The /Xam Narratives of the Bleek and Lloyd Collection: Questions of Period and Genre

By Wessels, Michael | Western Folklore, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

The /Xam Narratives of the Bleek and Lloyd Collection: Questions of Period and Genre


Wessels, Michael, Western Folklore


ABSTRACT

The materials collected from /Xam informants in the second half of the nineteenth century by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd have received attention from historians, anthropologists, rock art interpreters, and poets. Generic categories have been imported into /Xam studies in ways that are derivative and critically unreflexive. This article argues that the consequences have been far-reaching for the reading of the texts as well as for the ways that the materials have been positioned ontologically and in relation to history and period. KEYWORDS: myth, folklore, literature, orality, periodization

The Bushmen's letters are in their bodies. They [the letters] speak, they move, they make their [the Bushmen's] bodies move. They [the Bushmen] order the others to be silent .... A dream speaks falsely, it is [a thing] which deceives.

Bleek & Lloyd 1911:331

The Bleek and Lloyd collection of /Xam materials is a rich and extensive record of the culture of a people whose language and huntinggathering economic system had all but disappeared by the end of the nineteenth century. The collection has been widely celebrated. David Lewis-Williams, the doyen of Bushman rock art research, describes it as "the most amazing ethnographic source in the world. Nothing comparable preceded it, and nothing like it has been compiled since" (2007:180). "Only the /Xam texts," according to archaeologist, Anne Solomon, "provide us with detailed and richly textured insights into the thought worlds of the southern San" (2007:150). Unlike many in the field of rock art research, Solomon regards the understanding of the rock art that is generously distributed through the region as a matter of educated conjecture and interpretation rather than of scientific certainty. In the absence of indigenous commentary or explanation, rock art interpretation relies on an unreliable mix of archaeological technique, archival sources (including the Bleek and Lloyd collection), and comparisons with contemporary Bushman practice elsewhere in me region. The /Xam materials, by contrast, offer unprecedented access to what might be called, with considerable qualification as we shall see, the "voice" of the people themselves. Historian Andrew Bank concludes his historical reconstruction of Bleek and Lloyd's project by claiming that the ability of the researchers and informants to "sustain a decade of dialogue is without precedent in the history of this country [South Africa] and perhaps mat of the world" (2006:397) . Bank argues that this is the case even when the project is considered in the context of Wilhelm Bleek's broader intellectual program, which involved the mapping of race, language and culture on an asymmetrical evolutionary scale. This paper examines the nature of this "dialogue" in relation, particularly, to the type of hybrid texts mat it produced.

The archive, comprising narrative, biography, and history and running to more than 12,000 notebook pages of text in /Xam with translations in English, was assembled in the second half of the nineteenth century through the collective efforts of German philologist, Wilhelm Bleek, his sister-in-law, Lucy Lloyd, and seven or eight /Xam informants, nearly all of whom had been imprisoned in Cape Town's Breakwater prison before their release into Bleek's custody. The materials in the collection have been described in various ways over the years: narrative, mythology, folklore, oral literature, and Kukummi (plural of kumm) , the word the /Xam used to signify things that were told. While the materials as a whole have acquired these sorts of broad classification, their component parts have been separated into sub-categories, as befits their obvious heterogeneity. Lucy Lloyd herself, for example, divides them into myths, legends, animal fables, personal histories, and superstitions in Specimens of Bushman Folklore, the selection of the materials from the notebooks that was published in 191 1 (Bleek & Lloyd 191 1 :xvii-xx) . …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The /Xam Narratives of the Bleek and Lloyd Collection: Questions of Period and Genre
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    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.