani Ndumiso. “Early radio broadcasting in South Africa: culture, modernity & technology”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2015.

This thesis tells the story of the events that led to a broadcasting culture in South Africa. It then proceeds to show how listeners were gradually brought into the radio community, notwithstanding all the prejudices of the time. Africans were the last ones to be considered for broadcasting, this was now in a time of crisis, during the Second World War. Through a look at the cultural landscape of the time, the thesis uncovers the making of radio in South Africa, and shows how this process of making was deeply contested, often with vexing contradictions in ideas about race, segregation and point of view. The thesis is useful to scholars of history, culture and, more importantly, of music, as it lays the necessary groundwork for in-depth explorations of music styles played and the African artists who grew out of broadcasting activities. In its appeal to a broader audience of literate and illiterate, it sparked the formation of a South African listening public. 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 African listeners into a modern- global imaginary of listeners. By bringing news from faraway places nearer, radio was a new kind of colonial modern encounter as it sought to redefine the nature of the local. The thesis therefore understands broadcasting as part of those technological legacies through which, in line with V Y Mudimbe (1988: xi), "African worlds have been established as realities for knowledge." Technology therefore appears as a recurring theme throughout this thesis. The primary material was gathered using archival methods. In the absence of an audio archive of recordings of the early broadcasts, the thesis relies to a large extent on written resources and interviews.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/17260


Van Rensburg (née Brown), Jessica Natasha. “Ethics of the dust: on the care of a university art collection”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2015.

This thesis examines the University of Cape Town (UCT) Permanent Works of Art Collection in order to determine its relevance to, and status within, the university. The text traces the historical and current roles of the university art collection in general, before focusing specifically on the UCT art collection’s history, including the contexts, events and personalities which shaped its development, from its embryonic beginnings in 1911, to the present. In an era which demands clear correlations between the allocation of resources and relevance to institutional goals, the contemporary university collection is under pressure to demonstrate its potential as a useful educational and interpretive tool within the university (the so-called ‘triple mission’ of collections: teaching, research and public display), or risk being consigned to obsolescence, even destruction. Based on a survey of the UCT art collection’s holdings, interviews, and a combination of bibliographic and archival research, undertaken between 2011and 2014, the thesis establishes that, whereas most university collections were traditionally constituted for the purpose of teaching and research, or for the preservation and exhibition of historical artefacts pertaining to a university and/or a specific discipline, this collection does not precisely fulfil either function.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/13651


Mataga, Jesmael. “Practices of pastness, postwars of the dead, and the power of heritage: museums, monuments and sites in colonial and post-colonial Zimbabwe, 1890-2010”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2014.

This thesis examines the meanings, significances, and roles of heritage across the colonial and postcolonial eras in Zimbabwe. The study traces dominant ideas about heritage at particular periods in Zimbabwean history, illustrating how heritage has been deployed in ways that challenge common or essentialised understandings of the notion and practice of heritage. The study adds new dimensions to the understanding of the role of heritage as an enduring and persistent source terrain for the negotiation and creation of authority, as well as for challenging it, linked to regimes and the politics of knowledge. This work is part of an emerging body of work that explores developments over a long stretch of time, and suggests that what we have come to think of as heritage is a project for national cohesion, a marketable cultural project, and also a mode of political organisation and activity open for use by various communities in negotiating contemporary challenges or effecting change. While normative approaches to heritage emphasise the disjuncture between the precolonial, colonial and postcolonial periods, or between official and non-official practices, results of this study reveal that in practice, there are connections in the work that heritage does across these categories. Findings of the study shows a persistent and extraordinary investment in the past, across the eras and particularly in times of crises, showing how heritage practices move across landscapes, monuments, dispersed sites, and institutionalised entities such as museums. The thesis also points to a complex relationship between official heritage practices and unofficial practices carried out by local communities. To demonstrate this relationship, it traces the emergence of counter-heritage practices, which respond to and challenge the official conceptualisations of heritage by invoking practices of pastness, mobilised around reconfigured archaeological sites, human remains, ancestral connections, and sacred sites. Counter-heritage practices, undertaken by local communities, challenge hegemonic ideas about heritage embedded in institutionalised heritage practices and they contribute to the creation of alternative practices of preservation. I propose that attention to the relationship between institutionalised heritage practices and community-held practices helps us to think differently about the role of local communities in defining notions of heritage, heritage preservation practices and in knowledge production.

 Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/12843


Dodd, Alexandra Jane. “Secular séance: Post-Victorian embodiment in contemporary South African art”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2014.

In this thesis I explore selected bodies of work by five contemporary South African artists that resuscitate nineteenth - century aesthetic tropes in ways that productively reimagine South Africa’s traumatic colonial inheritance. I investigate the aesthetic strategies and thematic concerns employed by Mary Sibande, Nicholas Hlobo, Mwenya Kabwe, Kathryn Smith and Santu Mofokeng, and argue that the common tactic of engagement is a focus on the body as the prime site of cognition and "the aesthetic as a form of embodiment, mode of being-in-the-world" (Merleau - Ponty). It is by means of the body that the divisive colonial fictions around race and gender were intimately inscribed and it is by means of the body, in all its performative and sensual capacities, that they are currently being symbolically undone and re-scripted. In my introduction, I develop a syncretic, interdisciplinary discourse to enable my close critical readings of these post-Victorian artworks. My question concerns the mode with which these artists have reached into the past to resurrect the nineteenth - century aesthetic trope or fragment, and what their acts of symbolic retrieval achieve in the public realm of the present. What is specific to these artists mode of "counter - archival" (Merewether ) engagement with the colonial past? I argue that these works perform a similar function to the nineteenth - century séance and to African ancestral rites and dialogue, putting viewers in touch with the most haunting aspects of our shared and separate histories as South Africans and as humans. In this sense, they might be understood both as recuperations of currently repressed forms of cultural hybridity and embodied visual conversations with the unfinished identity struggles of the artists’ ancestors. The excessive, uncanny or burlesque formal qualities of these works insist on the incapacity of mimetic, social documentary forms to contain the sustained ferocious absurdity of subjective experience in a "post - traumatic", "post - colonial", "post - apartheid" culture. The "post" in these terms does not denote a concession to sequential logic or linear temporality, but rather what Achille Mbembe terms an "interlocking of presents, pasts and futures". This "interlocking" is made manifest by the current transmission of these works, which visually, physically embody a sense of subjectivity as temporality. If the body and the senses are the means though which we not only apprehend the world in the present, but through which the past is objectively an d subjectively enshrined, then it is by means of the ossified archive of that same sensory body that the damage of the past can be released and knowledge/history re - imagined. Without erasing or denying South Africa’s well - documented history of violent categorisation, the hypothetical tenor of these works instantiates an alternate culture of love , intimacy, desire and inter - connectedness that once was and still can be.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/12814


 

Putter, Andrew. “Native work: an impulse of tenderness”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2013.

Native Work is an installation-artwork consisting of 38 portrait photographs. It was made in response to an encounter with the archive of Alfred Martin Duggan-Cronin’s photographs of black southern Africans taken between 1919 and 1939. In its creative focus on traditional black South African culture in a post-apartheid context, Native Work is one of a series of related - but independent - projects occurring contemporaneously with it in the city of Cape Town (a situation examined more closely in the conclusion to this document: see p. 33). Native Work is motivated by a desire for social solidarity - a desire which emerges as a particular kind of historical possibility in the aftermath of apartheid. As such, it finds inspiration in Duggan-Cronin’s commitment to affirm the lives of those black South Africans who many of his peers would have dismissed as unworthy subjects of such attention. Native Work echoes that commitment by staying close to an impulse of tenderness discernible in Duggan-Cronin’s life-long project, and pays homage not only to Duggan-Cronin, but also to the expressive life of those who appeared in his work.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/13994


Shoro, Kathleho Kano. “Terms of engaging and project-ing Africa (ns): an ethnographic encounter with African studies through Curate Africa”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2013.

