Joseph Millerd Orpen’s ‘A Glimpse into the Mythology of the Maluti Bushmen’: a contextual introduction and republished text. 2013

Joseph Millerd Orpen’s article recounting the ethnographic data he collected from a Bushman informant (Qing) whilst searching for Langalibalele in the southern Maloti-Drakensberg is a key document for southern African archaeology, one of the

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  137 Southern African Humanities 25 : 137–66 November 2013 KwaZulu-Natal Museum   ISSN 2305-2791 (online); 1681-5564 (print)  Joseph Millerd Orpen’s ‘A Glimpse into the Mythology of the Maluti Bushmen’: a contextual introduction and republished text Mark McGranaghan ,  Sam Challis and  David Lewis-Williams Rock Art Research Institute, GAES, University of the Witwatersrand, PO Wits, 2050 South Africa;;; ABSTRACT Joseph Millerd Orpen’s article recounting the ethnographic data he collected from a Bushman informant (Qing) whilst searching for Langalibalele in the southern Maloti-Drakensberg is a key document for southern African archaeology, one of the cornerstones in the decipherment of the rock art of the region.  This article publishes a slightly edited version of Orpen’s article with paragraph breaks and headings to facilitate the reading of this crucial document, as well as selections from Bleek’s Second report concerning Bushman researches   and Lloyd’s  A short account of further Bushman material collected   that help situate Orpen’s  work within the intellectual community of the nineteenth-century Cape Colony. The article also locates this work within the substantial corpus of Qing- and Orpen-related scholarly material, outlining the major uses made of the work thus far.KEY WORDS: Archaeology, history, Melikane, oral history, Orpen, Qing, rock art, Sehonghong.  Joseph Millerd Orpen’s article, rst published in the Cape Monthly Magazine   in 1874, is the main source of information regarding the symbolic and mythological worlds of the Southern San populations of the Maloti-Drakensberg. Although the article is relatively brief when compared to the Bleek-Lloyd archive (Skotnes 2007) that documents the narratives and lifeways of the | Xam San from the central interior plateau, it provides a crucial link between the San people of these two regions. While there are of course differences between the material recorded by Orpen and that preserved in the Bleek-Lloyd corpus, this article does illustrate the substantial similarities that existed in the mythological beliefs and ritual lives of Southern San populations in these two very different ecological zones.Orpen’s article has formed a cornerstone in the ethnographic decipherment of San rock art (Mitchell 2002: 33). The article is republished here because it is so pivotal to our collective scholastic endeavour, and we hope that this slightly edited version, as  well as the additional reports from Bleek and Lloyd, will aid researchers in the study of the rare text. In large part this work has focused on (and been led by) the imagery of the painted rock shelters of the Maloti-Drakensberg that were familiar to Qing. Qing was conversant with the practice of painting, although he seems not to have been a painter himself. By contrast, the | Xam informants interviewed by Bleek and Lloyd appear not to have been engaged at that time in the production of rock art, or at least not to have discussed the art with their interviewers, except in response to copies. It is no surprise, therefore, that Orpen’s article has long exerted an inuence over scholars interested in elucidating the content of the rock-art imagery of the subcontinent. It has in consequence been the focus of considerable critical and contextual scrutiny. Before presenting the edited transcription of Orpen’s account, we recount the use of his material in scholarship concerning the San populations of southern Africa. This connection can be traced right back to the srcins of what Bleek called ‘Bushman researches’.  138   SOUTHERN AFRICAN HUMANITIES 25: 137–66, 2013 PREVIOUS SCHOLARSHIP  While Orpen’s article is unique in terms of the testimony that it preserves, at the time of its publication it was not an isolated endeavour. Orpen’s family was very much part of the intellectual network of the Cape Colony (Bank 2006; Lewis-Williams 2008), 1  corresponding and working with other scholars interested in ‘Bushman researches’. Most obviously, this is indicated in Wilhelm Bleek’s notes appended to the article itself (for Orpen’s connections with the Bleek-Lloyd project and details of how this appendix came to be written, see Bank 2006: 304–11, 339), but it can also be seen in the acknowledgements of Bleek’s (1875) Second report concerning Bushman researches and his co-worker Lloyd’s (1889)  A short account of further Bushman material collected  ,   points of