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Kobus Moolman’s The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories stands out for its unusual perspectives

This story collection by multiple award-winning poet, author and playwright Kobus Moolman is a volume of unconventional potency.

Written in a range of styles, voices and genres, each of the ten stories offers original insights into the difficulties of staying afloat. Whether the challenge is being differently abled (with all the outsider isolation this brings); lower-income family life under unbending patriarchal rule; or being born a female child in an abusive, gendered culture, the narratives are convincing (often humorous) in their portrayal of trapped lives striving for transcendence.

The darkly funny ‘Kiss and the Brigadier’ invokes the stultifying boredom of small-town life and the captured mentalities of its understimulated citizens; ‘Extracts from a Dispensable Life’ offers a creative and sensitive reading of the gender violence theme; while the irreverent but never disrespectful ‘Angel Heart’ ventures into the risky waters of religious send-up.

The Swimming Lesson and Other Stories is a collection that stands out for its unusual perspectives; its frank, often uncomfortable treatment of taboo topics; its creative risk-taking; and its skilful and observant recreation of worlds gone by, which still leave their aftershocks.
 
 

Kobus Moolman is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Western Cape. He has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2015 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, and has presented his work at literary festivals in South Africa, Ireland and Canada.

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Breathing Spaces – a photographical exploration of the relationship between people and their neighborhoods in Durban


 

Breathing Spaces is a book of environmental portraits, composed of photographs taken in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a few years after South Africa’s democracy. It explores how photographic images can move us, can unlock personal and shared memories, can prompt public debate, can unsettle us and challenge us to think about alternative environmental futures. The photographs in Breathing Spaces explore the relationship between people and three neighbourhoods located south of Durban harbour: Wentworth, Merebank and Lamontville.

Durban’s densely populated southern basin is well known as a flashpoint of pollution perpetrated by South African industries and transnational petrochemical corporations. It is also known for the conflict over plans for further, dirty economic growth.

Breathing Spaces: Environmental Portraits of Durban’s Industrial South presents portraits of people and living spaces taken by social documentary photographer Jenny Gordon. These are interleaved with reproductions of images from family albums and are variously accompanied by extracts from Marijke du Toit’s conversations with the people portrayed, their friends, family and neighbours. A selection of photographs taken by local residents who participated in photographic workshops and exhibitions, held in the particular neighbourhoods, are also included. As a composite portrait, this book presents long histories of personal, communal and familial places in South Durban. It explores the possibilities of photography through conversation, and conversation through photography. It is about the struggle to take personal breath against social and environmental injustice.

Historian Marijke du Toit is based in the Faculty of Arts at the University of the Western Cape, where she works as a specialist for teaching and learning in Higher Education. Before moving to UWC she was based at the History Department of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.

Photographer Jenny Gordon lectures photojournalism at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, Grahamstown.
 

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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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Living Together, Living Apart? explores social cohesion in South Africa

These ‘interventions’ are spurred by what in South Africa today is a buzz-phrase: social cohesion. The term, or concept, is bandied about with little reflection by leaders or spokespeople in politics, business, labour, education, sport, entertainment and the media.

Yet, who would not wish to live in a socially cohesive society? How, then, do we apply the ideal in the daily round when diversity of language, religion, culture, race and the economy too often supersedes our commitment to a common citizenry? How do we live together rather than live apart? Such questions provoke the purpose of these interventions.

The interventions – essays, which are short, incisive, at times provocative – tackle issues that are pertinent to both living together and living apart: equality/inequality, public pronouncement, xenophobia, safety, chieftaincy in modernity, gender-based abuse, healing, the law, education, identity, sport, new ‘national’ projects, the role of the arts, South Africa in the world.

In focusing on such issues, the essays point towards the making of a future, in which a critical citizenry is key to a healthy society.
 
 
 

Contributors include leading academics and public figures in South Africa today: Christopher Ballantine, Ahmed Bawa, Michael Chapman, Jacob Dlamini, Jackie Dugard, Kira Erwin, Nicole Fritz, Michael Gardiner, Gerhard Maré, Monique Marks, Rajend Mesthrie, Bonita Meyersfeld, Leigh-Ann Naidoo, Njabulo S. Ndebele, Kathryn Pillay, Faye Reagon, Brenda Schmahmann, Himla Soodyall, David Spurrett and Thuto Thipe.

Christopher Ballantine, Michael Chapman and Gerhard Maré are professors emeriti who are affiliated to the University of KwaZulu-Natal. They have all published prominently in areas of the humanities and social sciences in South Africa. Kira Erwin is a researcher at the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology. Her publications focus on race, space and urban identities.

