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Published by HSRC Press Private Bag X9182, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

First published 2009

ISBN (soft cover) 978-0-7969-2233-5 ISBN (pdf) 978-0-7969-2248-9

© 2009 Human Sciences Research Council

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Human Sciences Research Council (‘the Council’) or indicate that the Council endorses the views of the author. In quoting from this publication, readers are advised to attribute the source of the information to the individual author concerned and not to the Council.

Copyedited by Lee Smith Typeset by Baseline Publishing Services Cover by FUEL Design Cover illustration from The Death of Hintsa by Hilary Graham, reproduced with kind permission of the Albany Museum, Grahamstown

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For Kiera, to account for the absence; Jaymathie and Jayantilal Lalu; and Hansa Lalloo

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List of illustrations

Acknowledgements x


Introduction: thinking ahead


1 Colonial modes of evidence and the grammar of domination

2 Mistaken identity

3 The properties of facts (or how to read with a grain of salt)

4 Reading ‘Xhosa’ historiography

5 The border and the body: post-phenomenological reflections



on the borders of apartheid


6 History after apartheid


Conclusion 253 Notes 270 Bibliography and archival sources Index 329




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List of illustrations

Figure 1

The cover of the Frederick I’Ons exhibition catalogue; there is little

clarity on whether the figure portrayed is Hintsa or Nqeno


Figure 2

Charles Michell’s cartographic representation of the landscape in

which Hintsa was killed, published in 1835


Figure 3

Flight of the Fingoes [sic], by Charles Michell, 1836


Figure 4

Warriors Fleeing Across a River/The Death of Hintsa, by


Frederick I’Ons. n.d.


Figure 5a

Portrait of Hintsa, by Charles Michell, 1835


Figure 5b

Portrait of Hintsa, by George Pemba, 1937


Figure 6

The tragic death of Hintsa, triptych by Hilary Graham, 1990 222–223



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Ah, Britain! Great Britain! Great Britain of the endless sunshine! You sent us truth, denied us the truth; You sent us life, deprived us of life; You sent us light, we sit in the dark, Shivering, benighted in the bright noonday sun.

SEK Mqhayi, on the visit of the Prince of Wales to South Africa in 1925, translated by AC Jordan

History always tells how we die, never how we live.

Roland Barthes, Michelet, 104

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Perhaps the most daunting task in completing this book is to recall the many people who have had to endure its long incubation. If I mention them by name, it is not so that they may be reminded of their complicity in The Deaths of Hintsa but to thank them for their generosity, insight, friendship and love over the years. To them I attribute my long-held desire to substitute a politics of despair with a politics of setting to work on postcolonial futures. My first foray into writing this book began under the watchful eye of Allen Isaacman and Jean Allman at the University of Minnesota, as a graduate student in African History and as a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship grant. The more detailed study of the story of Hintsa was initially submitted as a doctoral dissertation under the title ‘In the Event of History’ to the University of Minnesota in 2003. Thanks to Allen Isaacman, Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Change, I was granted an opportunity to interact with a group of thought-provoking historians of Africa including Maanda Mulaudzi, Peter Sekibakiba Lekgoathi, Marissa Moorman, Jacob Tropp, Heidi Gengenbach, Derek Peterson, Ana Gomez, Alda Saute, Helena Pohlandt McCormick and Jesse Buche. While at the University of Minnesota, John Mowitt, Qadri Ismail, Ajay Skaria, David Roediger, Lisa Disch and Bud Duvall provided many new and exciting directions for developing my thoughts on colonialism, apartheid and postapartheid South Africa. John Mowitt and Qadri Ismail gave new meaning to the idea of academic exchange, with Qadri especially responsible for teaching me a thing or two. The members of the postcolonial reading group fostered friendships conducive to the exploration of ideas. Monika Mehta (for teaching me how to cut), Andrew Kinkaid, Guang Lei, Joel Wainwright and Adam Sitze (for teaching me how not to cut) have, unbeknown to them, been present at every stage of the writing even as I


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deposited myself far across the Atlantic Ocean in a little-known place called the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The History Department and the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at UWC provided the most enabling environment for the development of new ideas and critique. The staff and students of the History Department offered unconditional support for my research through the years. Leslie Witz, Ciraj Rassool, Patricia Hayes, Nicky Rousseau, Brent Harris, Gary Minkley (now at Fort Hare University) and Andrew Bank made a special effort to read my work and comment on it. I hope this book is an acceptable response to their many questions and queries, and that will be seen as a contribution to the ongoing innovative research in UWC’s History Department. Thanks are also due to Uma Mesthrie, Martin Legassick and Terri Barnes for their encouragement over the years. The Centre for Humanities Research South African Contemporary History and Humanities seminar provided a privileged space for critical readings of my work. In the last years of writing, I was encouraged by many first-year and honours history students who took the time to engage with the ideas of this book. I would like to single out Riedwaan Moosagee, Thozama April, Vuyani Booi, Peter Jon Grove, Noel Solani, Virgil Slade, Maurits van Bever Donker, Shanaaz Galant and Khayalethu Mdudumane for their interest in my work and for journeying with me to the site of Hintsa’s killing on the Nqabara River. The fellows in the Programme on the Study of the Humanities in Africa (PSHA) at UWC were a source of encouragement in pressing me to substantiate my argument for the need for a subaltern studies in South Africa. I would like to thank specifically Paolo Israel, Annachiara Forte, Jade Gibson, Heidi Grunebaum, Crystal Jannecke, Rachelle Chadwick, Annette Hoffman, Jill Weintroub, Maurits van Bever Donker, Zulfa Abrahams, Mduduzi Xakaza, Charles Kabwete, Lizzy Attree and Billiard Lishiko for their generosity and friendship. Finally, Leslie Witz, Susan Newton-King and Andrew Bank offered to take over my teaching to enable me to retreat for a sabbatical to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where I put the finishing touches to the book.

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A fellowship at the Centre for the Study of Public Institutions at Emory University provided the much-needed intellectual stimulus for fine-tuning the formulations of the book. Ivan Karp and Cory Kratz are responsible for more than they can imagine, including much of the discussion on the discourse of anthropology in the eastern Cape. Both offered encouragement, support and unconditional friendship at a very crucial time in the making of the book. Helen Moffett provided me with significant editorial comment and engaged with the text during my fellowship at Emory. I would also like to thank Durba Mitra, Sunandan Nedumpaly, Ajit Chittambalam, Shailaja Paik and Swargajyoti Gohain who invited me to be a participant in their Subaltern Studies class at Emory University, and Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully for the many conversations. The research for this book was supported by the National Research Foundation-funded project on the Heritage Disciplines based at UWC. I would like to thank Leslie Witz and Ciraj Rassool for finding a place for my research in the overall project that they lead. The PSHA provided a research platform for the development of the argument. Garry Rosenberg, Utando Baduza, Mary Ralphs, Karen Bruns, Fairuz Parker and Lee Smith at the HSRC Press gave me support and guidance in finalising this book. I would also like to thank the many librarians and archivists both here and in the United States for their generous assistance, especially Simphiwe Yako, Graham Goddard and Mariki Victor (Mayibuye Centre, UWC); Sandy Roweldt (formerly at the Cory Library and subsequently at the African Studies Library at the University of Cape Town); Michelle Pickover (William Cullen Church of the Province of SA Collection, University of Witwatersrand); Zweli Vena, Victor Gacula and Sally Schramm (Cory Library); friends at the District Six Museum and the staff at the Albany Museum, Grahamstown, State Archives and Manuscripts Division; and the South African Library in Cape Town (especially Najwa Hendrickse). Early versions of Chapters 1 and 5 appeared in History and Theory, Vol. 39, No. 4, December 2000 and in the South African Historical Journal, 55, 2006 respectively. They are included with permission; and Hilary Graham,