which are reprinted here. Orpen was also connected with another scholar with an interest in ‘Bushman’ material, George William Stow, for whom he (and his brother, Charles Sirr Orpen) searched for and copied examples of San rock art (see p. 166; for another example of Stow’s connection with the Orpen family, see Stow and Rupert  Jones 1874: 581; Stow 1905: x). Since its publication, Orpen’s work has been situated in a context that emphasised (and questioned) the relevance of the information it contains for understanding San beliefs and practices (see below).From the mid-twentieth century onward, use of the article has focused on the information in relation to larger questions regarding the mythological worlds and ritual beliefs and practices of the Southern San, particularly on the part of rock-art researchers (e.g. Willcox 1963; Woodhouse 1968; Lee & Woodhouse 1970; Rudner & Rudner 1970; Lewis-Williams 1972, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2003; Vinnicombe 1972, 1975, 1976; Smits 1973; Jolly 1986, 1995, 1996, 2006b; Botha & Thackeray 1987; Yates & Manhire 1991; Solomon 1997; Dowson 1998; Parkington 2002; Lewis- Williams & Pearce 2004; Challis 2005; Mallen 2005; Lewis-Williams & Challis 2011).  The signicance of the article to forming an ethnographically based understanding of the Maloti-Drakensberg rock art fundamentally relies on contextualisation. Indeed, the article is important precisely because of the context of its collection: a unique instance in which San and European individuals stood together in front of specic rock paintings 2  and discussed their signicance. It is undoubtedly true that “[b]y modern anthropological standards the manner in  which the Maluti material was collected is unsatisfactory” (Lewis-Williams 1980: 480). Nevertheless, it remains an account that preserves ethnographic information (however distorted) and, despite Orpen’s (see p. 151) claim that there must be “many gentlemen  who could afford a few hours’ leisure to make inquiries for [Dr. Bleek]”, it remains our only detailed source for the mythology of the San of the Maloti-Drakensberg. So, of course, scholars have long suggested that we scrutinise every clue the article has left us (Vinnicombe 1976: 314; Lewis-Williams 1980: 468).  The srcinal article itself notes some of the ongoing difculties that researchers face in interpreting the information it contains: Bleek stressed the problematic reliance on a single informant (one who, furthermore, was ‘young’ and ‘uninitiated’) and the dangers attendant on the “medium of an imperfect interpretation” (Bleek, see p. 163). Clearly, Qing omitted to describe a great deal of his knowledge; unlike the Bleek-Lloyd material, his account was collected under the aegis of a project that did not have the recording of San folklore as its primary aim (Mitchell & Challis 2008: 403). In addition, his recounting occurred over a far shorter period than that of the    MCGRANAGHAN ET AL.: J.M. ORPEN’S 1874 ARTICLE REPUBLISHED   139 Bleek-Lloyd project. Further complications can be found in the differences between the recording processes in each instance. Unlike the Bleek-Lloyd project, which was initiated as a linguistic programme, Orpen did not record the verbatim   remarks of his informant, let alone the srcinal language in which they were spoken. Thus, difculties of ‘reading’ this dense text are compounded by historiographical questions regarding the faithfulness of Orpen’s portrayal of Qing’s comments: even before considering any deliberate biases or omissions, researchers are faced with the possibility that the unrecorded convolutions of translation have distorted the srcinal sentiments. Orpen, for example, was reluctant to discuss what he saw as obscene depictions and practices, preferring along with Gibbon to leave “all licentious passages … in the obscurity of a learned language” (Gibbon 1994: 211). 3 ETHNOGRAPHIC CONTEXTUALISATION Such obvious concerns have long preoccupied scholars concerned with the text (e.g. Lewis-Williams 1981: 31–2), and intensive scrutiny of its reliability as an ethnographic source have remained central to the many detailed analyses of the material. It is worth remembering that contextualisation is an active process: there is no pre-existing setting in which the article can be situated that will somehow produce a ‘correct’ reading. Rather, contexts are themselves constructions, devices used to coax information from recalcitrant materials; researchers should therefore ask about the kinds of context that have previously been investigated and the aims of these investigations when returning to the material anew.For the most part, scholarship directed at the article has been concerned with the construction of an anthropological understanding of the beliefs and practices of Maloti-Drakensberg hunter-gatherers, and the paucity of direct ethnographic data 4  from this region has necessitated the construction of appropriate analogues. The primary source for wider ethnographic contextualisation has been the Bleek-Lloyd archive, though data from San societies farther north in Botswana have also been deployed (e.g.   