The Ndebele Nation

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Ndebele home

With an Introduction by Milton Keynes
The Ndebele of Zimbabwe, who today constitute about twenty percent of the population of the country, have a very rich and heroic history. It is partly this rich history that constitutes a resource that reinforces their memories and sense of a particularistic identity and distinctive nation within a predominantly Shona speaking country. It is also partly later developments ranging from the colonial violence of 1893-4 and 1896-7 (Imfazo 1 and Imfazo 2); Ndebele evictions from their land under the direction of the Rhodesian colonial settler state; recurring droughts in Matabeleland; ethnic forms taken by Zimbabwean nationalism; urban events happening around the city of Bulawayo; the state-orchestrated and ethnicised violence of the 1980s targeting the Ndebele community, which became known as Gukurahundi; and other factors like perceptions and realities of frustrated economic development in Matabeleland together with ever-present threats of repetition of Gukurahundi-style violence—that have contributed to the shaping and re-shaping of Ndebele identity within Zimbabwe.

The Ndebele history is traced from the Ndwandwe of Zwide and the Zulu of Shaka. The story of how the Ndebele ended up in Zimbabwe is explained in terms of the impact of the Mfecane—a nineteenth century revolution marked by the collapse of the earlier political formations of Mthethwa, Ndwandwe, and Ngwane kingdoms replaced by new ones of the Zulu under Shaka, the Sotho under Moshweshwe, and others built out of Mfecane refugees and asylum seekers. The revolution was also characterized by violence and migration that saw some Nguni and Sotho communities burst asunder and fragmenting into fleeing groups such as the Ndebele under Mzilikazi Khumalo, the Kololo under Sebetwane, the Shangaans under Soshangane, the Ngoni under Zwangendaba, and the Swazi under Queen Nyamazana. Out of these migrations emerged new political formations like the Ndebele state, that eventually inscribed itself by a combination of coercion and persuasion in the southwestern part of the Zimbabwean plateau in 1839-1840. The migration and eventual settlement of the Ndebele in Zimbabwe is also part of the historical drama that became intertwined with another dramatic event of the migration of the Boers from Cape Colony into the interior in what is generally referred to as the Great Trek, that began in 1835. It was military clashes with the Boers that forced Mzilikazi and his followers to migrate across the Limpopo River into Zimbabwe.

As a result of the Ndebele community’s dramatic history of nation construction, their association with such groups as the Zulu of South Africa renowned for their military prowess, their heroic migration across the Limpopo, their foundation of a nation out of Nguni, Sotho, Tswana, Kalanga, Rozvi and ‘Shona’ groups, and their practice of raiding that they attracted enormous interest from early white travellers, missionaries and early anthropologists. This interest in the life and history of the Ndebele produced different representations, ranging from the Ndebele as an indomitable ‘martial tribe’ ranking alongside the Zulu, Maasai and Kikuyu, who also attracted the attention of early white literary observers, as ‘warriors’ and militaristic groups. This resulted in a combination of exoticisation and demonization that culminated in the Ndebele earning many labels such as ‘bloodthirsty destroyers’ and ‘noble savages’ within Western colonial images of Africa.

Ndebele History
With the passage of time, the Ndebele themselves played up to some of the earlier characterizations as they sought to build a particular identity within an environment in which they were surrounded by numerically superior ‘Shona’ communities. The warrior identity suited Ndebele hegemonic ideologies. Their Shona neighbours also contributed to the image of the Ndebele as the militaristic and aggressive ‘other’. Within this discourse, the Shona portrayed themselves as victims of Ndebele raiders who constantly went away with their livestock and women—disrupting their otherwise orderly and peaceful lives. A mythology thus permeates the whole spectrum of Ndebele history, fed by distortions and exaggerations of Ndebele military prowess, the nature of Ndebele governance institutions, and the general way of life.

