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African Maritime Archaeology  

Edward Pollard

The continent of Africa has had a lengthy involvement in global maritime affairs and archaeological research with Middle Stone Age people using marine resources on the coasts of southern Africa, the Classical Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, and Medieval Indian Ocean trade on the Swahili coast to the Atlantic triangular slave trade. Maritime archaeology is the identification and interpretation of physical traces left by people who use the seas and oceans. Middle Stone Age sites in South Africa such as Klasies River Mouth and Pinnacle Point have the earliest evidence for human use of marine resources including birds, marine mammals, and shellfish. This exploitation of marine resources was also coincident with the use of pigment, probably for symbolic behavior, as well as the production of bladelet stone tool technology. The extensive timespan of human activity on the coast around Africa occurred during changing relative sea levels due to Ice Ages and tectonic movement affecting the location of the coastline relative to maritime archaeological sites. Geomorphological changes may also take place over shorter periods such as the 1909 ce shipwreck of the Eduard Bohlen in Namibia lying c. one and half thousand feet landward of the shoreline. Ancestors of sea-going vessels have been recorded on rivers from dugout canoes excavated at Dufuna in northern Nigeria and the first plank-built boats, such as the Old Kingdom Royal Ship of Cheops of Khufu, found at the Giza pyramids, which imitated the shape of earlier papyrus rafts. Classical documents such as the Periplus Maris Erythraei and Ptolemy’s Geographia record Arabian and Indian trade with eastern Africa including ivory and rhinoceros horn and describe fishing practices using baskets and sewn-hull boats of the inhabitants. The increase in oceanic trade links here during the medieval period encouraged the formation of Swahili port cities such as Kilwa and Mombasa. The former was in a strategic position to manage much of the gold trade between Sofala in Mozambique and the northern Swahili Coast. Portuguese forts, constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries on their trade routes around Africa, such as Elmina Castle in Ghana, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya, and Fort São Sebastião on Mozambique Island, dominate the ports and harbors. The first sub-Saharan underwater scientific investigations took place in 1976 of the Portuguese frigate Santo Antonio de Tanna that sunk during an Omani siege from 1696 to 1698. At Elmina in West Africa, studies were made of wreck-site formation processes around the 17th-century Dutch West India Company vessel Groeningen, which had caught fire when firing its guns in salute to Elmina Castle after arrival. More broad-based studies that interpret the functioning of the African maritime society in its wider environmental setting, both physically in the context of its religious buildings, harbors, fishing grounds, sailing routes, and shipwrecks, and by taking account of non-material aspects of the beliefs that influence behavior of coastal societies, have led to interpretations of their maritime outlook.


The African Methodist Episcopal Church in Africa  

Christina Dickerson-Cousin

In 1816, Richard Allen and other Black Methodists established the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Although this independent, historically Black denomination began in the United States, its early members and ministers had global ambitions. They intended for the AME Church to serve marginalized people of color around the world. Planting the institution in Africa played an important role in this vision. African Methodists began migrating to Sierra Leone and Liberia in the first half of the 19th century. In these locales, they hoped to find a respite from the oppression they faced in the American South. The AME Church grew in these regions and, later, in South Africa. By the AME denomination’s bicentennial year in 2016, there were six African episcopal districts spanning various regions of the continent. Women, both clergy and lay, have played significant roles in AME Church history. African women are a part of that historical pattern. Charlotte Manye Maxeke helped to initiate African Methodism in South Africa. Europa Randall facilitated AME expansion in Ghana. Louise York served as a pioneering educator at two AME schools in Liberia. Her daughter, Katurah York Cooper, established a thriving church in Monrovia. These and other trailblazing women assisted in the growth and development of African Methodism in Africa.


