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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Launch: isiSheshwe by Juliette Leeb-du Toit (14 September)

The cross-cultural usage of a particular cloth type – blueprint – is central to South African cultural history.

Known locally as seshoeshoe or isishweshwe, among many other localised names, South African blueprint originated in the Far East and East Asia.

Adapted and absorbed by the West, blueprint in Africa was originally associated with trade, coercion, colonisation, Westernisation, religious conversion and even slavery, but residing within its hues and patterns was a resonance that endured.

The cloth came to reflect histories of hardship, courage and survival, but it also conveyed the taste and aesthetic predilections of its users, preferences often shared across racial and cultural divides.

In its indigenisation, isishweshwe has subverted its former history and alien origins and has come to reflect the authority of its users and their culture, conveying resilience, innovation and adaptation and above all a distinctive South Africanness.

In this beautifully illustrated book Juliette Leeb-du Toit traces the origins of the cloth, its early usage and cultural adaptations, and its emerging regional, cultural and aesthetic significance.

In examining its usage and current national significance, she highlights some of the salient features associated with histories of indigenisation.

An art historian who has a particular interest in African and South African art, Juliette Leeb-du Toit has also had a lifelong interest in design and textiles. She is currently engaged in the recovery of modernisms in design history, the impact of German modernism in South Africa and the impact of China on the arts in South Africa.

Isishweshwe

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A collection of Zakes Mda’s non-fiction to be published in November

Justify the EnemyThis book is a collection of non-fiction by the prolific author Zakes Mda. It showcases his role as a public intellectual with the inclusion of public lectures, essays and media articles. Mda focuses on South Africa’s history and the present, identity and belonging, the art of writing, human rights, global warming and why he is unable to keep silent on abuses of power.

Some of his best-known novels include Ways of Dying (1995, MNet Book Prize); The Heart of Redness (2000, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Africa, and Sunday Times Fiction Prize); The Madonna of Excelsior (2002, one of the Top Ten South African books published in the Decade of Democracy); The Whale Caller (2005); Cion (2007); Black Diamond (2009); The Sculptors of Mapungubwe (2013); Rachel’s Blue (2014); and Little Suns (2015, Sunday Times Literary Award).

Zakes Mda was born in Herschel in the Eastern Cape in 1948 and studied in South Africa, Lesotho and the United States. He wrote his first short story at the age of fifteen and has since won major South African and British literary awards for his novels and plays. His writing has been translated into twenty languages. Mda is a professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University.

J.U. Jacobs is an emeritus professor and senior research associate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is the co-editor of Ways of Writing: Critical Essays on Zakes Mda (2009) and author of Diaspora and Identity in South African Fiction (2016).

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Sitting Pretty explores the postapartheid identity of white Afrikaans women through the concepts of ordentlikheid and the volksmoeder

At the opening of South Africa’s first democratic parliament in 1994, newly elected president Nelson Mandela issued a clarion call to an unlikely group: white Afrikaans women, who during apartheid straddled the ambivalent position of being simultaneously oppressor and oppressed.

He conjured the memory of poet Ingrid Jonker as ‘both an Afrikaner and an African’ who ‘instructs that our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child’. More than two decades later, the question is: how have white Afrikaans women responded to the liberating possibilities of constitutional democracy?

With Afrikaner nationalism in disrepair, and official apartheid in demise, have they re-imagined themselves in opposition to colonial ideas of race, gender, sexuality and class?

This book explores this postapartheid identity through the concepts of ordentlikheid, as an ethnic form of respectability, and the volksmoeder, or mother of the nation, as enduring icon.
 
 
 
Christi van der Westhuizen is associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pretoria.

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IsiShweshwe traces the origins of the cloth, its early usage, and cultural adaptations

The cross-cultural usage of a particular cloth type – blueprint – is central to South African cultural history.

Known locally as seshoeshoe or isishweshwe, among many other localised names, South African blueprint originated in the Far East and East Asia.

Adapted and absorbed by the West, blueprint in Africa was originally associated with trade, coercion, colonisation, Westernisation, religious conversion and even slavery, but residing within its hues and patterns was a resonance that endured.

The cloth came to reflect histories of hardship, courage and survival, but it also conveyed the taste and aesthetic predilections of its users, preferences often shared across racial and cultural divides.