My interest is primarily in unpacking and exploding the mythology within Ndebele historiography while at the same time making new sense of Ndebele hegemonic ideologies. My intention is to inform the broader debate on pre-colonial African systems of governance, the conduct of politics, social control, and conceptions of human security. Therefore, the book  The Ndebele Nation (see: below) delves deeper into questions of how Ndebele power was constructed, how it was institutionalized and broadcast across people of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. These issues are examined across the pre-colonial times up to the mid-twentieth century, a time when power resided with the early Rhodesian colonial state. I touch lightly on the question of whether the violent transition from an Ndebele hegemony to a Rhodesia settler colonial hegemony was in reality a transition from one flawed and coercive regime to another. Broadly speaking this book is an intellectual enterprise in understanding political and social dynamics that made pre-colonial Ndebele states tick; in particular, how power and authority were broadcast and exercised, including the nature of state-society relations.

What emerges from the book is that while the pre-colonial Ndebele state began as an imposition on society of Khumalo and Zansi hegemony, the state simultaneously pursued peaceful and ideological ways of winning the consent of the governed. This became the impetus for the constant and ongoing drive for ‘democratization,’ so as contain and displace the destructive centripetal forces of rebellion and subversion. Within the Ndebele state, power was constructed around a small Khumalo clan ruling in alliance with some dominant Nguni (Zansi) houses over a heterogeneous nation on the Zimbabwean plateau. The key question is how this small Khumalo group in alliance with the Zansi managed to extend their power across a majority of people of non-Nguni stock. Earlier historians over-emphasized military coercion as though violence was ever enough as a pillar of nation-building. In this book I delve deeper into a historical interrogation of key dynamics of state formation and nation-building, hegemony construction and inscription, the style of governance, the creation of human rights spaces and openings, and human security provision, in search of those attributes that made the Ndebele state tick and made it survive until it was destroyed by the violent forces of Rhodesian settler colonialism.

The book takes a broad revisionist approach involving systematic revisiting of earlier scholarly works on the Ndebele experiences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and critiquing them. A critical eye is cast on interpretation and making sense of key Ndebele political and social concepts and ideas that do not clearly emerge in existing literature. Throughout the book, the Ndebele historical experiences are consistently discussed in relation to a broad range of historiography and critical social theories of hegemony and human rights, and post-colonial discourses are used as tools of analysis.

Empirically and thematically, the book focuses on the complex historical processes involving the destruction of the autonomy of the decentralized Khumalo clans, their dispersal from their coastal homes in Nguniland, and the construction of Khumalo hegemony that happened in tandem with the formation of the Ndebele state in the midst of the Mfecane revolution. It further delves deeper into the examination of the expansion and maturing of the Ndebele State into a heterogeneous settled nation north of the Limpopo River. The colonial encounter with the Ndebele state dating back to the 1860s culminating in the imperialist violence of the 1890s and the subsequent colonization of the Ndebele in 1897 is also subjected to consistent analysis in this book.

What is evident is that the broad spectrum of Ndebele history was shot through with complex ambiguities and contradictions that have so far not been subjected to serious scholarly analysis. These ambiguities include tendencies and practices of domination versus resistance as the Ndebele rebelled against both pre-colonial African despots like Zwide and Shaka as well as against Rhodesian settler colonial conquest. The Ndebele fought to achieve domination, material security, political autonomy, cultural and political independence, social justice, human dignity, and tolerant governance even within their state in the face of a hegemonic Ndebele ruling elite that sought to maintain its political dominance and material privileges through a delicate combination of patronage, accountability, exploitation, and limited coercion.

The overarching analytical perspective is centred on the problem of the relation between coercion and consent during different phases of Ndebele history up to their encounter with colonialism. Major shifts from clan to state, migration to settlement, and single ethnic group to multi-ethnic society are systematically analyzed with the intention of revealing the concealed contradictions, conflict, tension, and social cleavages that permitted conquest, desertions, raiding, assimilation, domination, and exploitation, as well as social security, communalism, and tolerance. These ideologies, practices and values combined and co-existed uneasily, periodically and tendentiously within the Ndebele society. They were articulated in varied and changing idioms, languages and cultural traditions, and underpinned by complex institutions. Read more

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The University of Chicago Press ~ The History Of Cartography

CartographyThe first volume of the History of Cartography was published in 1987 and the three books that constitute Volume Two appeared over the following eleven years. In 1987 the worldwide web did not exist, and since 1998 book publishing has gone through a revolution in the production and dissemination of work. Although the large format and high quality image reproduction of the printed books (see right column) are still well-suited to the requirements for the publishing of maps, the online availability of material is a boon to scholars and map enthusiasts.

