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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Python and the Crying Tree: Interpreting Tales of Environmental and Colonial Power in the Transkei
Author:Tropp, Jacob
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
Great Britain
nature conservation
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3559432
Abstract:By 1888, the growing momentum for conservation in colonial circles resulted in the establishment of a forest conservancy in the Transkei, South Africa. Yet as foresters began implementing plans for forest reservation and conservation in particular settings, their efforts were immediately embroiled in local cultural politics in ways that colonial officials did not understand. As officials surveyed the mountain forest environments of the Gqogqora area of the Tsolo District, they encountered popular stories among local Mfengu communities of violent forests, disappearing people and 'unaccountable' wild animals - narratives they dismissed as examples of African irrationality and superstition. However, such accounts in fact expressed the significance of specific forest resources and animal symbols in the practices of ritual divination and healing that were closely associated with the well-being and protection of local communities. These stories not only served to restrict popular access to forest areas and species 'reserved' for ritual specialists, but further reflected Africans' complex perspectives on the meaning of local environmental control in the region and the impact of colonial efforts to undermine it. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]