Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Dreams and Visions in Koranna and Griqua Revival in Colonial and Post-Apartheid South Africa

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Dreams and Visions in Koranna and Griqua Revival in Colonial and Post-Apartheid South Africa

Article excerpt


In this article, it is argued that the current processes of ethno-political awakening, selfrepresentation and revival amongst the Khoekhoe are not taking place in a uniform manner. Moreover, the same criteria are not being applied for this purpose by all parties concerned. The ethnographical data presented in this article demonstrate that Koranna and Griqua leaders in the Free State have used dreams and visions to activate political discourse; that these dreams and visions serve as an instrument for mobilising support; and that they constitute a form of selfrepresentation.

Key words: Dreams, visions, ethno-political awareness and revival


The Griqua and Koranna form part of the broader Khoekhoe community of South Africa. Over centuries, various factors have contributed to the destruction of their social structures, cohesion and identity - so much so that by the 1930s it was generally accepted that groups such as the Koranna no longer existed. The last few years, however, have seen ethnic mobilisation and the creation and establishment of new political structures amongst people claiming Khoekhoe descent.

The relationship between language, culture and ethnic revival1 probably comprises the dominant model in anthropological reflection on multilingualism; it underlies doctrines regarding the protection of group rights; it lends legitimacy to claims relating to nationhood; it comprises the point of departure of many political strategies; and it is regarded as an important building block of ethnic revival (cf. Woolard & Schieffelin 1994:60-61 and Urciuoli 1995:527). In the case of the Koranna and Griqua, however, their languages (!Ora and Xiri) have virtually died out2. Thus, the point of view adopted in this paper is that current Khoekhoe ethno-political revival processes cannot be explained / understood in terms of a unilateral, exaggerated emphasis on the meaning of language only. The Khoekhoe have developed heterogeneous and often very subtle ways of establishing such processes of revival. The following examples corroborate this viewpoint: (i) Stavenhagen (2005:7-8), in his capacity as Special Rapporteur for the United Nations' Economic and Social Council, supports the idea of self-identification as a criterion of definition within the context of the question as to what constitutes an indigenous community3. (ii) Ethnic awareness in the case of the Nama and Khomani San is strongly centralised around land and culture (Besten 2009:142). The post-apartheid state recognised these people as distinct cultural groups who had obtained certain land and cultural rights. (iii) A core component of Griqua identity, according to Waldman 2007:162-163), is religion. The adherence to a church became a marker for allegiance to one or other of the political factions in various Griqua captaincies. (iv) Øvernes (2008:261), who argues that the Khoe-San have developed various new ways of living as Khoe-San (2008:261), points out that street-life is one such experience (2008:19). In this paper it will be argued that dreams and visions comprise another unique instrument which has been selected by Koranna and Griqua leaders in order to give expression to their ethno-political awareness.

Dreams and visions4 are experienced by all peoples; therefore, my reference to Koranna and Griqua dreams and visions must not be interpreted as implying that the Koranna and Griqua are "exotic" folk with "savage minds". However, under certain cultural conditions, dreams and visions comprise a culturally defined means of communication, which has a particularly strong impact on the believability of conceptions of reality. This is also the case in many African cultures (Sundkler 1960 & 1961, Mbiti 1969 and Kiernan 1985), including that of the Khoekhoe. According to ethnographical reports (Schapera 1965:393, Boezak 2006:32 and Engelbrecht 1936:176), dreams and visions were always part of Khoekhoe religion, and were regarded as genuine revelations from God, ancestral heroes, or ordinary ancestors5. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.