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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Nicholas Gcaleka and the search for Hintsa's skull
Author:Mkhize, Nomalanga
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:traditional rulers
About persons:Hintsa
Tilana Khonoza Mbambatho
Abstract:In early 1996, Nicholas Gcaleka, a self-styled traditional leader and healer from the Eastern Cape, set off on a 'dream-led' mission to the United Kingdom to recover a skull he claimed belonged to the nineteenth-century Xhosa king Hintsa. Gcaleka's claims were contested by members of the Xhosa Royal House who denounced him as a fraudster and charlatan. Subsequently, forensic tests proved that the skull he brought back was most likely that of a middle-aged European woman. This article argues that the contestation over the evidentiary methods employed to ascertain the identity of the skull was really a contestation over the paradigms and idioms informing the narration of history in the postapartheid South African public domain. Epistemological claims were disputed; physical evidence was produced and tested; oral tradition and archives were re-engaged. Yet elite institutions - the Xhosa Royal House and the scientific establishment - were considered neither credible nor authoritative by Gcaleka's supporters. Suppressed narratives and interpretations from the social and political margins surfaced and clamoured for equal representation in the pursuit of the historical truth about the fate of Hintsa's head. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]