On this site the University of Chicago Press is pleased to present the first three volumes of the History of Cartography in PDF format. Navigate to the PDFs from the left column. Each chapter of each book is a single PDF. The search box on the left allows searching across the content of all the PDFs that make up the first six books.

“An important scholarly enterprise, the History of Cartography … is the most ambitious overview of map making ever undertaken …. People come to know the world the way they come to map it—through their perceptions of how its elements are connected and of how they should move among them. This is precisely what the series is attempting by situating the map at the heart of cultural life and revealing its relationship to society, science, and religion…. It is trying to define a new set of relationships between maps and the physical world that involve more than geometric correspondence. It is in essence a new map of human attempts to chart the world.”—Edward Rothstein, New York Times

“It is permitted to few scholars both to extend the boundaries of their field of study and to redefine it as a discipline. Yet that is precisely what The History as a whole is doing.”—Paul Wheatley, Imago Mundi

“A major scholarly publishing achievement.… We will learn much not only about maps, but about how and why and with what consequences civilizations have apprehended, expanded, and utilized the potential of maps.”—Josef W. Konvitz, Isis

Go to: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/books/HOC/index.html

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Allison Meier ~ The Revolution Has Been Digitized: Explore The Oldest Archive Of Radical Posters

Joseph Labadie (1890)  Photo: Wikimedia

Joseph Labadie (1890)
Photo: Wikimedia

The oldest public collection of radical history completed a digital archive of over 2,000 posters. The Joseph A. Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan Library announced this month that its posters on anarchism, civil liberties, feminism, labor, and other political movements are online for the first time.

“It’s not enough for us to preserve the artifact if people cannot see it,” Julie Herrada, Labadie Collection curator, told Hyperallergic. “Posters are a difficult format because they are fragile and can only withstand so much physical handling, so providing access to these materials while keeping them safe is a complicated process, or it was, until the technology and resources became more readily available to us.”

Read more: http://hyperallergic.com/the-revolution

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Political Capitalism, Overseas Trade And Ethnic Diversity

map-moluccas-aa-1707The aim of this paper is to remind modern researchers studying modern, post-Soeharto Indonesia of the research on the history of political capitalism in Asia, including the Indonesian Archipelago done by the Dutch scholar Van Leur. While preparing his well known thesis on the Asian Trade system, he concluded that the Indonesian island group has a bipartite geopolitical structure. This structure consists of a maritime zone of sea routes and coastal urban centres dominated by local and interregional political capitalism, and a peripheral part that stands partly on its own and is in part connected to the first zone. The question he asked was why the Asian type of political trade capitalism had been able to survive for such a long time and had even had been continued by the V.O.C., while in Europe this form of capitalism had long disappeared.
Today these questions once again become interesting as we become progressively aware that, on both the national and the regional level, the Soeharto regime that fell in 1998 was fuelled by a type of political capitalism that came close to what had existed during pre-colonial and early colonial times. And thus the question of the continuity of political capitalism returns to the agenda of modern Asia research.