In May 2012 Curate Africa - an ongoing project centered on photography and curation in Africa - was pre-launched at the University of Cape Town (UCT) within the University's Africa Month Celebrations. The project aimed- conceptually and visually - to re-imagine, re-image and re-envision Africa from within Africa and through the lenses of Africans. While this research began as an examination of Curate Africa, the project became a heuristic device through which I began exploring how UCT, on a day-to-day basis, negotiated and continues to negotiate its African identity. In this respect, this dissertation illustrates how Curate Africa and its project leaders - who are also academics within the University - problematised the study and representation of Africa through the intentions of their project, through their individual scholarly pursuits - where they attempt to reimagine the study of Africa(ns) and through the tight scholarly networks that they formed through their scholarly inclinations. Furthermore, this dissertation offers an historical account of the African Studies at UCT as well as an ethnographic account of how the developments and debates around the formation of the "New School" (2012) and around UCT's Afropolitan ambition unfolded within the University and affected those operating in the departments concerned. The principle argument within this dissertation is that projects, however flexible and decolonial in intention, cannot escape being projections of the project leaders' imaginings. Furthermore, projections and ideas of Africa (Mudimbe, 1994) are shaped by perceiving Africa from particular vantage points and within particular contexts laden with histories and complex presents. Perceptions of what "Africa" means and in the case of this research what postcolonial African Studies means continue to be debated from different vantage points within UCT. By and large, this ethnography therefore articulates the scale and challenges of knowledge production centred on the continent in general but, more specifically, the complexities embedded in knowledge production that seeks to be decolonial in its very nature.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/6794


McNulty, Grant. “Custodianship on the periphery: archives, power and identity politics in post-apartheid Umbumbulu, KwaZulu-Natal”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2013.

Since 1994, there have been significant shifts in official systems of record-keeping in South Africa. Notions of tradition and custom have been reconfigured within a legislative environment and in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, what was previously held separately as the domain of the 'tribal subject' (tradition and custom) now intersects with the domain of the democratic citizen (legislation, government records and archives). The intersection of these domains has opened up new cultural and political spaces in which the past in various forms is being actively managed. Through a study of contemporary Umbumbulu in southern KwaZulu-Natal, this thesis explores a host of custodial and record-keeping forms and practices, often in settings not conventionally associated with custodianship and archives. The study takes as its point of departure the Ulwazi Programme, a web initiative of the eThekwini Municipality that its advocates term a collaborative, online, indigenous knowledge resource. It then considers various other locations in Umbumbulu in which the past is being dealt with by certain traditional leaders and local historians such as Desmond Makhanya and Siyabonga Mkhize. The thesis argues that the activities of the subjects of the study reveal a blurred distinction between practices of custodianship and the production of versions of history and posits that they might be best described as practices of curation. Their activities show that the past, in a range of forms, is being mobilised in efforts to gain access to land and government resources, and to enter into the record marginalised historical claims and materials. Moreover, the types of knowledge that flow from their activities at a local level serve to unsettle dominant modes of knowing, including those related to custodianship, archives and identity, and they shape socio-political relations, with amongst others, the Zulu royal family and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal. The thesis advances the argument that in contemporary KwaZulu-Natal the terms, and the act, of consignation of depositing materials in a repository, out of public circulation and with limited access an action that enables both remembering and, once preserved, the possibility of forgetting, far from being a defined, archival procedure, is a tenuous, volatile, indeed actively negotiated and navigated, process.  

Link: https://fhya.org/AdditionalResources/file/id/189140?subquery=mcnulty


Kashe-Katya, Xolelwa. “Carefully hidden away: excavating the archive of the Mapungubwe dead and their possessions”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2013.