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Bobo Pemba and the staff of the Albany Museum (History) granted me permission to reproduce the images that appear in the book. Friendship is the basis for all writing and hospitality, its condition. Unfortunately, writing may also inflict untold damage on friendships. Vivienne Lalu endured most of the fallout of this project. I am truly sorry for the harm it has caused but would like to acknowledge her steadfast commitment over the years. Others who graciously suffered my writing and obsessions along the way include Ajay, Kilpena, Nikhil and Rahoul Lalu, Ameet, Nital, Meha and Amisha Lalloo, Deepak, Primal, Natver and Badresh Patel, Jim Johnson, Latha Varadarajan, Noeleen Murray, Nic Shepherd, Abdullah Omar, William and Sophia Mentor, Manju Soni, Carolyn Hamilton, Mxolisi Hintsa, Ramesh Bhikha, Dhiraj, Tara and Reshma Kassanjee, Ratilal, Pushpa and Hansa Lalloo, Amy Bell-Mulaudzi, Suren Pillay, Kamal Bhagwan, Saliem Patel, Fazel Ernest, Ruth Loewenthal and members of my extended family. I am grateful for all they have done to support this book. A book that is written over many years invariably leads to friendships across continents and across urban and rural divides. Colleagues at the Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Basel, Switzerland, especially Giorgio Miescher, Lorena Rizzo, Patrick Harries and Dag Henrichson invited me to present some of the arguments of the present book and encouraged me to think beyond borders and boundaries. Similarly, I have made many friends in the Tsholora and Mbhashe in the eastern Cape, amongst whom I wish to single out Kuzile Juza, Sylvia Mahlala, Mda Mda, Nomathotho Njuqwana and Joe Savu. Mostly, the residents who have won rights to the Dwesa Cwebe Reserve following a land restitution process deserve my unconditional gratitude. I hope that our many conversations, agreements and disagreements have helped to make sense of the predicament of the rural eastern Cape. This book is dedicated to Kiera Lalu. At the very least, I hope it may serve to meaningfully account for my absence. As for answering her searching question on whether this book will end up in a museum, we will have to wait and see. It is also dedicated to Jaymathie Lalu, Hansa Lalloo, and my father, Jayantilal Lalu, for all you have done and much, much more.

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Introduction: thinking ahead

Wherever colonisation is a fact, the indigenous culture begins to rot and among the ruins something begins to be born which is condemned to exist on the margin allowed it by the European culture. 1

Two years inTo The TransiTion to democratic rule in South Africa, a little-known healer–diviner, Nicholas Tilana Gcaleka, stumbled onto the stage of history. On 29 February 1996, just over 160 years after the fateful shooting of the Xhosa king, Hintsa, by British colonial forces on the banks of the Nqabara River in the eastern Cape in southern Africa, local newspapers reported widely on Nicholas Gcaleka’s return to South Africa with ‘Hintsa’s skull’, which he had found in Scotland. Guided by a dream in which his ancestors supposedly made an appearance in the form of a hurricane spirit, Gcaleka had undertaken his mission with the hope that the return of Hintsa’s skull would usher in an era of peace in a new democratic South Africa. The rampant violence and corruption that plagued the new South Africa, he proclaimed, was because the soul of Hintsa ‘was blowing all over the world with no place to settle’. 2 Judging from the responses to the alleged discovery of Hintsa’s skull, it seemed highly unlikely that Gcaleka’s dream would be allowed to become a reality. In newspaper accounts, some journalists used the opportunity offered by the supposed discovery of Hintsa’s skull to cast light on the demand for the repatriation of bodily remains taken in the period of European

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colonisation more generally. The Irish Times noted that even ‘if Chief Gcaleka is something of a showman, his search is part of a broader, more serious movement [through which] indigenous people are increasingly clamoring for the restoration of human relics removed from their country during the colonial era’. 3 Others resorted to descriptions, veiled in acerbic humour, of a maverick power-hungry individual invoking a pre-modern register so as to advance his own ambition and greed. Labelled ‘the chief of skullduggery’, Gcaleka was accused of having a shrewd eye for publicity by his disgruntled spokesperson, Robert Pringle, who went on to describe the mission to recover Hintsa’s skull as a ‘hoax’. 4 The Mail & Guardian quoted Xhosa paramount Xoliliswe Sigcawu, who claimed that ‘the sangoma was a charlatan out to make money and [a] reputation by playing on Xhosa sensitivities’. 5 At a meeting in Nqadu, Willowvale, in the eastern Cape in 2001, Sigcawu asked the British High Commissioner to investigate how Gcaleka ‘had come to possess a skull purportedly that of the late Xhosa hero, Chief Hintsa’. 6 Mathatha Tsedu, then writing in the Cape Times, stressed Gcaleka’s lack of success in proving the skull’s authenticity, although – as a member of the fraternity of journalists – he wrote with a rare hint of sympathy for the mission. 7 Claiming that ‘the head of king Hintsa has been missing since it was lopped off after he was killed resisting colonisation’, Tsedu added, ‘Chief Nicholas Tilana Gcaleka has been waging a one-man war to trace the head and bring it home for proper burial without success.’ 8 Gcaleka arrived back in South Africa amidst this far-reaching public interest in his ancestral instruction. But once he set foot in South Africa bearing a skull he claimed belonged to Hintsa, Sigcawu summoned him to an imbizo (council) to establish the truth about his discovery. The skull was confiscated, 9 placed in the care of the police mortuary in Bisho, King William’s Town, and subsequently handed over to GJ Knobel of the department of forensic medicine at the University of Cape Town, VM Phillips of the oral and dental teaching hospital at the University of Stellenbosch and PV Tobias, the director of the Palaeo-Anthropology Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand, for scientific investigation. In a press

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release on 23 August 1996, the scientists commissioned to study the skull concluded that: 10 Although one could still argue that there is a remote possibility that the skull could represent a male person with slight build and weak musculature, and of mixed parentage, with a preponderance of European features [Tobias], this skull belonged to a human female, of European or Caucasoid descent, who at the time of death, was middle aged. It can be stated, beyond reasonable doubt, that this skull is not that of the late king Hintsa, who at the time of his death would have been a middle-aged human male of unmixed African origin. 11

Quite clearly, the scientists who saw themselves as adjudicators in an important matter of history were equipped with a rather dated vocabulary of ‘race’ for talking about evidence. Even the deliberation of bare bones, it seems from the pronouncements on the killing of Hintsa, had to be enveloped in the primacy of skin. And as a consequence, a significant incident in the colonial past was surrendered to the terms and categories of a forensic procedure that reduced history to mere epidermal difference.

Matters, as it turns out, came to a head at the annual Anatomical Society of Southern Africa Conference held at the University of Stellenbosch in 1997. The scientists charged to study the skull submitted an abstract under the title ‘Hintsa’s Head or Phantom Skull?’ In it the authors note:

On 29 February, a Xhosa man, claiming to be a sangoma and calling himself Chief Nicholas Gcaleka, disembarked at Port Elizabeth airport with a cranium he had brought from Scotland. He had apparently gone in quest of King Hintsa’s skull, guided, as he said, by spirits which led him to Scotland. Holding the cranium aloft, he pointed to a defect which he asserted was the mark of a bullet. The legal representative of the Xhosa King and traditional leaders disagreed, pointing out that the skull had disintegrated when Hintsa


Phillips] and GJL [GJ Louw]. Both noted that, in respect of racially

.The cranium was subsequently examined by VMP [VM

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and sexually diagnostic features, the findings were equivocal. They detected no convincing features such as would have been expected in

a male person of indisputably African origin. 12

Leaving aside for a moment the diagnostic procedures that ultimately define ‘a Xhosa man’, the findings of the investigation into the skull were presented to an auditorium made up of members of the scientific community. Unbeknown to the participants, Nicholas Gcaleka had infiltrated the meeting, like a phantom, where, according to newspaper reports, he was treated to the chastisement of a scientific fraternity gathered under the banner of ‘Anatomy in Transition’. Demanding the return of his skull, Gcaleka identified himself as the person who was being ridiculed and added that he had no faith that the scientists commissioned to study the skull had any interest in the ancestors of the Xhosa. If Gcaleka was overstating the point, it was only because the scientists recalled historical narrations of Hintsa’s death without explicitly suggesting how the contestations and doubts surrounding these affected their investigations. Knobel et al. cited ‘varied reports, [in which] it has been claimed that the fatal short [sic] shattered Hintsa’s head, scattering his brain and skull fragments, that [the shot] blew off the top of his head and that it was apparently common practice for soldiers to decapitate victims and take the heads as trophies’. 13 The forensic procedure had to be supplemented by historical evidence about the killing of Hintsa, but no indication either of the source of the ‘reports’ or their claims to authority was required. As we shall see, all these reports came from colonial officials who were implicated in the killing of Hintsa.