Contents

Introduction
1 At Ease with Being ‘Citizen’ and ‘Human Being’
Njabulo S. Ndebele

2 Human Variation: What Can We Learn from Genetics?
Himla Soodyall and Faye Reagon

3 Agreeing to Disagree
David Spurrett

4 The Danger of Empty Words: from Rhetoric to Action
Kira Erwin

5 What Social Cohesion? Binding through Shared Austerity
Gerhard Maré

6 Where Walls Don’t Divide: Dreaming a Suburban Life
Monique Marks

7 Bound by Tradition: Chieftaincy in a ‘New’ South Africa
Thuto Thipe

8 ‘AmaNdiya, they’re not South Africans!’ Xenophobia and Citizenship
Kathryn Pillay

9 ‘Them’ and ‘Us’: Politics, Poetry and the Public Voice
Michael Chapman

10 ‘Urban Cool!’ Social Bridging in Language
Rajend Mesthrie

11 Sounds like a Better Future: Musicking for Social Change
Christopher Ballantine

12 Embroidering Controversy: The Politics of Visual Imaging
Brenda Schmahmann

13 Mothers, Children and Mathematics: Ways to a Better Society
Ahmed Bawa

14 Coercion or Cohesion? Educators in a Democracy
Michael Gardiner

15 Sexual Harassment and Violence: Higher Education as Social Microcosm
Jackie Dugard and Bonita Meyersfeld

16 The ‘Hidden’ Curriculum of South African Sport
Leigh-Ann Naidoo

17 The Global Obligations We Owe: A Source of Domestic Cohesion?
Nicole Fritz

18 The Death of Jacob Dlamini
Jacob Dlamini

Living Together, Living Apart?

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  • Living Together, Living Apart?: Social Cohesion in a Future South Africa by Christopher Ballantine, Kira Erwin, Gerhard Mare
    EAN: 9781869143329
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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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NGOs and Social Justice in South Africa and Beyond invites careful reflection on the role of NGOs in SA

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are regarded by many as vital role players in improving the lives of the poor and bringing about social justice.

This book includes contributions from NGO workers, academics and social movement activists in order to provide varying perspectives on what possible role NGOs can rightly play in popular struggles. Consequently, the book does not have a single message about what role NGOs ought to play in struggles for social justice, but rather invites careful reflection and critical discussion on their role both in South Africa and further afield.

Sally Matthews teaches in the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University. Her research and teaching focuses on the African continent, with particular interests in the politics of development and NGO work, the politics of teaching about Africa, and race and transformation in South African higher education.

Contributors: Kirk Helliker, Mazibuko Jara, Ayanda Kota, Injairu Kulundu, Tshepo Madlingozi, Firoze Manji, Sally Matthews, Koketso Moeti, Gladys Mpepho, Michael Neocosmos, Patronella Nqaba, Thapelo Tselapedi, Ashley Westaway.
 
 

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Panel discussion – Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Volumes 1 and 2 by Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer

University of KwaZulu-Natal Press and the Department of Historical Studies, University of Cape Town invite you to a panel discussion of Tribing and Untribing the Archive. Both volumes will be sold as a single set.

The discussion will be followed by snacks.

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Mandla Maphumulo recipient of the PanSALB Award for Inhlamvu Yelanga

Mandla Abednego Maphumulo has won the PanSALB Award (2016-2017) in the Language and Literature Category (isiZulu) for his book Inhlamvu Yelanga, a collection of short stories in isiZulu.

This PanSALB Award recognises both the written and the oral modes of linguistic and/or literary expression. It is for individuals/writers who have contributed to the promotion and preservation of all the official South African languages i.e. Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu, Khoi, Nama, San, as well as sign language.

Congratulations, Mandla!

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Jeff Opland awarded the Order of Ikhamanga: Silver for his contribution to history and South African literature

Jeff Opland has been awarded the Order of Ikhamanga: Silver for his outstanding contribution to the field of history and an impressive body of works in literature. The award read: “Your work exhumes stories of the dead and brings them to life so that the living can continue to learn and benefit.”

The Ikhamanga flower (more commonly referred to as the strelitzia, crane, or bird or paradise flower) is one of the world’s most recognisable flowers and is indigenous to the Eastern Cape. The Ikhamanga is the central motif of the Order of Ikhamanga and symbolises the unique beauty of the achievements of South Africans in the creative fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

The Opland Collection of Xhosa Literature is the academic library of Jeff Opland assembled in the course of his research into Xhosa folklore, especially praise poetry, and the history of Xhosa literature. Its contents include field recordings of Xhosa poets (1969–85), books and pamphlets in isiXhosa, and copies of literature published in ephemera. The Publications Series draws on material in the Collection, and presents diplomatic editions with English translations of significant works in isiXhosa, for the most part previously unrecognised or unavailable as published books, and studies of material in the Collection.

The ceremony will be held at the Presidential Guest House on 28 April 2017.

John Solilo: Umoya wembongi

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