Albert Luthuli  

Robert Vinson

Albert Luthuli, president of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid organization, became the first African-born recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1961. During Luthuli’s presidency (1952–1967), the ANC became a mass organization, articulating a broad, inclusive African nationalism and leading the Congress Alliance, a multiracial, multi-ideological anti-apartheid coalition that shared Luthuli’s vision of a democratic, equitable South Africa. The Prize recognized Luthuli’s Gandhian strategy to end South African apartheid, state-sanctioned laws and policies designed particularly to ensure White supremacist racial domination over the African majority, who were approximately 75 percent of the country’s population. The Nobel also reflected Luthuli’s success in portraying apartheid as a crime against humanity that violated the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and to contextualize South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle as central to expanding global human-rights campaigns. The Nobel Peace Prize cemented Luthuli’s enduring image as an uncompromising advocate of nonviolence who—during intense debates in 1960 and 1961 within the anti-apartheid movement about the relative efficacy of violent and nonviolent tactics against an increasingly violent apartheid state—remained implacably opposed to Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which eventually became the ANC’s armed wing. But recently available archival documents, along with autobiographical accounts and oral interviews reveal that Luthuli accepted and authorized MK while insisting that the ANC maintain its official nonviolent position. In retrospect, the Nobel Prize was the apogee of Luthuli’s global renown, as increasingly restrictive state bans limited his ability to participate in political activity. Despite Luthuli’s tragic and still-controversial 1967 death, the ANC survived lethal state repression to become in 1994 the first democratically elected governing party in South African history. But Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner eventually became overshadowed by younger ANC leaders Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. This article aims to recover Luthuli from relative historical obscurity and highlight his key leadership of the ANC as it transformed into a mass anti-apartheid movement and his revolutionary belief that apartheid South Africa could become one of the world’s first truly multiracial democracies.


An Environmental History of Southern Africa  

Jasper Knight

Southern Africa has experienced significant environmental changes since the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent, starting around 180 million years ago. These environmental changes broadly reflect the interplay between tectonic and global-scale climatic drivers, which in combination result in changes to the properties and dynamics of land surface physical and ecological processes. The preserved record of such processes can be used as proxy indicators to reconstruct past environments and climates. In southern Africa, different types of proxy indicators have formed and are preserved in different geographical areas, broadly corresponding to their individual climatic and geomorphic contexts. Three significant time intervals over which landscape evolution have taken place are the Phanerozoic, the late Quaternary, and the last 200 years. A critical outcome of this analysis is that the record of environmental change in southern Africa is highly variable and only partly preserved, and that there are spatial and temporal gaps which mean that it is difficult to construct a continuous or unambiguous environmental history either for all areas of the region or for all time intervals. Changing physical drivers and environmental controls over time, including land surface feedbacks, are now being supplanted by a stronger imprint of human activity in the Anthropocene.


Animals in African History  

Sandra Swart

Animal history in Africa—the multi-species story of the continent’s past—as a separate subdisciplinary “turn” is both recent and tentative, but as an integrated theme within the broader historiography it is both pioneering and enduring. Historians of Africa have long engaged with animals as vectors of change in human history and, of course, at the same time, understood that humans were a key agent of change in animal histories too, especially in the long-lived and extensive writing on epizootics, livestock farming, pastoralism, hunting, and conservation. African animal histories should resist the imposition of intellectual paradigms from the Global North.


The Archaeology of Christian Missions in Southern Africa  

Chris Wingfield

Archaeological engagements with historic Christian mission stations have increased significantly since the late 1990s, but in joining the established dialogue between historians and anthropologists about mission pasts in southern Africa, the distinctive contribution offered by archaeological approaches has not always been recognized. Interdisciplinary conversations have at times focused on excavation, archaeology’s most distinctive method, and the material evidence this uncovers, without recognizing the distinctive ways of thinking and working that archaeologists have developed to understand the past on the basis of its material traces. Through an engagement with the material world as it exists in the present, archaeologists develop understandings of the past that form the basis of new narratives. This is a form of engagement shared with others, including local and family historians, and on which many people’s engagements with museums and heritage sites are based, including a number of museums and heritage sites based in and around historic mission sites in southern Africa. Engaging the traces and remains of missionary pasts in this way, whether through places, artifacts, images, or texts, has the potential to reveal traces of ways of acting, thinking, and being that were not recognized or understood within the textual sources upon which many early 21st-century understandings of southern Africa’s missionary past have been built. This form of engagement, overlapping as it does with the projects of enthusiasts and nonprofessional scholars, has the potential to generate new stories that can become the basis of new interpretations at heritage sites and museums. As places that were not the exclusive preserve of any single racial or ethnic group, Christian missions have the potential to allow stories to be told that include a range of forms of historical engagement, from displacement and refuge, to slavery and emancipation in the Cape, from collaboration and conflict in the face of expanding colonial frontiers, to tension, negotiation, and compromise between missionaries and African leaders both within, and beyond, formal colonial boundaries. Missionary pasts exemplify histories of racial mixing as well as segregation, and provide a glimpse into the multiple ways in which a range of future-oriented political and religious projects were imagined and manifested, but also frequently failed. Christian missions are boundary objects, with the potential to constitute borderlands where a range of academic disciplines, but also nonacademic projects, can come together to develop new ways of making sense of the past in as yet undetermined and potentially transformative ways. In an expansive and globally comparative mode, the archaeology of Christian missions has the potential to illuminate some of the ways in which Christianity itself has been remade in southern Africa, but also remade as southern African, since the early 19th century.