It was not entirely coincidental that Gcaleka should be confronted

by the demand for forensic and historical evidence. The combination of the two was in the process of being tested at the time in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TrC). The TrC was officially established by the postapartheid 14 state to investigate and account for gross human rights violations under apartheid. Initially, Nicholas Gcaleka’s quest was not

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altogether out of place in an environment where the return and excavation of dismembered bodies became a major national preoccupation through the TrC process. It was not surprising that the dismembered bodies of the colonial past were being recalled alongside the deliberations of the TrC. 15 However, Gcaleka’s quest had, perhaps unintentionally, brought the very foundational concepts of truth and reconciliation, upon which the TrC process rested, into question by recalling an unresolved historical controversy from the nineteenth century. While his lie was easily dismissed in the public debates following his return to South Africa because it was not forensically and historically verifiable, it proved more difficult to grasp the implications of his search for Hintsa’s skull. At one level, we might find in Gcaleka’s lie more of the constellation of the regime of truth, and how it functions, than is proclaimed through the juridical foundations of the TrC itself. Luise White has proposed that lies, like secrets, are socially negotiated realms of information. 16 Good lies, she argues, are crafted, they have to be negotiated with a specific audience, and they have to be made to stick – a lie,

a cover story, not only camouflages but explains. Lies, in this formulation, are

about excess that demands, inter alia, revised strategies of reading, different from those that historians are accustomed to. For White, lies are not merely inventions, but fabrications that rest at the very heart of society and its histories. The intersection of lies and social life is, we may argue, one way of perceiving of a narrative dimension that is central to the work of history. To simply recognise lies as a condition of life is to neglect the structure of the presumed lie that is so crucial to the functioning of social worlds. In other words, it is to ignore the ways in which lies overlap with regimes of truth or, more importantly, how regimes of truth are lodged in the articulation of what are ultimately considered lies. At another level, the allegations of the lie simply put into greater doubt the very effects of a regime of truth which, while being mobilised to a

presumably noble end of national reconciliation, offered little hope of settling the outstanding questions about the colonial past. In speaking of colonialism

I am aligning the concept with a suggestion by Nicholas Dirks, who argues

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that colonialism is an important subject in its own right and a metaphor for the subtle relationship between power and knowledge, culture and control. 17 Rather than approaching colonialism in purely historicist terms as an essential and necessary development, colonialism in Dirks’s view not only had cultural effects too often ignored or displaced into the inexorable logics of modernisation and world capitalism, but it was also a cultural project of control. 18 By focusing on the moral outrage against the lie, and by reducing the basis of judgement to the fact that he lied, no one seemed to inquire into whether raising the question of colonialism as integral to the search for reconciliation constituted a valid historical pursuit. The point is perhaps rendered clearer if we remind ourselves of responses to Gcaleka, who dared to speak what many considered to be a lie in a period when South Africa’s democratic transition was increasingly being defined by the terms of truth central to the work of the TrC. The TrC’s concept of truth was entirely drawn from a juridical discourse that limited the functions of truth to testimony and confession. 19 The notion of gross human rights violations therefore limited the scope of the investigations of violence. In relation to the elevation of judicial and scientific concepts of truth that assumed prominence in the TrC’s inquiry into gross human rights violations under apartheid, Gcaleka was readily dismissed as a fraud and an egotistical liar. The forensic evidence supported this conclusion, and Gcaleka seemed to be making the error of conflating truth and reconciliation. His claims were therefore easily relegated to the realms of fantasy and fraud. The healer–diviner from the town of Butterworth in the eastern Cape was laughed at because his fantasy was not one that fell within the rules of the true instituted by, for example, the human rights violation inquiry of the TrC. 20 While Nicholas Gcaleka operated outside of the parameters of the rules of the true, he nevertheless touched a raw nerve by invoking the nineteenth-century story of the killing of Hintsa. Neither notions of truth (in relation to the commission of inquiry into his death in 1836) nor reconciliation (in relation to accusations that he was beheaded) applied to

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the story of the killing of Hintsa in 1835. Gcaleka’s invocation of the colonial past perhaps unwittingly called into question the dominant concepts of history that were at work in the TrC, because it articulated the possibility that the regime of truth functioned in accordance with modes of evidence that regarded the archive as merely a storehouse of documents and not an apparatus that produced and reproduced forms of subjection. The key question was: how could a form of evidence once used to cover up acts of violence be depended on to offer us an escape from the violence of the apartheid past? Nicholas Gcaleka’s fate depended as much on the coincidence between a regime of truth and the modes of evidence of the archive as it did on the judgements rendered about his personality. Much was made in the press of the fees he charged for interviews. He was widely accused of fabricating history by distorting the account of Hintsa’s death for the purposes of self-enrichment. The accusation of distortion, however, was based on the very colonial record of the killing that had been doubted for more than a century in South Africa. Indeed, the historian Jeff Peires refers to the commission of inquiry into Hintsa’s death as a cover-up on the part of colonial officials. 21 Lost in the denunciations were the very traces of the contestations that lie at the heart of South African history. At the height of

a moment of political transition endowed with historic achievement and

significance, there could be no room for doubt. The introduction of the story of the killing of Hintsa was treated as a mere distraction in the overall objectives of transition – from the apartheid to the postapartheid state – that the TrC was instituted to oversee.

Hintsa, Gcaleka and history after apartheid

The quest for Hintsa’s head not only called into question the categories by which the TrC functioned, but also seemed to inadvertently short-circuit

a discussion amongst South African historians after 1994 about the crisis

in history. 22 This crisis has been variously represented as a drop in student

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interest in the discipline, the disconnection between the economic demands of the present versus the critical assessments of the past, and the forward- looking imperatives of postapartheid South Africa. Gcaleka’s search for evidence of South Africa’s colonial past, perhaps unwittingly, put a new twist on the historians’ debate. His search for Hintsa’s skull enabled a different question: what difference, if any, might the discourse of history make in unravelling the legacies of authoritarianism? This problem arose even as the political claims about narrating the present strategically, at times selectively, reclaimed history in order to extract some meaning of a nascent postapartheid society. History, it seems, was ever-present as a resource for determining which configurations of political struggle would prevail as national historical narrative. But the appropriation of history to re-envisioning nation and identity tended to emphasise, rather than displace, the disciplinary reason that was the very modus operandi of apartheid. The commitment to establishing alternative histories to apartheid was burdened by the tendency to recycle well-worn modes of disciplinary inquiry (as if these were neutral and timeless) in the interests of making a break from a hideously violent and offensive past. What remained unclear, however, was whether the task of re-narrating pasts could be effectively pursued through the discourse of history. Was it, in other words, possible to elaborate a concept of the postapartheid as a distinct ethico-political displacement of a prior violence by way of the discourse of history? Amidst the laughter and ridicule that surrounded Nicholas Gcaleka in South Africa and in London, in academic conferences and township meetings, the implication of history’s critical function in relation to apartheid’s pasts was burdened by a nagging sense that history’s discourse may offer little opportunity for thinking ahead. In a rare moment, replete with public pronouncements about ‘miraculous social transformation’, a healer–diviner brought an encounter between the colonial past and the postapartheid present to the fore, in which it became not only possible but imperative to inquire into history’s relation to the exercise of power. His fate would be decided by the answer to that question. It is, I would argue,

