13:30 - 15:00
Room: Arts – Lecture Room 7
Stream: African Literature: Communities, Collaborations, Crafts & Crossings
Jane Plastow
Indigenous Poetry in Southern Africa: National Reconciliation Versus Political Sovereignty
Brendon Nicholls
School of English, University of Leeds, Leeds

If South African First Peoples are "remnant prior people who live on their former lands on the margins of nations states" (Barclay), then their relationship to political discourses of reconciliation is asymmetrical. My paper works in translation between /Xam song from the 19th century Bleek and Lloyd "Bushman" archive and its latter day adaptation into English by the celebrated South African poet, Antjie Krog. Krog's project is reconciliatory. She admits to historical culpability for Boer murders of the /Xam, but she also claims /Xam autobiographical song for poetry and positions it as the basis for a proto-national epic that might take its place in the republic of letters alongside Beowulf and Homer's Odyssey.

The literary amounts to a reconciliatory national institution, in which the author is a steward of political harmony. By contrast, the contested reception of the original /Xam lines resists ideas of authorship, of the literary and of historical relation.

My paper reads the /Xam language in terms of its claims to cultural survival and interpretive sovereignty, acknowledging violence while asserting ontological transformations. I argue that the /Xam lines are therianthropic. They change the forms of the things they name from human into animal and beyond. Within this wider /Xam understanding of environmental co-being, I assert, national reconciliation presents too narrow a horizon for a hermeneutic project.

We-A08 African Literature 3-P-001
Brendon Nicholls
Presentation type:
Arts – Lecture Room 7
Jane Plastow
Wednesday, 12 September
13:30 - 13:45
Session times:
13:30 - 15:00