Archaeology of Colonial Settlement at the Cape  

Antonia Malan

Colonial settlement at the southern tip of Africa was pre-dated by 150 years of occasional encounters with European mariners. They touched on the coast to refresh water barrels, barter for meat with the local pastoralists, and repair their crafts, or in some cases found themselves wrecked and desperate on the shores of the “Cape of Storms.” It became the “Cape of Good Hope” after fleets of European ships profiteered from the sea route to the resources of India and Asia, among them the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British. The formal date for permanent foreign occupation of the Cape is 1652, when a Dutch East India Company (VOC, the Company) force anchored in Table Bay and, with some basic tools, materials, and supplies, set up camp. After the decline and bankruptcy of the VOC in the late 18th century, a brief military occupation by the British (1795–1802), and an interim Dutch (“Batavian”) administration (1803–1806), the Cape became a British colony. By 1820 the Cape Colony stretched northward as far as the Orange River, and eastward to the Fish and Tugela rivers. Colonial settlement expanded with the arrival of traders, pastoralists, missionaries, and emigrants and created volatile zones in which settlers and African hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, and farmers contested with one another over land and resources. The colonial project continued into the later 19th century, spurred by the discovery of gold and diamonds far inland where independent Boer republics and Griqua states had been established. British imperialism and the lure of mineral wealth led to wars of annexation. Following the Second South African (“Anglo-Boer”) War (1899–1902) and subsequent attempts to reunify the country, in 1910 the “Union of South Africa” became a self-governing dominion within the British Empire, gaining formal independence in 1934. Thus, colonial settlement at the Cape covers a 250-year period and a vast area (roughly equivalent to the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape Provinces, and parts of North West Province). From an archaeological perspective, studies encompass the city of Cape Town and sites fanning out from there chronologically and spatially, such as grazing grounds, military outposts, the towns and villages of the coast and hinterland, arable and pastoral farms, sites of conflict and interaction, missions, and mines.


Archaeology of Farming Communities in Mpumalanga Province and the Adjacent Lowveld in Northeastern South Africa  

Alex Schoeman

Farming Communities have lived in northeastern South Africa since the 4th century ad. Archaeologists use pottery style and radiocarbon dates in their reconstructions of the temporal and spatial distribution of these farming community settlements in the Lowveld, on the Great Escarpment and on the Central Plateau. Early Farming Community sites tend to be restricted to the Lowveld and river valleys, while Middle and Late Farming Community sites are distributed more widely. Early Farming Communities lived in scattered homesteads until the development of chiefdoms toward the end of the first millennium. Chiefly settlements comprised larger, aggregated sites. After the 16th century, larger-scale aggregation started, resulting in extensive, dense settlements such as the stonewalled Bokoni towns. Food production and procurement ranged from small household-scale practices to specialized hunting and intensive farming. Salt and metal extraction and production also were important components in the regional economy. The initial production of salt was household based, but Middle Farming Communities developed this into a specialized industry. Metal production was not industrialized and, while the scale of metal production increased through time, production took place at a household level. Since the early 10th century ad, these local enterprises intersected with international trade systems, thereby linking the interior of South Africa into international trade networks. These indigenous networks, however, were disrupted and at times intentionally disarticulated when European colonial powers extended their control over southern Africa.


Archaeology of the Last Two Thousand Years in Namibia  

John Kinahan

The introduction and spread of food production in Namibia during the last two thousand years was subject to patchy and unpredictable rainfall. Rainfed cultivation of millet by Bantu-speaking farming communities was limited to the far northern region, but seminomadic cattle husbandry was better adapted to this environment. Hunter-gatherer groups in Namibia seem to have been assimilated rather than displaced by farming communities, and the expansion of Khoe-speaking pastoralists into southern Namibia was accompanied by a widespread transition to food production among hunter-gatherers. In the last two millennia, hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, and farmers in Namibia have formed part of a complex precolonial economy which also incorporated locally developed techniques for the processing and storage of wild plant foods.