In its indigenisation, isishweshwe has subverted its former history and alien origins and has come to reflect the authority of its users and their culture, conveying resilience, innovation and adaptation and above all a distinctive South Africanness.

In this beautifully illustrated book Juliette Leeb-du Toit traces the origins of the cloth, its early usage and cultural adaptations, and its emerging regional, cultural and aesthetic significance.

In examining its usage and current national significance, she highlights some of the salient features associated with histories of indigenisation.

An art historian who has a particular interest in African and South African art, Juliette Leeb-du Toit has also had a lifelong interest in design and textiles. She is currently engaged in the recovery of modernisms in design history, the impact of German modernism in South Africa and the impact of China on the arts in South Africa.

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“Handle history with care – it might come back to bite you”: Stephen Coan on Tribing and Untribing the Archive


 

Former features writer for the Witness, writer-director in film and theatre, and freelance journalist, Stephen Coan, recently wrote an article on Tribing and Untribing the Archive, edited by Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer, discussing the significance of past events which has shaped the current political order. Read Coan’s insightful piece here:

Decolonisation. The use of the word is much in vogue at present; usually invoked to advocate a move away from a Eurocentric focus to one that is Afrocentric. If the concept is to be pursued with serious intent it could have quite unexpected implications for traditional leaders, not only in the province of KwaZulu-Natal but the whole of South Africa.

These implications are made clear in Tribing and Untribing the Archive – Identity and the Material Record in Southern KwaZulu-Natal in the Late Independent and Colonial Periods, edited by Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer, published in two slipcased volumes and consisting of twenty essays and an epilogue drawn from a multidisciplinary team of contributors, including archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, art historians, archivists and curators.

According to the editors the essays provide a window into “not only to see how archives give shape to history, but also how history gives shape to archives.”

But what exactly is “the archive”? On one level it is what has been written: what is found in state repositories, missionary records, personal papers, recorded oral testimony and newspapers. However Tribing and Untribing the Archive goes further, drawing attention “to the extent of the material culture record … little appreciated by researchers outside art history and archaeology.”

Consequently material objects such as snuff spoons, sticks, photographs and artworks are brought within the compass of the archive thus allowing scope for such essays as Nontobeko Ntombela’s Shifting contexts: Material, Process and Contemporary Art in Times of Change and Hlonipha Mokoena’s quirky and intriguing ‘Knobkerrie’: Some Preliminary Notes on the Transformation of a Weapon into a Swagger Stick, or Sometimes a Stick is Not Just a Stick which teases out out the meaning and complexities of a photograph (c.1890) depicting two policemen, one (white and seated) with a swagger stick and the other (black, barefoot, and standing) holding a knobkerrie.

Another group of essays, which include an aspect of Christoph Rippe’s pioneering work on the photographic collections at Mariannhill Monastery plus André Croucamp’s delving into tourism promotion by the Natal Government Railways, reveal how the image of “the Zulu” popularly assumed to be a product of the Zulu heartland north of the Thukela was in fact constructed much further south with paintings and photographs made within easy travelling distance (firstly by horse, then rail) of Durban.

Whatever a contributor’s particular focus all the essays coalesce under the umbrella of the title essay, Tribing and Untribing the Archive by Hamilton and Leibhammer, which elaborates on how “yoked together in the service of colonial and later apartheid rule, the pernicious combination of tribe and tradition continues to tether modern South Africans to ideas about the remote past as primitive, timeless and unchanging, despite substantial scholarly and public critical discussion of the fallacy of these notions.”

Speaking at the book’s launch in Johannesburg contributor John Wright said the most frequent response to its content was: “‘Well, if we can’t call them tribes, what can we call them?’”
“It’s the wrong question,” he countered. “The issue is not about finding new names for a category, but rethinking the nature of the category altogether. Historical work is showing that before the 19th century Africans lived not in bounded, relatively homogeneous ‘tribes’, but in polities, for which we have no word in English, that were fluid, relatively loosely structured groups, organized round the exigencies of making and remaking alliances, and incorporating newcomers.”

“Many people – black and white – today find it very difficult to think beyond Africans as ‘always’ having lived in tribes. They find it very difficult to think historically about African polities.”