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necessary that the fate that awaited Gcaleka, as he recounted the story of the killing of Hintsa, be tackled head on. Where there is mocking laughter there is reason to suspect that a regime of truth is at work. This book traces the effects of a regime of truth founded upon colonial modes of evidence that engulfed two subjects who failed to make the cut of history: a king who at the prime of his rule was killed and mutilated by British forces in the early nineteenth century and a healer–diviner who, towards the end of the twentieth century, two years into the birth of a postapartheid democracy, recalled that king’s alleged decapitation. Surrounding the king’s death in 1835, and the healer–diviner’s mission in 1996, are lies alongside truths and histories presented as unproblematic narratives of change. Beyond the specificities of the coincidence, this book explores the role of history so that a postapartheid future need not fall back on the very subjective strategies that marked the excessive disciplinary violence of a highly racialised and stratified system of oppression. It clears the ground for thinking ahead, after apartheid, through a series of reversals and displacements of the techniques of subject formation generic to the colonial archive and its modes of evidence. For this I propose that we allow the misfits of the text 23 to lead the way – without, I should add, too much expectation of where they might lead us. The Deaths of Hintsa brings together two related themes. At one level it brings the laughter surrounding Gcaleka’s mission to retrieve Hintsa’s skull to bear on an investigation of the modes of evidence of the colonial archive, so as to better understand the relationship between history and power specific to the archive. Rather than join the frenzy of public denouncement and ridicule, I wish to take seriously Gcaleka’s implicit provocation that while the foundations of a postapartheid society were being laid, the critique of apartheid’s colonial past was found wanting. The deliberations surrounding Hintsa’s skull, specifically, provide us with an opportunity for mulling over the proliferation of signs at a time, not too long ago, when Nicholas Tilana Gcaleka encountered the history of colonialism. In the turbulence that followed the encounter, he was not, as many suspect,

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excluded from participating in history but perhaps unwittingly caught up in the event of history, that is, in the enunciative modalities of history that defined the difference between what could be said and what was actually said about the killing of Hintsa. Rather than merely identifying an exclusion from a regime of truth, this book asks how Nicholas Gcaleka, instead of being regarded as a historian who had travelled far and wide in search of evidence into the killing of Hintsa, became the object of the very discourse of history that he had helped and hoped, in part, to articulate. It addresses that question by returning to the archival fate that awaited Hintsa after he was killed on the banks of the Nqabara River in 1835. At another level it examines how the transition from apartheid to postapartheid bypassed the colonial archive and therefore failed to anticipate the resilience of its modes of evidence. If history was given any role in adjudicating in the matter of Nicholas Gcaleka, it was not to inquire into the question of the meaning of colonialism, but rather to put Gcaleka in his place, so to speak. By returning to South Africa, bearing evidence in the form of the skull, the healer–diviner unwittingly solicited responses from within a discourse of history, organised around competing constructions of colonialism and anti-colonial nationalism, in which the culpability for the killing of Hintsa was far from being settled. Overcoming apartheid required coming to terms not only with the effects of history, but with the discourse of history itself.

Evidence and imagination in narratives of the killing of Hintsa

As a specific field of intelligibility, South African history, insofar as it might be viewed as a coherent research community, targeted and functioned in relation to regulatory environments that we might call regimes of truth. Even the most left-wing historiography turned to the archive to sustain its arguments, and established its legitimacy via the protocols of proof and evidence. Along the way it tended to elide the function of the imaginary structure – or what Michel de Certeau calls ‘the historiographical operation’ 24 – that was, and is,

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intrinsic to the discourse of history. The imaginary structure here does not refer to the unreal but rather to that constitutive part of discourse resulting in a crystallisation of a set of exchanges that, if left unchecked, would prevent questioning the reality effect of a discipline like history. To look into that crystal is to envisage how disciplines, which strive to achieve a reality effect, end up producing a subaltern effect that reveals a fundamental continuity in the functions of history as a statist discourse. As a consequence, the discourse of history in South Africa frequently slips into regulatory systems that govern the emergence of normative statements. This is precisely the double bind in which Gcaleka arguably found himself. While the search for evidence was insufficient to meet the expectations of history, his evoking of dreams and imagination was seen as equally deficient in laying claim to reliably participating in the discourse of history. 25 Taken together, this was seemingly sufficient reason for his disqualification. To simply cast Gcaleka aside for failing the rules of a regime of truth, either in terms of the rules of evidence or in terms of recourse to the imaginary structure, is to ignore how his quest foregrounds the work of the imaginary structure in the discourse of history. After all, history, as Hayden White has shown, necessarily relies on an imaginary structure in the construction of its narratives. 26 In history, the imaginary structure is a necessary and complementary aspect of discourse. If we follow the lead of De Certeau, 27 we might say that the imaginary structure is not, as White suggests, merely a structural condition of history, but ‘a restless seeking after the self in the present underpinning the discourse of history’. The disqualification of Gcaleka on the grounds of resorting to imaginary structure thus thwarted a more sustained reflection on how history as a discourse suppresses the function of the conditions of narrativity in its discourse. Gcaleka, perhaps surreptitiously, renders the distinction between evidence and imagination, or history and historiography, inoperable by revealing their imbrications in the modes of evidence of the colonial archive. This inoperability of a key distinction in historical discourse is a recurrent theme in narratives on the killing of Hintsa. Consider, for example,

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two slightly discrepant descriptions of Hintsa – and of the so-called cattle- killing episode of 1856–57 – offered by Jeff Peires in his history The Dead will Arise and Zakes Mda in his novel The Heart of Redness. Although Mda’s novel draws extensively on Peires’s research as it sets out to explore the cattle killing, it is infused in contemporary debates about rural development and fictionalised around tourist development in Qolora, the setting of Nongqawuse’s suicidal prophecy. Peires’s description of Hintsa’s death is echoed in Mda’s text with slight but significant adjustment. Shortly before telling us that Sarhili did not wish to invite upon himself the fate meted out to his father, Hintsa, due to inaction, Peires recalls how:

Sarhili [could not] forget that terrible day more than twenty years previously (April 1835) when he had accompanied his father Hintsa as he rode proudly into the camp of Governor D’Urban. Hintsa was given assurances of his personal safety, but he was never to leave the camp alive. D’Urban disarmed Hintsa’s retinue, placed the king under heavy guard and threatened to hang him from the nearest tree. Hintsa was held hostage for a ransom of 25 000 cattle and 500 horses, ‘war damages’ owed to the colony. He tried to escape but was shot down, and after he was dead his ears were cut off as military souvenirs. 28

In adhering to the broad outlines of Peires’s account of the cattle killing, Mda offers the following account of the circumstances in which Hintsa was killed. Narrating the unfolding drama of the cattle killing, Mda reminds us of the chasm between the administrative burden of the colonial archive and the demands of anti-colonial memory:

The Otherworld where the ancestors lived had been caressed by the shadow of King Hintsa. Even though almost twenty years had passed since King Hintsa had been brutally murdered in 1835 by Governor Sir Benjamin D’Urban, the amaXhosa people still remembered him with great love. They had not forgotten how D’Urban had invited the king to a meeting, promising him that he would be safe, only to cut his ears as souvenirs and ship his head to Britain. 29

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The charge of murder in this narrative revision replaces the agency of escaping, D’Urban is made responsible for the shooting rather than George Southey whom the colonial archive identifies as having fired the shot and, not only was the body mutilated but, according to Mda, the head was also shipped to Britain. As the subjects of history emerge in the respective narratives, the event of history recalls the difference between what can be said and what is actually said about the killing of Hintsa, the historical difference, that is, between history as a system of subjection, and history as a system of production. Herein, I wish to argue, lies the fate, and perhaps the salvation, of Nicholas Gcaleka. This is not to suggest that the poetic necessarily represents an alternative to the colonising predicament of the archive. Rather than subsuming the killing of Hintsa into a temporal context of colonial conquest that can be adjudicated by way of methodological feat or by poetic reinscription, which seemingly permits a perspective unfettered by the archive, I wish to argue that the contested alignment of evidence, poetics and the recovery of subjectivity in the narration of history posits an epistemic limit in conceptualising a history after apartheid. That problem may be discerned in what I am calling the fabrication of historical subjectivity – the process by which the subject is necessarily cast as the very object of historical discourse.

Raising the stakes in critiques of apartheid

The story of the killing of Hintsa cannot be told without blurring the distinction between history and historiography. This is the premise of this book, which endeavours to connect the modes of evidence of the colonial archive with the imaginary structure that underlies its narrative possibilities. In delineating the indistinction of the two in the story of the killing of Hintsa, I hope also to outline a way to connect history and historiography so as to activate a postcolonial critique of apartheid that would enable possible new directions in the rewriting of South African history.