Archaeology of the Past Two Thousand Years in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa  

Gavin Whitelaw and Aron D. Mazel

Hunter-gatherers were the sole occupants of the southern African landscape for many thousands of years. Khoe-speaking pastoralists and then Bantu-speaking farmers entered the subcontinent around two thousand years ago. They introduced different lifeways, belief systems, and technologies. Archaeological evidence from KwaZulu-Natal reveals interaction between farmers and hunter-gatherers in this region from the time of first contact to the 1800s ad. There may also have been an ephemeral pastoralist presence in western KwaZulu-Natal around two thousand years ago. During the 1st millennium ad in the Thukela basin, hunter-gatherers appear to have focused their lives on the wooded central basin that Early Iron Age farmers favored for settlement. Interaction between the two groups seems to have centered on men and been built around hunting. The Blackburn ceramic facies at the beginning of the 2nd millennium marks the first settlement of Nguni-speaking farmers in KwaZulu-Natal. The material cultural signature of Early Iron Age farmers disappeared and relations between hunter-gatherers and farmers shifted as some Blackburn farmers took hunter-gatherer women into homestead life as wives. A renewed hunter-gatherer focus on rock shelters in the Drakensberg coincided with the settling of upland grasslands by farmers in the 14th century. From the 16th century, the region slowly integrated into global networks and then experienced colonization in the 19th century. These processes had implications for both farmers and hunter-gatherers. They contributed to the emergence of large polities in the northeast of the region and, ultimately, the elimination of hunter-gatherer lifeways.


The Bantu Expansion  

Koen Bostoen

The Bantu Expansion stands for the concurrent dispersal of Bantu languages and Bantu-speaking people from an ancestral homeland situated in the Grassfields region in the borderland between current-day Nigeria and Cameroon. During their initial migration across most of Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa, which took place between approximately 5,000 and 1,500 years ago, Bantu speech communities not only introduced new languages in the areas where they immigrated but also new lifestyles, in which initially technological innovations such as pottery making and the use of large stone tools played an important role as did subsequently also farming and metallurgy. Wherever early Bantu speakers started to develop a sedentary way of life, they left an archaeologically visible culture. Once settled, Bantu-speaking newcomers strongly interacted with autochthonous hunter-gatherers, as is still visible in the gene pool and/or the languages of certain present-day Bantu speech communities. The driving forces behind what is the principal linguistic, cultural, and demographic process in Late Holocene Africa are still a matter of debate, but it is increasingly accepted that the climate-induced destruction of the rainforest in West Central Africa around 2,500 years ago gave a boost to the Bantu Expansion.


Ceramics and Archaeology in Southern Africa  

Per Ditlef Fredriksen

Pottery has been part of daily life in southern Africa for the last two millennia. The frequent occurrence at settlement sites and its resistance to decay makes pottery the most common proxy for past food-producing communities (farmers and livestock herders), who made containers for cooking, serving, and storing foods and liquids. Provided that pots and sherds have enough diagnostic features to indicate décor patterns and vessel shape, trained eyes can get an instant and literally cost-free peek into past movement and interaction. Various material sciences offer high-precision dating and insights into less visible characteristics, and ethnographic insights are helpful for understanding more intangible aspects, such as the organization of production, pots’ roles in social practices and belief systems, and the transmission of knowledge and skills through apprenticeship. Potting has been a highly gendered activity, and attention to social identity is instrumental in widening the range of lenses through which archaeologists view past material culture. In this manner, by focusing on skilled craft networks dominated by women, ceramic research can provide a critical corrective alternative to more traditional top-down narratives that trace the evolution and interaction of (male) elites. However, the European and North American legacy of archaeological classification in southern Africa cannot be overlooked. Ceramic classification may still unwillingly project a Western-centered understanding of the human condition, mobility, and social change. While unacceptable labels that refer to outmoded notions of tribalism have long been replaced by more neutral terms, this does not mean that ceramics provide archaeology with a neutral “tracking device.” A continual key challenge for practitioners in southern Africa is to situate ceramic analysis within a wider thematic and disciplinary nexus in order to construct convincing deep time narratives while also exploring new pathways to insights that can give voices to otherwise silent or subaltern members of past societies.