In the introduction I pointed out that Indonesia’s recent ethnic tensions occurred especially in the coastal cities and coastal areas where Indonesia’s strategic resources are located, and not to any great degree in the interiors of the major islands. In the course of Indonesia’s long history, many ethnic groups have evidently settled in and around the coastal cities, where they live together. This geographical curiosity has its roots in Indonesia’s past as an international emporium and trade port in the overseas trade between India en China, as well as at certain times between Asia and Europe. This trade needed ports of call [i] under the control and protection of local rulers. These rulers allowed foreigners [ii] that contributed to the settlement’s trade to settle in their own wards with their own heads and courts. These wards had a certain measure of diplomatic immunity, turning the ports of call into places with an international population. In this context, foreign businessmen and traders became the driving force behind maritime Asia’s coastal economy. The geographical position of the urban settlements in the archipelago and their mixed populations has not fundamentally changed in the past two thousand years, as is evident from maps 1 through 2.
The question that arises from this historical continuity is whether the underlying political and economic systems have remained unchanged as well. The answer is partly yes and partly not. Partly yes, because, as will become clear in this chapter, the central organizing factor behind the distribution of coastal cities and ethnic communities has been political capitalism, both then and now[iii]. Partly not, because the modern form of political capitalism in Asia, to wit the nationalistic side of the modern nation-state, subjects everything within its borders to its authority and mistrusts foreign businesses and capital because of their excessive power in the world-markets and their danger to the domestic market. Read more

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On Islamic Historiography

Islamic HistoryBy Islamic Historiography I mean written material concerning the events of the early period of Islam written by Muslim historians. This material is essential for any major research on Islam but has been continuously discredited by predominantly Western scholars. Therefore, before the study of these texts, an outline of their characteristics and a short discussion about the criticisms of these texts and their authors is indispensable.
Among the problems proclaimed in the criticisms are: the gap between the historical events and their recording, the fact that early historical compilations have not survived and have been paraphrased or summarized in later digests, the problem of the oral origin of many reports, the task of the historian, the incompatibility of non-Islamic sources, forged reports, political influences on historiography, the purpose of historiography and the originality of the historian.
In this paper the criticisms concerning the Islamic historiography and the answers of the some historians to these criticisms will be surveyed.

The origin, the terminology and the form of the early Islamic historiography
According to Robinson, Arabs produced very little written material before Islam and relied instead on orality.[1]
It seems logical to conclude that the enormous volume of written work which was produced after Islam[2] must be ascribed primarily to the emphasis in various Qur´ānic verses on writing and the stories in this book about the previous peoples and prophets, which encouraged the Muslims to narrate, and reflect and investigate about the origins of those narrations, examples are, the next two verses:

By the pen and what they write with it…. (Qur’ān 68:1)
Relate these allegorical stories (to the people) perhaps they might think. (Qur’ān 7:176).3

The second important impetus seems to have been the traditions of the Prophet of Islam which were to be preserved for the future generations. Islamic Tradition informs us that the Prophet of Islam discouraged his followers, in the initial stages of his mission, to write about him in order to prevent any confusion between his sayings and the Qur´ān.[4]
However the reports about the alteration of this attitude in a later stadium encouraged the biographers to write Sīra or biographical collections at the end of the first and beginning of the second Islamic century. The campaigns of the Prophet (Maġāzī) and the conquests (Futūḫ) [5] were the other historical works, produced in the period between the first works and the later great compilations.
The collections with the modern name for history, Ta’riḥ, appeared in the 2nd/9th century.[6]
Their source material consisted of Aḥbār which according to Rosenthal means both information and the events and corresponds to history in the sense of story, anecdote (ḫekāyat). Later, when the term was used together with āthār, it became synonymous to hadīth.[7]
The other sources were the above mentioned Sīra, Maġāzī and Futūḫ works, the books of aḥbāriyyūn and genealogical works and oral accounts.[8]
Thus, the first historical works, as the ordered record of the events of the past, began as a mixture of the above mentioned genres. This is the same multi-faceted character that Robinson says history used to have:
“…coming via Latin from the Greek historia, generally meant ´inquiry´; it earlier described a variety of genres, including geography, folklore and ethnography, in addition to what we would commonly understand to be history.”[9]

And the way Rosenthal defines history:
History in the narrow sense.., should be defined as the literary description of any sustained human activity either of groups or individuals which is reflected in, or has influence upon the development of a given group or individual….for the modern mind, the general concept of history may, in theory, be extended to include all animate or inanimate matters. [10]