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Nicholas Gcaleka’s mission was one instance where the writing of South African history was opened up for deliberation. Gcaleka’s quest brought to the fore the question of the killing of Hintsa in the nineteenth century, which paradoxically led to his very own entanglement in the modes of evidence of the colonial archive. It also had the unintended consequence of generating a discussion about the rewriting of South African history after apartheid. For example, the search for Hintsa’s skull was the inspiration behind a lecture on the rewriting of South African history by eminent social historian Shula Marks in Britain in 1996. 30 Marks approached the topic of the rewriting of South African history by discussing the recent retrieval of a skull – alleged to belong to Hintsa – by the healer–diviner Nicholas Tilana Gcaleka. In a bid to interpret the quest for the skull and in light of the failure to prove the skull’s authenticity once discovered, Marks declared that Gcaleka was a man of his time. 31 By this Marks meant that Gcaleka served as evidence of an identity that mediates the economic difficulties accompanying unfulfilled political promises in the post-apartheid period – the agent that mediates, and perhaps represents, a social reality. Now a double victim of his own truth game, Gcaleka was to be mobilised against the postmodernists and postcolonialists – themselves agents supposedly seeking to undermine the sacred domains of disciplinary history – as a sign of the legitimacy of what Marks calls materialist history. Mike Nicol similarly sees Nicholas Gcaleka as adding to the modern noise of late capitalism by making claims on shaky historical foundations. Ciraj Rassool, Gary Minkley and Leslie Witz all refer to the difficulty that Gcaleka poses for social history when the evidence of human remains does not fit the requirements of histories of social change. As Gcaleka slipped into his new representative role as a sign of the times, he came to mark the postapartheid present as an imperfect tense. In each case, I suggest, Gcaleka must be seen to be creating the space for thinking about history’s relation to power. But Gcaleka simply did not seem to fit the roles ascribed to him from high above. The misfit of the text often wreaks havoc with the prescriptions

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of discipline, sometimes exceeding expectations and at others falling hopelessly short thereof. If Gcaleka is indeed to offer a different reading of the South African past, and help in unravelling the hegemony of the colonial archive, then we might revalue his position in terms of the potential ascribed to the subaltern subject in tandem with elevating the theme of postcolonialism, discernible in earlier critiques of apartheid. To resurrect this latent postcolonial theme is to ask that we attend to the colonial hangover in the constitution of the subject of history. Any attempt to forge a history after apartheid would in my view need to attend to the strands of postcolonialism as a way to make explicit the relations between disciplinary knowledge and power. In the long run such an approach may help us better comprehend the formation of subjectivity in South African history. Today, in the aftermath of apartheid’s legal dissolution, it is also necessary to reformulate the meaning of apartheid given the seemingly entrenched legacies of authoritarianism that seem to persist in South African society. The postcolonial critique of apartheid is a continuation of a strand of critique that derives from a critical engagement with the intellectual inheritance of Marxist scholarship of the 1970s, which investigated the structural conditions of apartheid. The scholarship of the 1970s, especially the formative debate involving Martin Legassick and Harold Wolpe, helped to activate a revisionist understanding of race and class and to pave the way for the agency rooted in the black experience of rural dispossession and urban labour. 32 The critique of apartheid, influenced to some extent by the growth of underdevelopment theories, forged in the context of Latin America, resulted in an analysis in which the concepts of race and class critically interrupted each other. However, these arguments were later appropriated into the narratives of the Cold War and resistance to apartheid in South Africa, tending in the process to become somewhat fixed in their meaning. 33 One reason for this is, perhaps, that, in the discourses of liberation movements, the notions of race and class became increasingly regulated through programmatic statements such as ‘colonialism of a special type’, which became the basis of analyses of apartheid within the African

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National Congress (aNC) and the South African Communist Party (SaCP) after 1962. 34 Given the imbrication of concepts of race and class and also the need to propose a concept of apartheid that allows us to properly formulate a deeper meaning of the postapartheid, we may have to embark on what I call a postcolonial critique of apartheid. This will require us to dehistoricise the history of race and class by dissolving nostalgic formulations of agency embedded in the willing subject, thereby enabling a relocation of agency in the activating dynamic of discipline through which the subject of contemporary politics is seemingly inaugurated. 35 Most importantly, a postcolonial critique of apartheid will ask whether the discourse of history is capable of initiating a different ethical relation to Nicholas Gcaleka by contesting historicist formulations of colonialism. The term ‘postcolonial’ perhaps invites us to explore the conditions under which the colonised subject, even after the advent of anti-colonial nationalism and, one might say, after the dissolution of legalised apartheid, is returned to the position of subaltern. The term has gained such currency in contemporary Africa as a designation of mere temporal distinction with colonialism (a usage with which I remain uncomfortable) that its precise deployment in respect of the interlocking stories of Gcaleka and Hintsa is in need of elaboration. In my reading, the postcolonial offers a critical model of disciplinarity that supplements the unravelling of apartheid in terms of race and class. In a crudely composite sense, the term ‘postcolonial’ ultimately leads us to a critical concept of the subjection of agency which brackets nostalgic concepts of agency to one that takes seriously its disciplinary conditions of possibility. Occasionally, the term ‘postcolonial’ is greeted with some scepticism amongst scholars whose arguments fall within the epistemic frameworks staked out by an emergent but earlier critique of the underdevelopment wrought by late capitalism. Largely basing their disagreements on a temporal understanding of the postcolonial as temporally post-colonial, Anne McClintock, Ella Shohat and Arif Dirlik, among others, early on expressed wariness about the concept, which they believed proved inadequate

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in confronting the effects of globalisation. 36 At times the argument about the term’s imprecision held that its targets were misplaced and that there was scant regard for the post-colonial impulse of the 1970s that addressed the problem of the development of underdevelopment accompanying late capitalism. Dirlik in particular was concerned that the post-colonial was needlessly underestimating the category of class and the mechanism of capital in manufacturing its most recent installation in globalisation. For Dirlik, the post-colonial grossly underplays capitalism’s structuring of the modern world. McClintock, Shohat and also, in a slightly different polemic, Aijaz Ahmad 37 were concerned that the term ‘post-colonial’ unnecessarily abandoned the resources of history and yet-to-be-exhausted political projects with which to confront globalisation. Together they bemoaned the depoliticising effects of the post-colonial. Ahmad, for his part, entered into a vitriolic critique of the post-colonial as a consequence of the first world location of its intellectuals, amongst whom he singled out Edward Said. Judging from Stuart Hall’s incisive reworking of the idea of the postcolonial as an invitation to think at the limit, these problematisations of the term by McClintock, Shohat and Dirlik were not without consequence. 38 Hall, for example, takes Dirlik’s comments about the absence of any talk of capitalism in the work of postcolonial scholars seriously, agreeing that the elision is remarkable, but finds the subsequent conflation of postcoloniality and late capitalism troubling, if not stunningly reductionist to material context. For Hall, the rise of postcolonial criticism might more usefully be seen as an ally in tackling the linear unidirectional narrative of globalisation by posting ‘a critical interruption into that whole grand historiographical narrative’. 39 It therefore serves as a counterpoint to the history of globalisation and its accompanying claim of a common humanity by revealing the inheritance of the violent effects of a colonial modernity. In the process the postcolonial also breaks down the inside/outside of the colonial system on which, according to Hall, histories of imperialism have thrived. What I find most enabling about Hall’s critique of McClintock, Shohat and Dirlik is his insistence on the further problematisation and intensification of the term

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‘postcolonial’ if it is to serve as a strategy to harness the discontents with globalisation to political ends. It is not therefore surprising that he should approach the postcolonial as an episteme in the making. If the postcolonial is to serve as accomplice in constructing a history after apartheid by constituting a different ethical and political relation to the subject, it would prove necessary to forego a reliance on the temporal structure that separates history and historiography. Perhaps the best-known effort to test the implications of postcolonial critique is that produced by the Subaltern Studies Collective (SSC) in South Asia. The rise of the figure of the subaltern – a subject that is always also out of synch with the empty homogenous time of capital – has contributed to unfolding a strategy of parabasis – being outside while at once inside the play or argument of history. By putting the subaltern into play in the discourse of history, SSC has also realigned the principal disciplinary distinction between history and historiography that defines the historian’s craft. In so doing, it has called into question unilinear temporal theories of change that dominate the discourse of history and the political effects of the specific histories they give rise to. Let me draw out the productivity of the exchange more carefully so as to emphasise its potential in working towards an epistemic rupture. It is possible to discern in SSC not only an argument with British liberalism in India but also a fundamental disagreement with Marx’s famous essay, ‘On Imperialism in India’, 40 in which he proposed that colonialism was a troublesome but necessary event in the history of capital. SSC draws out the inadequacies of nationalist responses to this narrative of change by implicating its disciplinary forms in the very colonial violence that it sets out to oppose. As I prefer to think of the work undertaken by the collective, it did not merely follow Marx in turning Hegel’s inversion of things right side up, on their feet, as in the famous metaphor for the dialectical challenge posed by the young left Hegelians, but opted to inquire into the failed promise of its spirit that prompted none other than Marx to explore the necessary stage of colonialism in world history. SSC did not merely seek to react in opposition