Lewis-Williams 1992). The evidently similar “general character” (Bleek, see p. 162) of the information recorded from Qing and that recounted by the Bleek-Lloyd informants forms the basis of attempts to contextualise his remarks. Placing Qing’s narratives in the context of the Bleek-Lloyd archive allows us in some measure to overcome the limitations that we have outlined by giving some indication of  what Qing did not talk about and clarifying that which he did. Although it is obviously impossible to argue with certainty regarding many elements, the striking parallels of narrative theme, such as those occurring in | kagg  ə n/Cagn’s 5  creation of and relationship  with the eland (Lewis-Williams 1997: 202), allow one to pick apart the specics of Qing’s ‘mythology’; the secluded kloof into which Cagn stashes his young eland, for example, probably represents a montane localisation of | kagg  ə n’s eland-in-the-reeds (Lewis-Williams 1981: 32). Comparative approaches even reveal similarities in the srcinal phraseology employed: Qing’s account of how Cagn went about ‘getting trouble’ from his ghts, strikingly recalls the ways in which | kagg  ə n’s family (especially his grandson | ni, the ichneumon mongoose) would chastise him for going about ghting foolishly (LL.II.9.974). 6  In more general anthropological terms, Mitchell and Hudson (2004) propose that the ‘ canna  ’ plant mentioned in the article is an analogue for the  ʃ   o-  ǀ  oa    plant ‘charms’ mentioned in the Bleek-Lloyd archive (Hollmann 2004: 277–8; de Prada-Samper  140   SOUTHERN AFRICAN HUMANITIES 25: 137–66, 2013 2007). In addition to these larger-scale or thematic comparisons, insights can be also achieved by examining the few San language words provided by Orpen, comparing them with what we know of the | Xam language (Bleek 1956). The fact that some of these apparently have cognates in | Xam suggests not only that the two languages were related, 7  but also lends further credence to the identication of Qing as a competent ‘San’ informant, possessing a San identity associated with a distinctive language: qouka   (see p. 156) probably represents ! kauk ə n  ! kauk ə n  , or Drymoica avida   (a species of warbler, McGranaghan 2012: 464). Other analyses combine these two elements, embedding the individual names from Orpen’s report in their wider Southern San context, as well as attempting to translate them (Lewis-Williams 2013). The success of these above strategies in throwing light on Qing’s often seemingly obscure remarks has been considerable, and an obvious lacuna to address in the use of the article would be the extension of these detailed case studies to an in-depth analysis of the narratives as a whole. This form of analogical argumentation is also a form of contextualisation, for it cannot take place without some construction of the (at least two) entities being placed in a relationship: in this case, the article is situated with respect to information about other San populations (or other hunter-gatherer groups, Bantu-speaking populations, etc.). Although there is some contention regarding the suitability of the particular inductive conclusions drawn, this practice is well established in academic discussions of the article. Qing was a ‘San man in a Bantu-speaker world’, employed by the BaPhuthi chief Nqasha as a hunter and residing (with his wives) at Nqasha’s kraal. His testimony represents the culmination of a series of translations between Southern San and Bantu (SePhuthi, SeSotho) languages—even before it was translated into English. As with any translation, issues arise regarding the potential for miscommunication and shifts in meaning, either because one or more parties lacks the requisite linguistic competence or because the precise ranges of meaning do not translate literally from one context to the other. A good example of this can be found in Orpen’s use of the word ‘initiated’,  which can be used as an English gloss for a wide range of rites de passage  .For a Bantu context, ‘initiation’ can refer to both the formalised transition to adulthood, as well as the more individuated experiences that catalyse the adoption of ritual-specialist roles (Berglund 1976; Hammond-Tooke 1981). Both of these contexts might be considered as providing ‘secret knowledge’, but refer to quite different socio-cultural phenomena. Individuated forms of initiation seem to have been the norm for Southern San populations: there is little evidence in the Bleek-Lloyd archive for formal corpuses of restricted knowledge