While he also mentions that:
Muslim historiography includes those works which Muslims, at a given moment of their literary history, considered historical works and which, at the same time, contain a reasonable amount of material which can be classified ashistorical according to our definition of history, as given above. [11]

Thus, history is made up of many elements which together have certain meaning for certain people. This is by no means the denial of general definitions of or theories about history, rather, the emphasis is on the meaning of a certain concept, object or idea in a specific context.
Not only the combination of aḥbār and āthār became synonymous to ḫadīth, but also the form of historical narratives took the form of ḫadīth. According to Dūrī two perspectives existed among the early compilers: the ḫadīth perspective and the tribal perspective. Very soon, the first perspective prevailed which explains why the Islamic historiography has maintained the form of ḫadīth, thus, beginning with an isnād or chain of transmitters, continued by the report (ḥabar).[12]

The problems concerning the Islamic historiography
Islamic history books and Muslim historians have been the subject of both praise and critique. There are problems concerning the historical texts and those concerning the narrators both historians and their transmitters.
One problem ascribed to Islamic historiography is the fact that there is a gap between the time of the events of the early period of Islam and their historiography. Is this gap so long that it can in fact disqualify the whole historiography? It seems that this gap was not considered to be very important when the Western scholars first came into contact with the Islamic sources of the second and third century of Islamic era.[13] Perhaps this was caused by their earlier experiences with other historiographies. The later recording of the events in Islam had its precedents in other historiographies. For example, according to Robinson: The gap between event and record in early Islam is relatively narrow compared with our source material for the ancient Israelites, which usually dates from several centuries after the facts they purport to relate.[14]
Thus the problem of late compilation does not seem to be restricted to Islamic historiography. Read more

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Fatsoenlijk land ~ Inhoudsopgave

GompesCoverLight

Fatsoenlijk land – Porgel en Porulan in het verzet van Loes Gompes  Het boek verscheen in 2013 bij Rozenberg Publishers – ISBN 978 90 361 0350 3 – Met DvD van de documentaire Fatsoenlijk land (Lumen Film – 60 min.)

U kunt het boek met DvD hier bestellen.

Nu online:
Proloog ~ Verzet in twee werelden
Athene, Rome en Jeruzalem in Alkmaar
De Duitse inval en het ontslag van de vaders
De PP-groep
De onderduikers
De Vrije Groepen Amsterdam
Porgel en Porulan in documenten en voedsel
Bevrijding
Bevrijding – Foto’s Jan Hemelrijk
Epiloog
Dankwoord

Jan Hemelrijk gaf de groep de naam PP-groep. Dat gebeurde bij de oprichting van de Vrije Groepen Amsterdam (VGA) in 1944 toen elke groep een naam moest kiezen. Je zou kunnen denken dat het een verwijzing is naar Potasch en Perlemoer, de twee kibbelende joodse zakenlieden uit de bekende gelijknamige vooroorlogse volkskomedie. Maar dat was niet het geval. Jan liet zich inspireren door de ‘porgel’ en de ‘porulan’, fantasiebeesten in het clandestien verschenen nonsensrijm De Blauwbilgorgel (1943) van Cees Buddingh’.

De blauwbilgorgel

Ik ben de blauwbilgorgel,
Mijn vader was een porgel,
Mijn moeder was een porulan,
Daar komen vreemde kind’ren van.
Raban! Raban! Raban!

Ik ben de blauwbilgorgel,
Ik lust alleen maar korgel,
Behalve als de nachtuil krijst,
Dan eet ik riep en rimmelrijst.
Rabijst! Rabijst! Rabijst!

Ik ben de blauwbilgorgel,
Als ik niet wok of worgel,
Dan lig ik languit in de zon
En knoester met mijn knezidon.
Rabon! Rabon! Rabon!


I

Ik ben de blauwbilgorgel,
Eens sterf ik aan de schorgel,
En schrompel als een kriks ineen
En word een blauwe kiezelsteen.
Ga heen! Ga heen! Ga heen!

Cees Buddingh’ (1918 – 1985)

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