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to Hegel’s model, but called into question the limits of dialectical thinking. Writing on Hegel’s attempt to shield world historical deeds from criticism, Ranajit Guha, one of the originators of the project, notes:

Our critique, which stands at the limit of World-history, has no compunction whatsoever in ignoring this advice [from Hegel]. From the point of view of those left out of World-history this advice amounts to condoning precisely such ‘world historical deeds’ – the rape of continents, the destruction of cultures, the poisoning of the environment – as helped ‘the great men who [were] the individuals of world history’ to build empires and trap their subject populations in what the pseudo-historical language of imperialism could describe

as Prehistory. 41

This, however, was not merely to write a social history from below; one that was additive of those who were cast as Europe’s people without history. The elaboration of the concept ‘subaltern’ exposed something of a categorical crisis when history’s relation to power was specifically refracted through the prism of postcolonial criticism. As such, the subaltern marked a necessary limit in the composition of power. This, as Gyan Prakash notes, means that subalternity erupts within the system of dominance and marks its limits from within, that its externality to dominant systems of knowledge and power surfaces inside the system of dominance, but only as an intimation, as a trace of that which eludes the dominant discourse. 42 Even as a ruse of dominance, as a sign internal to a system or an impossible inadequation in a sign system, the term ‘subaltern’ nevertheless conveys a sense of categorical distinction. If Prakash’s formulation echoes my own reading of Gcaleka, there is still some need to explain the shift proposed by subaltern studies from the recuperative project surrounding the preordained subject of history to a reading of the traces of subalternity in hegemonic discourses. The question, it seems, is equally one about the concepts of difference that subaltern studies entertains and whether these might help to activate a postcolonial critique of apartheid.

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In Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s argument about representation and the subaltern in the essay ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ a strategic use of essentialism in a politically scrupulous programme simultaneously highlights the limits of identity politics in an environment overdetermined by the interplay of disciplinary power and reason. 43 The operative phrase – politically scrupulous programme – is of course crucial because in the attempt to recover the subjectivity named by the place-keeper ‘subaltern’, the historian invariably encounters the limits and complicities of her own apparatus of reading. In the case of colonial India and its independence struggle, that apparatus was deeply imbued with the shades of nationalism and Marxism, each promising a future that transcended a violent past but becoming increasingly embroiled in the prescriptions of the Cold War. In the SSC, the subaltern is inserted into the logic of these grand narratives, not because it can be featured as an exemplar of historical consciousness, but because it enables an investigation of the anatomy of failure to complete the critique of colonialism in the discourses of nationalism and Marxism. The work undertaken in the name of the SSC, itself a considerably diverse research agenda bound together by a broad postcolonial intellectual commitment, has resulted, in at least one sense, in a critical deconstruction of historiography – both nationalist and Marxist. In the promise of transition from colonial rule, the figure of the subaltern stood, hyperbolically perhaps, as a demographic differential, to use Guha’s term, that interrupted the flows of historiographical modalities of social change. If indeed that phrase has proved successful in calling attention to failed promises, I want to argue that, in a peculiar if not ironic sense, apartheid too could be seen as an instance of demographic difference, especially if we consider its legislative tyranny of separate development. Yet, there is something more poignant than the reminder of apartheid’s decree in the arguments of the SSC, especially in its attempt to question the theories of change presented by nationalist and Marxist historiography in respect of those whose consciousness needed to be translated into respective metafictions. More crucial is the way in which the

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SSC helps us to think of how nationalism resonates with the universalising narrative of Marxism. Perhaps one way to name that productivity is through the more deconstructive edge of the collective, which annotates its own failure in recovering subaltern agency even as it makes possible a critique of theories of change. The subaltern, to rephrase the collective’s initial strategies, was always also placed under erasure as a result of the operation of regimes of truth. As a consequence the project, for all intents and purposes, is better understood as one aimed at deconstructing historiography. Dipesh Chakrabarty provides us with a useful summary of how these strands came together in the work of subaltern studies in India:

With hindsight, it can be said that there were three broad areas in which Subaltern Studies differed from the history-from-below approach of Hobsbawm or Thompson (allowing for differences between these two eminent historians of England and Europe). Subaltern historiography necessarily entailed a relative separation of the history of power from any universalist histories of capital, a critique of the nation form, and an interrogation of the relation between power and knowledge (hence of the archive itself and of history as a form of knowledge). In these differences, I would argue, lay the beginnings of a new way of theorizing the intellectual agenda for postcolonial histories. 44

My engagement with the SSC is premised not so much on its notion of the subaltern as demographic differential but rather on its interruptive strategy for reading, as I have already suggested, the theories of change. I am not necessarily interested in comparative histories in the social scientific sense of that term or in the use of the term ‘subaltern’ to denote yet another subject category in the pantheon of multiculturalism. I do not feel that the term ‘subaltern’ should limit us to a sense of categorical distinction. Mine is a more selective advancement of the project of the SSC which stages an inquiry about the theory of change in the transition from apartheid to postapartheid South Africa, and allows us, as Hall would have it, to intensify postcolonial

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criticism. 45 If histories of change are conventionally believed to be marked by historiographical presuppositions, what specific theory of change guides the shift towards the onset of the postapartheid? My own contribution to the discourse of the SSC is to show how history works to put the subaltern in his or her place by recourse to the modes of evidence that constitute the colonial archive while offering the SSC some recourse to the watchword of apartheid. The intellectual programme charted by the SSC serves as a strategic interlocutor because it expands the sense of the critical work of history in productive and consequential ways. The SSC, especially its more deconstructive tendencies, has highlighted the discrepancy between the philosophical critique of humanism and the historical discourse on the representation of the postcolonial subject. Recall here Frantz Fanon’s rhetorical question which succinctly articulates the point I wish to emphasise: ‘What is this Europe where they are never done talking about man but go about killing men everywhere?’ 46 The resultant impasse, we might say, that activates the programme of the SSC is aligned with the critique of humanism that permeates the interventions of Fanon both in terms of the problem of subject constitution and the irreducibility of colonised subject in the discourse of Europe. The dialogue with the SSC is aimed at unravelling the crisis of history in a manner that clears the ground for the arrival of a postapartheid future. By ‘postapartheid future’ I mean not only that legal rearrangement of society that signifies a period after apartheid but also a discourse that activates a very precise formulation of the postcolonial, which this book helps to elaborate. What enables the dialogue, I believe, is the manner in which the term ‘subaltern’ indirectly allows for a conceptual correlation between subaltern agency and the constraints of identity politics represented by apartheid. This double bind of agency and constraint is consummately recorded in the phrase ‘subjection of agency’ which, according to John Mowitt, opposes notions of agency that lay claim to the will of the agent rather than viewing the formation of the subject’s agency as a product of a long-drawn-out discursive event. 47 If we are to think of this in relation to the position of