Christian Missions and the State in 19th and 20th Century Angola and Mozambique  

Teresa Cruz e Silva

Christian missionary work in Angola and Mozambique during the colonial and postcolonial eras was shaped by a complex of factors related to religion, education, and politics. Missionaries’ networks of local support played an outstanding role in their humanitarian work, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. By the end of the 19th century, Catholic and Protestant missions had established themselves in Angola and Mozambique. Until 1974, Protestants had a tense relationship with the Portuguese authorities, as they were suspected of serving the political interests of some European countries against Portugal, and later of supporting African opposition to colonial domination. Unlike the Protestants, the Catholic Church enjoyed a close collaboration with the ruling regime. Under the Concordat and the Missionary Accord of 1940 and the Missionary Statute of 1941, which were agreed between the Vatican and Portugal, Catholic missions enjoyed a privileged position to the detriment of Protestants, whose activities were severely restricted. The years that followed the independences of Angola and Mozambique in 1975 were characterized by open hostility to religion, aggravated by the nationalization of missions’ assets and properties in both countries. Mission activities related to education and health became hard to carry out. With the civil wars in Angola and Mozambique, warfare and dislocation gave a new social role to the churches. Between the mid-1980s and 1990 the first signs of new policies emerged. While in Angola the relationship between church and state was marked by ambiguity and mistrust, cooperation and collaboration prevailed in Mozambique, where the 1980s saw a rapprochement and constructive dialogue between the two institutions. This was sealed by the roles both Protestants and Catholics played in the peace and democratization processes. The political opening that characterized the 1990s and 2000s brought significant changes for both countries including the presence in the public space of new churches, especially those of Pentecostal denominations. The new sociopolitical contexts in Angola and Mozambique between the late 20th and early 21st centuries shaped the new roles of the missions, which remain more focused on social, rather than political, activities.


Clements Musa Kadalie and the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa  

Henry Dee

Between 1919 and 1929, Clements Musa Kadalie rose to worldwide fame as secretary of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa (ICU). Under his leadership, the ICU transformed Southern Africa’s labor movement. Organizing black railway, dock and factory workers, miners, domestic servants, and farm laborers across South Africa, South West Africa (modern-day Namibia), Basutoland (Lesotho), and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) into “One Big Union,” the ICU led a number of strikes, challenged pass laws and unionized anywhere between 100,000 and 250,000 members. Over six foot tall and always dressed in an immaculate suit, Kadalie regularly addressed mass meetings of thousands of people across rural and urban South Africa. Kadalie was born in Chifira, Tongaland, British Central Africa Protectorate (modern-day Malawi) around 1895. After being expelled from the local mission school, he migrated via Southern Rhodesia to South Africa. He was elected as the ICU’s secretary at its first meeting. The ICU took a leading role in the 1919 Cape Town dock strike and won wage increases for dock workers in 1920. By 1925, the trade union had over 50 branches across Southern Africa and a widely circulating newspaper, The Workers’ Herald. In 1927, Kadalie toured Europe, calling on the international labor movement to campaign against a raft of repressive legislation. Amid fractious internal disputes, however, Kadalie’s “czarlike” character, frivolous expenditure and “foreign” birth were publicly denounced by rivals, and the financial contributions of ICU members collapsed. Kadalie led a breakaway Independent ICU from February 1929 and called a general strike in East London in January 1930. He passed away on November 28, 1951, leaving a complicated legacy. The ICU’s radical rhetoric and mass mobilization, nevertheless, demonstrated both the possibility and necessity of organizing black workers and inspired black leaders across the world for decades to come.