While Tribing and Untribing the Archive has a specific regional focus – that of southern Kwazulu-Natal, bounded by the Thukela River in the north and the Mzimvubu in the south – the insights it contains have far wider application. “This area had a very distinctive colonial experience,” said Hamilton at the launch. “And it had a very distinctive experience before that, both before and after Shaka built up his power. What happened in this region has ramifications for the rest of the country.”

With the arrival of white settlers in significant numbers from the 1840s onwards southern KwaZulu-Natal became subject to colonial administration which saw Theophilus Shepstone, the Diplomatic Agent to the Native Tribes, devise a form of indirect rule which controlled African communities via the power of their chiefs. Non-compliant chiefs were either marginalised or, as in the case of the Hlubi leader Langalibalele kaMthimkhulu, designated rebels and violently subjugated. However, the great majority of chiefs recognised by Shepstone happily acquiesced in this system of government and turned it to their advantage. Thus by the end of the nineteenth century the concept of the “tribe” as the basic social and political unit of African society had become rooted in the minds of both the coloniser and the colonised.

Since 1994, as Grant McNulty details in his essay (Re)discovering the Correct History, numerous communities in KwaZulu-Natal have called for recognition of their pasts and identities both before their assimilation into the Zulu kingdom during the time of King Shaka kaSenzangakhona or their later status under colonial rule, “wrestling with how best to navigate these oppressed histories and how and what to present as evidence in support of their claims.”

This has seen frequent recourse to the archive, as the Campbell Collections in Durban and local state repositories can attest, in order “to strengthen and validate claims for traditional leadership submitted to the Nhlapo Commission and the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims.” The archive has also been used by lawyers investigating land claims while many members of the public have taken to researching their histories to try and re-establish their roots and identity.

According to McNulty the resultant re-emergence of the pre-Zulu history of the Hlubi, Ndwandwe, Quabe, and Nhlangwini represents “a direct threat to the authenticity and power of the Zulu king as a custodian and symbol of a unified Zulu nation.”

Post-1994 the liberation movements deliberately moved away from the tribal concept, a trajectory widely expected to continue. “Paradoxically, the opposite has happened,” according to Wright in Making Identities in the Thukela-Mzimvubu Region.

“National and provincial governments sought first to accommodate and then to win the support of ‘traditional leaders’ by recognising and augmenting the authority they exercised in terms of ‘customary law’ in ‘tribal areas’ based on those established in the eras of colonialism and apartheid.” Or, to put it another way, what is the decolonisation project to do with traditional leaders whose status came into being as the result of collaboration with the colonial regime or direct colonial appointment?

There are no easy answers to such questions and if nothing else, as Mbongiseni Buthelezi puts it in his perceptive epilogue: “These volumes show us that we know neither enough about the past before colonialism nor about the ways in which local institutions were reshaped in the early years of colonialism to suit a form of indirect colonial rule.”

“We need more investigation into the longer past because the more we know about the forms of social organisation, leadership, relations between neighbours and so on that existed prior to the advent of European settlement, the better we give back to the present and future their pasts.”

Tribing and Untribing the Archive marks both a beginning of that process and a challenge to the current political order.

 

Tribing and Untribing the Archive

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Durban book launch of Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Volumes 1 and 2

University of KwaZulu-Natal Press invites you to the launch of Tribing and Untribing the Archive. Dr Vukile Khumalo will be in conversation with editors Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer.

Both volumes of Tribing and Untribing the Archive will be sold as a single set.

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The Illustrated Glossary of Southern African Architectural Terms an insightful look at the culture of southern Africa’s rural builders

Since 1994 South Africa has undergone a steady erosion of its indigenous built environment, with a concomitant loss of indigenous building technology and its specialised terminology.

This glossary is based on the premise that you cannot understand the culture of a people unless you have a grasp of the nuances and hidden meanings of their language and brings together in one single volume the terminologies that are used by southern Africa’s rural builders. It covers the terminology used by indigenous builders as well as subsequent colonial white settlers including buildings of the so-called Cape Dutch, English Georgian, Victorian and Indian Traditions.

The text is set out in alphabetical order. It comprises each term in its original language, its translation where appropriate into isiZulu, and its definition in English and isiZulu. One of the strengths of this book is its visual component of accompanying sketches that expertly illustrate the terms.

This book is designed not only to assist in the teaching of architecture, but also to aid others who are interested in the field. Researchers and practitioners in disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology, culture studies and building science will find it a valuable addition to their libraries.
 