being passed on en masse  , whether in the inculcation of skills based on individual aptitudes in particular domains (e.g. the    ʃ   o-  ǀ  oa  ’s men skilled in the use of range of plant medicines; de Prada-Semper 2007) or in a girl’s adoption of the ‘New Maiden’ role at menarche (Hewitt 2008: 205–11). Qing’s discussions of men who were initiated ‘in that dance’ 8  and who knew the ‘secret things’ (that had injured people) appear congruent with these Southern San forms of specialisation, denoting skills and knowledge acquired from particular experiences. Bearing this in mind, Qing’s admission that he was not initiated in ‘that’ dance (Orpen, see p. 154) should not be taken as a statement of his having ‘missed out’ on acquiring restricted information because he was too young to have been initiated (Bleek, see p. 163), but instead might be viewed as the consequence of the general lack of opportunities he had had for experiencing   these dances (Challs et al. 2013: 9–10). By attending to ethnographic    MCGRANAGHAN ET AL.: J.M. ORPEN’S 1874 ARTICLE REPUBLISHED   141 contexts, then, we can attempt to clarify the kinds of phenomena to which Qing was referring, despite the multiple meanings of the English translation ‘initiation’.Discussions of Qing’s position as a ‘San man in a Bantu-speaking world’ extends the relevance of Orpen’s article from the realm of rock-art interpretation to issues regarding the interaction of San hunter-gatherers with Bantu-speaking agriculturists over the past 1500 years. The nature of this relationship, particularly as it may have obtained in terms of inuences on beliefs and ritual practices, has formed the locus of considerable debate (see Jolly 1986, 1995, 1997, 2005, 2006a; Botha & Thackeray 1987; Thackeray 1987; Hammond-Tooke 1998, 1999, 2002), a debate that has ensured that issues surrounding potential inuences on the ‘ideas that most deeply moved’ Qing’s mind have never been far from the forefront in the uses made of his testimony. HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE SOUTHERN MALOTI-DRAKENSBERG In addition to ‘ethnographic’ contextualisation, there are a number of relevant historical and archaeological approaches that have either commented directly on the Orpen material or helped to set the scene into which Orpen’s 1873 expedition entered. Orpen himself has been the focus of a considerable amount of historical attention (Eldredge 1988), as he eventually rose to some prominence in the Cape Colony government (Lewis-Williams 2003: 19). There also obviously exists a large body of literature examining the nineteenth-century situation in the Maloti-Drakensberg that forms an essential prerequisite for attempts to read Orpen’s document as a product of its time, though as most of this does not touch upon the Orpen encounter directly or in any detail, it is beyond the scope of this introduction (for the more general history of the Maloti-Drakensberg in the nineteenth century, see Wright 1971, 2007; Vinnicombe 1976; Wright & Mazel 2007). Of more specic importance, the recent publication of James Murray Grant’s 9  expedition journal (Mitchell & Challis 2008) provides an invaluable resource for examining the specics of their journey into the mountains. In the absence of Orpen’s eld diary (Lewis-Williams 1981: 32), it represents the only contemporaneous detailed account of the expedition and provides another lens through which to view Orpen’s project (see Fig. 1). Mitchell and Challis’s (2008) article tracks the day-by-day course of the Orpen/Grant expedition as it progressed through the Maloti mountains. It provides information about when Qing joined the party, and the motives and impressions of one of the key members of the sortie, as well as detailed annotations that situate the party in the wider context of the later nineteenth-century Maloti mountains. The recent publication of oral histories recorded in the 1970s from residents of the Sehonghong region (Vinnicombe 2009) record information regarding the last ‘San’ inhabitants of the region, and their interactions with the incoming Basotho farmers, in particular with the demise of the last ‘Bushman chief’, a man named Soai. This event is further explored by Mitchell (2010), who places this oral documentation in the context of archaeological and written historical sources, highlighting the fact that the events of the nineteenth century represented not a totally novel incursion but rather a modication of a long trajectory of interaction between San and Bantu speakers in this area.In terms of our understanding of Qing’s commentary on rock paintings, one of the major contributions of archaeological research over the twentieth century lies in the vast increase in the number of known rock-art sites (documented primarily since
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