Climate Change and Society in Southern African History  

Matthew Hannaford

Climate has emerged as one of a number of themes in debates concerning the formation and disaggregation of African state structures before the colonial era. The proliferation of paleoclimatic data series from “natural archives” such as tree-rings has shed increasing light on changes in temperature and precipitation stretching back millennia. Such long-term climatic changes could have enduring effects on human livelihoods in agriculturally marginal areas. The apparent coincidence of periods of climatic change with major turning points in African history over the last millennium has therefore led to claims of causation, with early moves towards state formation in the Shashe–Limpopo basin (c. 1000–1220ce) and in KwaZulu-Natal (c. 1750–1800) linked to contemporaneous warm–wet conditions, and the decline, or “collapse,” of state structures, including Mapungubwe (c. 1300ce) and Great Zimbabwe (c. 1450ce), linked to a shift to cooler and drier regional climates. Recent literature from both within and outside of the southern African context has begun to question the veracity of climate-driven historical change. In the southern African case, there remains considerable uncertainty concerning the climate history of the region prior to 1800. The climatic signatures captured by some records are ambiguous in their representation of temperature or precipitation, while many long-duration climate records available for southern Africa are simply of insufficient temporal resolution to capture the short-term extremes in rainfall that have proved challenging to societies in more recent centuries. Even where there is robust evidence for the coincidence of wet or dry conditions with societal change, African farming communities were far from passive observers, but responded to environmental stress in a variety of ways. The relative length, continuity and richness of the historical record in Zimbabwe and Mozambique after. c. 1505 provides opportunities to look more closely at these relationships. From the early 16th century onwards, Portuguese observers left records of those droughts which most impacted societies. These short-term extremes—usually back-to-back years of deficient, irregular or delayed rainfall, sometimes coupled with locust plagues—had varying effects between and within societies as they were “filtered” through different levels of societal vulnerability and resilience, which in turn engendered divergent responses. Analysis of over three centuries of written records on the pre-colonial period suggest that climate-related stress alone, while sometimes leading to famine, was rarely enough to cut deeper into the political fabric of the region; yet, when combined with weak institutional capacity, warfare, or increasingly uneven distributions of power, extreme and protracted droughts could prove decisive and help bring about transformations in society. The Mutapa state and lower Zambezi valley during the late 16th and early 19th centuries, as well as the Zulu kingdom in the 1820s, serve as cases in point.


Communism in South Africa  

Irina Filatova

The history of communism in South Africa began with the formation in 1921 of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). The party was entirely white, as was the majority of organized labor—its main constituency. The CPSA attempted to fight for equality of black and white workers, but white labor refused to desegregate, and the party’s support among Africans was practically nonexistent. In 1928, the Communist International (Comintern), of which the CPSA was a member, sent it an instruction to work for an “independent native republic.” This slogan helped the party to attract a black membership, but resulted in much infighting. The CPSA’s position strengthened during World War II, but in 1950, after Afrikaner nationalists came to power, the party was banned. It re-emerged in 1953 as the underground South African Communist Party (SACP). Since then, the party has worked closely with the African National Congress (ANC). Many of its cadres were simultaneously ANC members. In 1955, communists helped to formulate the Freedom Charter, the ANC’s overarching program. In 1960, the SACP launched the armed struggle against apartheid. The ANC took the nascent liberation army under its wing in 1963. In the early 1960s, many party members, including Nelson Mandela, were arrested or forced into exile. The party had a deep ideological influence on the ANC: from 1969, its ideas on South Africa as a colony of a special type and on the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) have become part of all ANC programs. After the end of apartheid, communists occupied important positions in all ANC governments. Despite this, many in the SACP have been unhappy with the direction the ANC has taken. However, the party has not contested elections on its own, trying instead to influence ANC policies from inside. This has cost it its reputation as a militant revolutionary party.


Culture and Society at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652–1795  

Gerald Groenewald

In 1652 the Dutch East India Company founded a “refreshment station” in Table Bay on the southwestern coast of Africa for its fleets to and from the East Indies. Within a few years, this outpost developed into a fully-fledged settler colony with a “free-burgher” population who made an existence as grain, wine, and livestock farmers in the interior, or engaged in entrepreneurial activities in Cape Town, the largest settlement in the colony. The corollary of this development was the subjugation of the indigenous Khoikhoi and San inhabitants of the region, and the importation and use of a relatively large slave labor force in the agrarian and urban economies. The colony continued to expand throughout the 18th century due to continued immigration from Europe and the rapid growth of the settler population through natural increase. During that century, about one-third of the colony’s population lived in Cape Town, a cosmopolitan harbor city with a large transient, and overwhelmingly male, population which remained connected with both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds. The unique society and culture that developed at the Cape was influenced by both these worlds. Although in many ways, the managerial superstructure of the Cape was similar to that of a Dutch city, the cosmopolitan and diverse nature of its population meant that a variety of identities and cultures co-existed alongside each other and found expression in a variety of public forms.


Cyril Ramaphosa  

Anthony Butler

Cyril Ramaphosa became South Africa’s fifth post-apartheid president in February 2018. He was born close to the center of Johannesburg in 1952 and grew up in the dormitory township of Soweto. A Christian and black consciousness activist in his youth, he was detained and held in solitary confinement twice in the mid‑1970s. He founded the giant National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980s and rose rapidly in the liberation movement after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Ramaphosa led the African National Congress (ANC) team in the negotiations that enabled a transition to constitutional democracy in 1994, before political marginalization forced him to divert his energies into business. The unionist-turned-tycoon returned to political prominence fifteen years later, rising to deputy president of the ANC in 2012, president of the movement in 2017, and then state president the following year. As president, he has wrestled with intractable problems, including a sclerotic economy and public institutions weakened during the tenure of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.


