Subtitle: A Story of the /Xam
Editor: Pippa Skotnes
LLAREC Series in Visual History Series
Publisher: LLAREC The Museum Workshop at the University of Cape Town
Cape Town, 1999
Soft cover, 21x21 cm, 51 pages, throughout illustrated
An extract from the story of the Day-Heart Star, told to Lucy Lloyd in 1873 by //Kabbo and recorded in her notebooks including extracts from other /Xam narratives, photographs and drawings and text and images reproduced from water-colours by Pippa Skotness
This book celebrates a rare moment in South African colonial history in which two groups of individuals from vastly different backgrounds worked together with a sense of mutual respect and co-operation to produce one of the most extraordinary collections of oral literature ever constructed. The heroes of this enterprise are, ironically, still relatively unknown. No streets or buildings are named after them; no monuments exist in the landscape to commemorate their lives; they are not taught in schools and there are few books that include their stories. Yet it is because of this collaboration that we know anything about the ideas which motivated the people who were once the owners of almost all the land on which South Africans now live. It is also through their work that we have some real sense of the ideas and feelings that motivated the rock art which is one of the richest parts of South Africa's cultural heritage.
The water-colours reproduced here are interpretations of some of the stories in this collection, and draw on rock paintings from the western and eastern parts of the country; the photographs are from my own collection as well as collections at the University of Cape Town, the South African Museum, the Cape Archives and the collection of the late Dr. K. Scott at the South African Library. I am grateful to all of them for permission to reproduce these. I have benefited from an engagement with the work of a number of inspiring colleagues and scholars who work with Southern San or bushman history and art, or who have commented on my own work.
In particular I would like to acknowledge David Brown, Nigel Penn, David Lewis-Williams, Janette Deacon, John Parkington, Anne Solomon, Stephen Watson, Martin Hall, Jos Thorne, Sandy Prosalendis and Malcolm Payne. I would also like to thank June Hosford, Graham Avery, Lindsay Hooper and Patricia Davison of the South African Museum. I am grateful to the University of Cape Town for the support it offers, both intellectual and material, to Bill McAdam of the Bushmanskloof Wilderness Area and to the Royal Netherlands Embassy for their enabling contribution to this series of publications and related exhibits.
This is the first in a series of books that will explore the ways in which words and images interact with one another. Histories are often crowded out by words alone, and the rich, visual qualities of the past are lost. These books will claim back something of this more varied texture, whether rock art and the sweep of the landscape, contemporary photographs and paintings, or the collections of objects from archaeological excavations. They will also link such archives and the histories that come from them with the creative imagination - with what it is that the past means for us today.
Heaven's Things is an appropriate first book in the series. Its pages suspend time, and bring together images that span a century. //Kabbo, Dia!kwain and others speak again from a land soaked with the blood of the /Xam. Their lyrical descriptions of a quest to capture a universe in words has the freshness of the moment that their stories were told to Lucy Lloyd and Wilhelm Bleek in the drowsy colonial suburb of Mowbray. In turn, these phrases and concepts are given form in Pippa Skotnes' watercolours: "I am like fire"; "we who are stars, we must walk the sky"; "for we are heaven's things".
Other images crowd the pages - leather shoes, beads, bags. Portraits from photography's earliest years prompt unanswered questions: why is Dia!kwain wearing a starched collar and Victorian necktie? Why is !Kweiten ta//ken posing with her children, dressed in a feather boa? And running across the bottom of the pages that follow - a horizon in a landscape of images - is the relentless narrative of dispossession, destruction and genocide, desperate journeys to the Cape to preserve a way of life in words, hours spent in phonetic transcription, and the burial of over a hundred volumes in the archive for the best part of a century.