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Nicholas Gcaleka’s quest for Hintsa’s skull, we might say that not making the cut of history is the point at which the long-drawn-out collusion of archive and history is revealed. Why the insistence of combining the term ‘subaltern’ with Mowitt’s formulation of the subjection of agency? Because, I argue, it allows for distance between those forms of narration which seek to recover subaltern agency at the expense of attending to how the reinscription of the subject into the discourse of history produces repetition, not difference. Coupled with the phrase ‘subjection of agency’, subaltern studies may be thought of less as a project of recovery than of tracking subaltern effects in discourse. To mark the important distinction that I am belabouring, it may help to place the terms ‘subjection of agency’ and ‘subaltern’ alongside the cryptic notion of ‘lines of flight’ that permeates the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. They suggest that the line of flight ‘is a sort of delirium’ not unlike that which marks the predicament of postcoloniality and the effort to invalidate the binaries forged under the aegis of colonial decree. 48 Underscoring a distinction between line of flight and escape, Deleuze provides a qualification that we would do well to entertain if we

are to reformulate the productivity of the term ‘subaltern’ in the interests of developing a postcolonial critique of apartheid:

even when a distinction is drawn between the flight and the voyage, the flight still remains an ambiguous operation. What is it which tells us that, on a line of flight, we will not rediscover everything we are fleeing? In fleeing fascism, we rediscover fascist coagulations on the line of flight. In fleeing everything, how can we avoid reconstituting both our country of origin and our formation of power, our intoxicants, our psychoanalyses and our mommies and daddies? How can one avoid the line of flight’s becoming identical with a pure and

simple movement of

.? 49

Lines of flight allow us to relocate the force of agency in the very conditions of constraint to which it is ultimately bound. It sheds light on the specific

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relation between subalternity and subjection of agency so as to establish the conditions for deliberating new meanings for postcolonial difference. One way to proceed, it seems, is to understand apartheid’s relation to colonial violence and its archive anew, in terms of the subjection of agency and its related subaltern effects. If the colonial archive not only preceded apartheid but defined it discursively as a system of modernist tyranny, if it is the source of organising the subjection of agency, then the question that this book poses is: how does one establish a line of flight not only from the violence of colonialism, but also from the tendency for the archive to regulate much of what can be said in its wake? Far from being akin to a superstructure, though, the colonial archive is a reminder of the possibilities of power to code every emergent relation in society, even the resistance to that power that I too ultimately seek to establish through the process of writing this book. 50 As theories of underdevelopment increasingly seeped into analyses of apartheid through Marxist scholarship in the 1970s and 1980s, a more discreet strand of postcolonial criticism inaugurated in part by the work of Bernard Cohn and Edward Said simultaneously, but independently of specifically Marxist framings, drew attention to the vast networks of knowledge by which the colonial project created the conditions for the exercise of power. 51 That the critique of apartheid as a recognisable social formation opted out of pursuing this latter postcolonial trajectory seems to have stunted the possibilities of intensifying the critique of apartheid, in ways that tackled the disciplinary conditions of apartheid’s exercise of power. Taken together, Cohn and Said placed before us a radical revision of the analysis presented in Michel Foucault’s Order of Things and Archeology of Knowledge; 52 theirs was not merely an echo of the trajectory charted in Foucault’s early work. Their arguments on the making of the Orient as an object of knowledge tended to diminish the distance between epistemic formation (the arrangement in an episteme of rational elements and other elements that are not rational) and discursive formation (the regularisation of statements expressed through their positivity). Accordingly, Foucault’s

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description of the classical, renaissance or modern episteme was propped up by the vast edifice of Europe’s expansionist project. 53 What Said in particular achieved in his Orientalism, published in 1978, was to intensify the implications of Foucault’s analysis of epistemes and discursive formations by establishing a more definite connection between the disciplinary power and the rise of academic disciplines. The resultant sense of disciplinary reason which Foucault himself would uncover in his Discipline and Punish challenged the very colonial logic and premise of the formation of the human sciences. 54 The implicit argument of Orientalism, as I see it, is that any effort to oversee the birth of the postcolonial must be accompanied by a commensurate rupture in the systems of knowledge that established the conditions of possibility of colonialism in the first place. In returning to the themes developed in Orientalism some years later, Said articulated this aspect of his quest in which he situated his own return to the theme of humanism and the problem of a universalising historicism:

Along with the greater capacity for dealing with – in Ernst Bloch’s phrase – the non-synchronous experiences of Europe’s Other has gone a fairly uniform avoidance of the relationship between European imperialism and these variously constituted and articulated knowledges. What has never taken place is an epistemological critique of the connection between the development of a historicism which has expanded and developed enough to include antithetical attitudes such as ideologies of western imperialism and critiques of imperialism, on the one hand, and, on the other, the actual practice of imperialism by which the accumulation of territories and population, the control of economies, and the incorporation and the homogenization of histories are We must, I believe, think in both political and theoretical terms, locating the main problems in what Frankfurt theory identified as domination and division of labor. We must confront also the problem of the absence of a theoretical, utopian, and libertarian dimension in analysis. We cannot proceed unless we dissipate and redispose the material historicism into radically different pursuits of knowledge,

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and we cannot do that until we are aware that no new projects of knowledge can be constituted unless they resist the dominance and professionalized particularism of historicist systems and reductive, pragmatic, or functionalist theories. 55

This statement not only offers a way to ascertain the complicity of history in sustaining forms of power, but also extends the critique to those histories that present themselves as inclusive and radically opposed to imperialism. The desire to seek an inclusionary narrative of world history has relinquished the need for a critique of historicism which was part of the selective narrative, and its diabolical consequences, in the first place. More importantly, Said is attempting to re-circuit knowledge that does not amount to merely enacting earlier historicist reversals of anti-imperialist narratives of change. In seeking to revisit the relation between apartheid and colonialism, I am suggesting that the search for the meaning of the postapartheid may benefit from the postcolonial expectation of an epistemic rupture and that the latter may be served by a deeper understanding of apartheid. Stated differently, the possibility of a postapartheid that is geared at deepening democracy is perhaps best dealt with by bringing a postcolonial critique of apartheid to bear on it. This would entail bringing to an end historicist constructions in which colonialism, apartheid and the postapartheid (or, in this instance, the post-apartheid) are treated as merely temporally sequential rather than connected through the techniques of disciplinary reason. As the machinery of apartheid is dismantled and its components placed on the proverbial dust heap of history, three very specific questions that have not guided the critique of apartheid hitherto remain to be answered: what kind of disciplinary power did apartheid represent, what kind of normalising effects does it entertain and where would we mark the ends of apartheid? These questions arise from a sense of difficulty in defining what can be best described as the faltering narratives of transition from apartheid to postapartheid.

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Chapter outline

This book is organised roughly into two related sections. The first examines colonial modes of evidence and the imaginary structure that define the

deliberations about the killing of Hintsa. The killing of Hintsa is filtered through complex grids of intelligibility that not only constitute the modes of evidence of the colonial archive but also result in the subjection of agency. These colonial modes of evidence significantly organise the deliberations of

a settler public sphere and anti-colonial nationalist responses. In the second

section, I enact a strategic invalidation of reversals of the colonial archive by drawing on the resources of the Subaltern Studies project. In the process of the exchange with Subaltern Studies, I suggest ways to think about a history after apartheid that also alters our understanding of critical possibilities that inhere in postcolonial histories. A common structure in the argument in each chapter is to see how

a particular domain or discursive field emerges and/or is shaped by the tensions or contradictions between other fields or forms. Each identifies a particular constitutive tension. Following a critical reading of the archive on the killing of Hintsa, I consider the internal dynamic of information and aesthetics and landscape and ‘native–subject’. In the subsequent chapters

I reflect on the tensions of Empire between settler and colonial histories

that deal with the killing of Hintsa and on nationalist narrations that seek to invalidate this inheritance by separating landscape and ‘native–subject’

and rewriting each in turn. In the case of nationalist narration, I argue that

it unwittingly perhaps finds itself caught up in the tensions of archive and

discipline, and also history and anthropology. The final chapters set to work on unravelling historicist renderings of the relationship between colonialism and apartheid so as to set the stage for a different relation between the discourse of history and the subject of marginality. Chapter 1, ‘Colonial modes of evidence and the grammar of domination’, returns to the story of the killing of Hintsa by British colonial officials in 1835. The central argument of the chapter is that the colonial