Dambudzo Marechera  

Julie Cairnie

Charles William (Dambudzo) Marechera (1952–1987) was born in poverty in Rusape, Zimbabwe and died in poverty in Harare, Zimbabwe. He was and continues to be celebrated as an iconoclast, the “enfant terrible” of African literature, and a cult figure with many acolytes across the globe. He was born in and formed by White-ruled Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe when independence was achieved in 1980) but was also deeply influenced by eight years in the United Kingdom and an immersion in European literature. The House of Hunger (1978) is Marechera’s most famous and impactful work. It is a stream-of-consciousness novella, published with nine other satellite stories, that is a semiautobiographical engagement with Ian Smith’s Rhodesia. The novella is simultaneously beautiful and brutal. The House of Hunger won the prestigious Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979, and Marechera disrupted the awards dinner by dressing in an eclectic costume and throwing plates at the chandeliers. The book and Marechera were so celebrated that there was a Channel Four production that combined a biographical study of Marechera, documenting his time in the United Kingdom and his return to an independent Zimbabwe in 1982, and a film rendering of The House of Hunger. Unfortunately, there was an acrimonious break with the White South African filmmaker, Chris Austin. After his abrupt departure from the film project, Marechera stayed in Zimbabwe until his death five years later. In England and Zimbabwe, he wrote in a range of genres: prose, poetry, plays, essays, and even children’s literature. After the initial success of The House of Hunger, Marechera found it frustratingly difficult to publish his intellectual and esoteric work. Three books were published while he was alive (The House of Hunger, Black Sunlight, and Mindblast); three were published posthumously by his literary executor, Flora Veit-Wild (The Black Insider, Cemetery of Mind, and Scrapiron Blues). All six of these books were published between 1978 and 1994, but Marechera’s work continues to exert influence and make deep impressions on readers, whether formally trained or not, whether African or not. In addition to The House of Hunger, in Marechera’s essay “The African Writer’s Experience of European Literature” (1987), he embraces the influence of European literature on his own writing—a fidelity that is evident in his work and criticized by readers who prefer African writing that contributes to nation-building rather than privileges introspection. His essay demonstrates the breadth of his reading and the multifarious texts—from across the globe—that influenced all of Marechera’s work and captures his resistance to narrow labels that define writing and writers. Marechera continues to generate creative, critical, and theoretical responses from a variety of artists and thinkers from a range of locations—geographical, social, and racial, such as Yvonne Vera, NoViolet Bulawayo, China Miéville, Comrade Fatso, Helon Habila, and many more.


Development in Lesotho  

John Aerni-Flessner

Contestations around the idea and practice of development in Lesotho’s history illustrate the tensions that have accompanied development projects on the African continent during the colonial and postcolonial periods. The concept of “development” gives space to actors—international agencies, foreign governments, Basotho political leaders, and common people—to communicate visions for local communities and the nation. Individuals and communities in 19th-century Lesotho took advantage of new economic opportunities afforded by changing regional dynamics and they explored notions of “progress” (tsoelo-pele in Sesotho) in their everyday lives and cultural practices. However, the explicit term “development” came from 20th-century programs run by the British colonial administration in an effort to justify empire. After independence, Basotho saw development projects as an even higher priority because they were a proxy for the manifestation of independence. The postindependence period has seen interest in Lesotho’s development efforts by international partners wax and wane with regional and global geopolitical turns. The apartheid era saw Lesotho reap much development funding due to the state’s enclave status within South Africa, but much of this funding went away when the Cold War and apartheid ended. Thus, post-1994 development efforts have been more regionally focused on efforts like the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and the fight against HIV/AIDS. While the range of international partners has changed, Basotho in the 21st century continue to demand a role in shaping and planning development efforts that impact their country and communities. This is, broadly speaking, also true for most places on the African continent. Thus, examining the history of development in Lesotho shows how Africans have attempted to engage with and change development projects and ideas. This local voice has helped shape the ways in which colonialism, the Cold War, the antiapartheid movement, Structural Adjustment Programs, and the fight against HIV/AIDS have played out in local communities.