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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:No chief, no exchange, no story
Author:Hofmeyr, IsabelISNI
Periodical:African Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
oral history
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Education and Oral Traditions
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/00020188908707709
Abstract:Those societies in 19th-century Transvaal, South Africa, that felt the brunt of Boer incursions, most heavily confronted a predicament in which the ideas of chieftaincy appeared to be in jeopardy. The fact that Boers had scant regard for chiefs, had far-reaching implications for oral history itself. Men, whose business it was to know and create chiefly history had to sharpen the craft of narrating defeat with dignity. Much oral history that talks of the 19th and 20th century can be read as a response to this question and, not surprisingly, much of this oral history stands as a series of retrospectives on near apocalypse. It is with the oral account of one quiet apocalypse that this paper is concerned. This micro-upheaval involved the caves of Gwa°sa or Makapansgat where, in 1854, the Boers and their Kgatla auxiliaries besieged an Ndebele/Sotho community under chief Mokopane. The three-week siege, during which several thousand people died, had been precipitated by the murder of several Boers. The paper begins by examining a few 'expert' tellings of the Gwa°sa story with a view to understanding how their craft works. Thereafter, it turns to the role that such historical narration may have played in the past. The final section examines in broad outline how some of the conditions upholding this form of storytelling have shifted. Notes, ref.