Franco Frescura was Professor and Chair of Architecture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has published widely in the fields of indigenous architecture, colonial settlement and culture conservation. He has lectured in Europe, North America and South-East Asia. In 2010–2011 he was appointed Erasmus Mundus Scholar at the Technische Universität Darmstadt.

Joyce Myeza was a Fulbright Scholar at Simmons College, Boston. She is currently the Director of Libraries and Special Collections at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her current research interests include indigenous knowledge systems and enterprise architecture.

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Book launch: Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Volumes 1 and 2

University of KwaZulu-Natal Press and the Public Affairs Research Institute invite you to the launch of Tribing and Untribing the Archive: volumes one and two. Both volumes will be sold as a single set during the launch.

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UKZN Press pays tribute to Martin Legassick

It was with sadness that UKZN Press learnt that one of its authors, Martin Legassick, prolific historian, political economist and lifelong activist for justice, died on 1 March, after a long struggle with cancer.

RIP Martin Legassick (1940 – 2016)

Towards Socialist DemocracyLegassick’s major work Towards Socialist Democracy was published by UKZN Press in 2007 but his internationally regarded contributions to critical sociopolitical analysis date back to a New Left Review article on white violence in 1964. In June 2015 he was among 10 Marxist economists honoured by the World Association for Political Economy with the “Distinguished Achievement Award of World Political Economy of the 21st Century”, largely attributable to Towards Socialist Democracy.

Legassick studied in Britain and the US, and in exile was a member of the African National Congress. In 1985 he was expelled from the ANC as a result of his membership of the Marxist Workers Tendency. He then turned his attention to labour and community organising. Many of the lessons of independent-left political work are found in Towards Socialist Democracy, as he sought to understand the myriad catalysts for self-activity of oppressed peoples.

After 1994, his work in South Africa had not only intense contemporary relevance as he joined social movements and at the end of his life supported the Democratic Left Front, but he also published several books about Eastern and Northern Cape history in the tradition of historical materialism. His base was the University of the Western Cape, but he travelled widely and was known in many of South Africa’s universities and political meeting halls.

It is not just the memory of his unstinting commitment to socialism, but also his intellectual research that will live on. The intensely political contestations of ideas about race and class in South Africa that have endured since the 1960s owe much to Martin Legassick among others of his generation, such as Steve Biko, Archie Mafeje, Harold Wolpe, Ruth First, Neville Alexander and Ben Magubane. His empirical analysis and theorising about whether apartheid was functional to capital are still considered classics, for example, his 1974 articles “South Africa: Capital Accumulation and Violence” in Economy and Society and “Legislation, Ideology and Economy in Post‐1948 South Africa” in the Journal of Southern African Studies.

An enormously rich legacy awaits those who delve deeper into Legassick’s oeuvre. We are proud to have made available, in Towards Socialist Democracy, what Legassick last year termed “the product of 40 years of activism, discussion and research” and we hope this extraordinary scholar-activist output will inspire many more in his footsteps.

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Presenting the 8th Volume in Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer’s Series: British Settlers in Natal 1824 – 1857

British Settlers in Natal 1824 - 1857Coming soon – the latest addition to Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer’s historical series, British Settlers in Natal 1824 – 1857: A Biographical Register Volume 8 Haigh–Hogshaw:

Since 1963, Spencer has been engaged in a massive research project to identify the emigrants who came to Natal from Britain before 1858, and to collect biographical material on them and their children. Although the work focuses on emigrants who came to settle in Natal, its interest and usefulness are not confined to this province.

For some of the new Natalians, and many of the next generation, moved on to the inland republics, to the Cape Colony or to Australia. Each of the entries contains biographical information, a list of the settler’s children and a list of sources. The biographies range in length from a few lines to several pages; the list of children includes the dates of their births and deaths and details of their marriages.

The series includes:

British Settlers in Natal: Vol 1 Abbott-Ayres
British Settlers in Natal: Vol 2 Babbs-Bolton
British Settlers in Natal: Vol 3 Bonde-Byrne
British Settlers in Natal: Vol 4 Cadle-Coventry
British Settlers in Natal: Vol 5 Coward-Dykes
British Settlers in Natal: Vol 6 Eagle-Fyvie
British Settlers in Natal: Vol 7 Gadney-Guy

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