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On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190


WRIGHT, John. Socwatsha kaPhaphu, James Stuart, and their conversations on the past, 1897-1922. Kronos [online]. 2015, vol.41, n.1, pp.142-165. ISSN 2309-9585.

From 1897 to 1922, through all the phases of his career as a researcher into the histories and customs of Africans in Zululand and Natal, the colonial official James Stuart made copious notes of his ongoing conversations with Socwatsha kaPhaphu. Renderings of these notes fill 168 printed pages of volume 6 of the James Stuart Archive, published in 2014. The notes not only form a rich source of empirical historical information but also give insights into the contexts in which knowledges of the past were made and circulated in African societies in Zululand and Natal in the first two decades of the twentieth century. In addition, they reveal something of Stuart's own methods as a recorder of oral histories, and the changing conditions in which he worked. This essay examines the scope and, where possible, the sources of Socwatshas knowledge of the past, and why and when Stuart engaged in recording particular aspects of it. In doing so, the essay points up the inescapable intertwinings of accounts of the past as narrated by an African commentator and as recorded in writing by a colonial official. Scholars are now examining in detail the roles played by African knowledge makers in the making and circulating of literary knowledges of the continent in the colonial era; this essay takes a further step in this direction.

Keywords : Alfred Bryant; Colony of Natal; Colony of Zululand; Rolfes Dhlomo; interlocutor; James Stuart Archive; Natal rebellion 1906; oral histories; Socwatsha kaPhaphu; James Stuart; Zulu history.

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