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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Raising the Dead: The Xhosa Cattle-Killing and the Mhlakaza-Goliat Delusion
Author:Davies, Sheila B.
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:Xhosa cattle killing
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Religion and Witchcraft
About person:Mhlakaza
Abstract:Jeff Peires' seminal monograph, 'The dead will arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa cattle-killing movement of 1856-7' was published in 1989. One of his most remarkable findings was that Mhlakaza, uncle and spokesperson of the prophetess Nongqawuse, was in fact Wilhelm Goliat - one-time servant and companion of Archdeacon Merriman of Grahamstown. The discovery was significant not only because it supplied intriguing biographical details for one of the central characters in the story, but also as it explained the Christian content in the prophecies. Peires' Mhlakaza-Goliat thesis was subsequently taken up in a number of academic and popular works and has become part of the official narrative of the cattle killing. Although a few historians have questioned the validity of this claim, it has not been disproved - until now. This article sets out the evidence, exploring why the rumour took hold in 1856, and how it came to be revived more than 130 years later. Furthermore, it includes a number of observations about the construction of this event and suggests that, rather than creating a new 'more truthful' historical explanation, a more revealing project might be to examine the numerous versions of the cattle killing in the light of the causes they have been made to espouse. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]