Ever since Jerry Van Graan first stumbled upon golden artefacts in 1933, Mapungubwe - an Iron Age civilisation that existed in the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers between 900 and 1300 AD - has been the subject of contestation. Initially knowledge production about Mapungubwe was informed by the need to make a case for the late arrival of Bantu-speaking people in Southern Africa ? a now discredited theory used to justify the subjugation of Africans. In the post-apartheid era, Mapungubwe became a focal point for a new form of myth-building: the myth of liberation and a romantic past but, in my view, with a neo-liberal bias. In this dissertation I interrogate the role played by the disciplines of archaeology and physical anthropology in the political contestation that has surrounded Mapungubwe, focusing on the production of knowledge. I do this by investigating the claim that Mapungubwe was shrouded or hidden away. In particular, I ask: What happens when disciplinary workings, in the course of knowledge production, construe an archive? What do museums, archives and other memory institutions hide and what do they reveal? What gets acknowledged as archive and what is disregarded? How is this knowledge presented in the public domain over time? Lastly, what happens when the archive is construed differently? My interrogation lays bare the continued discomfort and improvisation that prevails among those disciplines or institutions that engage with Mapungubwe. I have chosen to organise the core chapters of the thesis according to specific timeframes: before apartheid, during apartheid and after apartheid. This is done to demonstrate how archaeology, claimed as a science, was a powerful strategy deployed to exchange the messiness for the "true" knowledge of the past. The research on Mapungubwe, by way of the Greefswald Archaeological Project, was the most prolonged research project in the history of South Africa. Its four research phases, which began in 1933 and ended in 2000, mutated as the broader political landscape shifted. As a result, everything that can possibly play itself out in broader post-apartheid South Africa is present in Mapungubwe: contested claims, racial history, land dispossession, apartheid and the military, repatriation, post-apartheid claims, nationalism, pan-Africanism, ethnicity and more. This thesis demonstrates how the disciplinary practices of archaeology were instrumental in keeping Mapungubwe shrouded. An example of this "shrouding" is the deployment of highly technical language in writing about Mapungubwe. Before the end of apartheid, this epistemic hiding offered a convenient retreat for the discipline, to avoid engaging with issues facing South African society at large. This placed the discipline in a position of power, a position of "truth" and "objectivity". All inconvenient forms of knowledge were simply disregarded or silenced through choices, made by powerful institutions and individuals, about what was worthy of being archived. However, when the archive is differently construed, a different picture emerges.  

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/6790


Maaba, Lucius Bavusile (Brown). “The History and Politics of Liberation Archives at Fort Hare”. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cape Town, 2013.

This thesis, the first of its kind on liberation historiography, seeks to put the liberation movements archives housed at the University of Fort Hare in context. The thesis focuses mainly on the 1990s, when the repatriation of struggle material by Fort Hare working hand in glove with the liberation movements, mainly the African National Congress ANC), the Pan Africanist Congress(PAC) and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), was at its height. 

Link:  https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/11121


Mahashe, George. “Dithugula tÅ¡a Malefokana: paying libation in the photographic archive made by anthropologists E.J. & J.D. Krige in 1930s Bolobedu, under Queen Modjadji III”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2012.

How, and in what ways, might a visually - and artistically - inclined person gain knowledge from a body of ethnographic photographic objects? I approach this question by launching an inquiry into the Balobedu of Limpopo province, South Africa as masters of myth - making, the 1930s anthropologists as masters of perception and myth transmission, the camera as a mechanical tool that has no master and the photographic image and object as a slippery abstract, or thing, that resists taming. What binds Balobedu, anthropologists and photography in this relationship is their collaboration at particular points in time in the production of the knowledge that is now Khelobedu. Khelobedu refers to all knowledge, custom, practices and culture emanating from Bolobedu and its people. To do this, I assume, or play with, the character of ' motshwara marapo ' (keeper of the bones or master of ceremonies), a versed person who officiates in ceremonies involving multiple custodies, doing so by reciting stories and enacting activities that facilitate progress within ceremonies and rituals. My engagement explores the process of pacifying a disavowed ethnographic archive using the performative aspect of the photographic object's materiality with the aim of gaining knowledge of the indigenous and colonial, using concepts with origins in both categories.

Link:  https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/14569


Butcher, Clare. "The Principles of Packing: A case study of two travelling exhibitions from 1947-9". MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2012.

