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Title:Jonah and the Swallowing Monster: Orality and Literacy on a Berlin Mission Station in the Transvaal
Author:Hofmeyr, IsabelISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
Ndebele (South Africa)
folk tales
Ethnic and Race Relations
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Religion and Witchcraft
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/2637364
Abstract:In much of the northern Transvaal (South Africa) today there is a deep-seated ethnic stereotype which portrays the Ndebele as 'hard-headed', maleducated country bumpkins, while the Sotho are seen as go-ahead and well-educated. While this view has a lot to do with the minority position of Ndebele communities in the homeland of Lebowa, the stereotype also arises out of the historical circumstances in which northern Transvaal Ndebele communities confronted the initial agents of literacy and education, Boers and missionaries. In the case of one chiefdom, Mokopane or Valtyn, which forms the focus of this paper, this history included a series of violent confrontations with the Boer polity followed by the arrival of the Berlin Mission Society which pursued all of its business in Sesotho. With the advent of formal education at the turn of the century, the Ndebele resistance to literacy kept many people away from schools. This paper considers the advent of literacy in Mokopane's chiefdom; examines the ways in which an oral performance culture, in a situation of restricted literacy, was able to transform the institutions of a literate religion; and discusses the effects of one particular mission undertaking: the printing of 'dinonwane' (oral narratives/'folktales') in school reading books. Notes, ref.