The travelling exhibition was formalised in a series of manuals, The Organization of Museums: Practical Advice (Museums and Monuments Series, IX) published by UNESCO as recently as the 1960s. Promoted as a utility for societies seeking to mediate rapid cultural change to one another in the period following the Second World War, my study highlights how certain elements of this display genre could be seen as inherent to all exhibitions: firstly, that carefully selected objects have the power to transport ideological and aesthetic values; secondly, that exhibitions are transient objects, in themselves worthy of study, as constructs of logistical, conceptual, public and political bolts and joints; and thirdly, that exhibition curators often play the role of diplomat – negotiating and mediating meaning across borders of various kinds. Though seemingly an obscure example, the large-scale international exchange of the Exhibition of Contemporary British Paintings and Drawings (1947-8) and the Exhibition of Contemporary South African Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture (1948-9) between the colonial centre and so-called ‘periphery’ of the South African Union, is a complex case study within a certain trajectory of travelling exhibitions. Never dealt with previously, the occurrence of such an exchange is significant not only because of its political context – in an immediate post-war, pre-apartheid moment – but also because many of the curatorial strategies used in the exchange process are heralded in UNESCO’s manual of Travelling Exhibitions (1953). To unpack this British-South African colonial freight could be easily regarded as a ‘merely’ art historical or archival gesture. If however, we understand the archive to be an historically determined framework within which to arrange cultural knowledge (Hamilton 2011), then an archive of travelling exhibitions makes both actual and contingent those cultural arrangements – the transient curatorial ‘principles of packing’ (UNESCO 1963). This project asserts that whether or not an exhibition is designated as such, travelling, as both an approach and the effect of curatorship, becomes the utility for mobilising not only objects but also ideas between contexts as seemingly disparate as those of the 1940s exhibitions or in today’s expansive ‘art worlds’.

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/7804


Greenwood, Megan. “Watchful witnesses : a study of the Crypt Memory and Witness Centre at St George's Cathedral and its Bearing Witness exhibition process”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2011.

This thesis examines four themes that surface through the Crypt Centre's activities towards its upcoming exhibition entitled Bearing Witness. The themes include the role of remembrance, bearing witness, the parameters of inclusions and exclusions, and the Crypt Centre's physical and symbolic significance.

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/10507


Winberg, Marlene. “Annotations of loss and abundance: an examination of the !kun children's material in the Bleek and Lloyd Collection (1879-1881)”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2011.

The Bleek and Lloyd Collection is an archive of interviews and stories, drawings, paintings and photographs of and xam and !kun individuals, collected by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd between 1870 and 1881 in Cape Town. My dissertation focuses on the !kun children's material in the archive, created by Lucy Lloyd and the four !kun boys, !nanni, Tamme uma and Da, who lived in her home in Cape Town between 1879 and 1881. Until very recently, their collection of 17 notebooks and more than 570 paintings and drawings had been largely ignored and remained a silent partner to the larger, xam, part of the collection. Indeed, in a major publication it was declared that nothing was known about the boys and stated that "there is no information on their families of origin, the conditions they had previously lived under, or the reasons why they ended up in custody" (Szalay 2002: 21). This study places the children centre stage and explores their stories from a number of perspectives. I set out to assess to what extent the four !kun children laid down an account of their personal and historical experiences, through their texts, paintings and drawings in the Bleek and Lloyd project to record Bushmen languages and literature. In order to do this, I have investigated the historical and socioeconomic conditions in the territory now known as Namibia during the period of their childhoods, as well as the circumstances under which the children were conveyed to Cape Town and eventually joined the Bleek- Lloyd household. I have looked at Lucy Lloyd's personal history and examined the ways in which she shaped the making of the collection in her home. I suggest that a consideration of the loss and trauma experienced by Lloyd may have predisposed her to recognition and engagement of, or at least, accommodation of, the trauma experienced by the !kun boys.

Link: https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/21627


Jappie, Saarah. “From madrasah to museum: a biography of the Islamic manuscripts of Cape Town”. MA Dissertation, University of Cape Town, 2011.

This paper focuses on the Islamic manuscripts of Cape Town, locally referred to as kietaabs, written by Muslims predominantly in the 19th century, in jawi (Arabic-Malay) and Arabic-Afrikaans. Inspired by the idea of a 'biography' of the archive and 'the social life of things', the study traces the life of the kietaabs, from their creation and original use, to their role in contemporary South African society, as objects of heritage and identity. It approaches the kietaabs as objects, emphasizing their movements, status and use, rather than their content.