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discourses and their modes of forensic evidence framed and limited what could be said about Hintsa. I argue that these modes of evidence, which until Gcaleka’s mission tended to organise our reading of the events surrounding Hintsa’s death, were deeply implicated in an act of violence. As such the chapter is a critique of colonial archives and underscores the need for them to be reread. This chapter sets Gcaleka’s claim against that of a colonial interpretation while exploring his relation to earlier anti-colonial writers and recent historiography. It documents the tensions that surface when attempts are made to revise colonial representations of Hintsa. More recent histories of colonialism have stressed the process by which the colonised subject is objectified. In contrast to the first chapter which focuses primarily on forensic evidence, Chapter 2 argues that the imagined worlds of colonial officials, settlers and missionaries also figured prominently in the constructions of Hintsa and the justification of his murder. The chapter focuses on the mistaken identity of Hintsa in colonial portraiture and his centrality to the formation of a settler public sphere in opposition to the colonial state. The chapter is organised around the paintings of Frederick I’Ons, especially one which is shrouded in secrecy titled The Death of Hintsa, and the practices of portraiture in the British Empire. The story of the killing of Hintsa was not merely a product of empirical fact, as it was claimed in the 1836 commission of inquiry into his death, but also a product of the colonial imagination. 56 The modes of evidence that were forged through the colonial archive resurfaced with settler colonial histories. These histories have been largely treated as symptomatic of the racialisation of South African society. In Chapter 3, I argue that their significance does not only lie in their racial investments but also in their form. I focus extensively on an account of the war of 1834–35 by a journalist, Robert Godlonton, and on the six-volume history produced by George Cory. If Godlonton takes up a position as witness, historian and participant in an emergent public sphere in the eastern Cape, Cory realigns this history to smooth over the tensions of Empire. Both Godlonton and Cory, given their ultimate ideological claims, demand to be

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read with a grain of salt if we are to discern the conditions of constraint that each perpetuates through narrating the story of the killing of Hintsa. Hence the chapter title ‘The properties of facts (or how to read with a grain of salt)’. Anti-colonial nationalism contested colonial constructions with the founding of Lovedale Press in the eastern Cape in the 1930s and the rise of what has sometimes been called ‘Xhosa’ historiography. Chapter 4 tracks the figure of Hintsa in the writings of John Henderson Soga and SEK Mqhayi, two major contributors to Xhosa historiography. While seeking to overcome the limits of settler colonial histories of the killing of Hintsa, nationalist history fails to displace the intellectual framework’s conditions of subjection. This is because, I argue, setting to work on a rearrangement of the imaginary structure, the writings that belong to the corpus of Xhosa historiography fail to attend to the disciplinary frameworks that authorise discourses on Hintsa. Nevertheless, the attempt at strategic invalidation of colonial history posits a disagreement at the centre of the discourse of history. In Chapter 5, I propose to return to the scene of colonial annexation of Gcalekaland in the nineteenth century by reading the spectral traces that permeate the colonial archive and its modes of evidence. The chapter is organised around the ways in which Hintsa’s ghost traverses the bureaucratic finalisation of the borders that would many years later define apartheid’s homeland system. Drawing on Ranajit Guha’s notion of the prose of counter- insurgency, I point to a fundamental difficulty in distinguishing between the reliability and liability of the colonial archive. Chapter 6 continues the process of strategic invalidation of the reversal of the colonial archive, this time by exploring the rearrangement of the story of Hintsa in the space of museum exhibitions in South Africa that deal with the story of colonisation. In critiquing the way difference is invoked in the space of the museum exhibition of colonisation, I argue that we home in on the interstitial space between what can be said according to the rules of colonial modes of evidence and what is actually said on the basis of the imaginary structure. This is a space opened up by Nicholas Gcaleka’s mission, which prompts the desire to step out of the shadows of the colonial archive.

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Taken together, these chapters call for a history that makes a conceptual difference in the wake of apartheid, one that addresses itself to the transition from the apartheid to the postapartheid era. This move has to consist of an initial deconstruction of historiography and conceptual ground clearing. Central to this deconstructive move, in my view, is a problematisation of the notion of the colonial archive and its modes of evidence. Historians who have been working with official documents and colonial archives have mostly been aware of the fact that the colonial archive is far from being a neutral storage place, but consists rather of rules of formation which establish hierarchies, labels and categories. However, most historians fail to recognise that they are deeply implicated in this discursive formation. The colonial archive constitutes a pervasive system of knowledge, combining poetics and the exercise of power, which acts upon individuals and regulates their statements. It is from this shadow that I argue we ought to seek a line of flight. Perhaps such a move may enable a repetition of the story of the killing of Hintsa which is different from that which it repeats. Nicholas Gcaleka seemed to have highlighted the limits that apartheid posed on the reworking of modernist concepts of nation and identity. Stepping into the event of history he encountered a discourse that was structured by the conflictual interplay of constraint and productivity. Important to understanding this predicament, I ask that we attend to the difference at the core of a system of representation as a step towards ultimately radicalising the critique of apartheid. One way to accomplish this would be to isolate the difference that is at the core of the discourse of history by investigating how the subject is activated through the epistemic principles of evidence, poetics and the recovery of subjectivity. By Gcaleka’s prompting we are compelled to track the process by which a little-known healer–diviner, in his encounter with the history of colonialism, became entangled in the formation, regulation and transformation of historical statements relating to the deaths of Hintsa. Thinking thus is to engage the possibilities of living after colonialism, and indeed apartheid. ‘After History?’ – ‘History!’ writes Joan Scott. 57 And after apartheid?

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Colonial modes of evidence and the grammar of domination

Grammar is politics by other means. 1

in alTernaTive accounTs of the South African past – alternative, that is, to the grids of colonial, liberal and apartheid thought through which the past has been filtered – the particular story of the killing of Hintsa in 1835 is frequently, and perhaps strategically, deferred to a third person narrator or represented in the idiom of doubt. The habit seems to have been formed many years ago in the literary and historical contributions of SEK Mqhayi and SM Molema during the 1920s. Framed variously as a logical outcome of colonial advance, or in terms of the predictability of colonial violence and the product of interpretation by those complicit in the act of murder, both writers preface their references to the event with a measure of doubt. Mqhayi, for example, in seeking desperately to narrate the story of the killing in terms other than those prescribed by a colonial archive, points out that while there is little doubt that Hintsa’s body was mutilated and that his ear was cut off and sent to Grahamstown – home to many settlers who arrived in 1820 – as a trophy, there is some doubt that his head was cut off. Molema, having identified Hintsa as the moving spirit behind the Sixth Xhosa War in his The Bantu Past and Present, 2 repeats the sequence of events that have come to be associated with Hintsa’s death:

escaped, pursued by Colonel Harry Smith and shot by Southey. Molema

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deflects all responsibility for the story by introducing the sequence of events with the phrase ‘it is said’. The story of the death of a ‘moving spirit’ is thereby entrusted to an anonymous third person while the implicitly sarcastic gesture implied by such a deflection conveys a sense of narrative impasse. Symptomatic of the predicament that surrounds the indecision of narrating the story of the killing of Hintsa is the problem of assigning roles to the various actors in the narrative – the king, the British soldiers, civilian conscripts, and the investigating subject. None of these positions can be taken as given. One reason for this uncertainty is perhaps that these subject positions are each products of an intricate and overlapping network of evidentiary and narrative techniques discernible at the levels of grammar, circuits of information, cartography, a commission of inquiry and history. Taking hold of the story, as I will show, necessarily involves becoming entangled in these respective modes of evidence. The historian seeking to make sense of the killing of Hintsa is compelled also to make sense of the modes of evidence of the colonial archive. It may be useful to consider how the conditions of speaking about the killing of Hintsa generate a narrative that is circumscribed by the discourse of colonial officialdom. The modes of evidence of the colonial archive do not necessarily provide an understanding of the events leading up to the killing of Hintsa, but rather help to define the limits of what can be said about the killing. Stated differently, we might say that the modes of evidence of the colonial archive are a form of rationalisation of the element of doubt that surrounds the story of the killing of Hintsa. The slippage into a language that describes the Xhosa as treacherous was a sign of incomprehensibility on the part of colonial officials. An alternative anti-colonial nationalist history of the event would fester in these spaces of uncertainty. In turn, the failure on the part of the colonial forces to anticipate other responses and explanations had far-reaching consequences for redefining the subjectivities of colonised subjects, settlers and colonial officials. It also formed the basis on which histories of the killing of Hintsa were built, demolished and rebuilt over time.

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In historiography of the 1970s and 1980s the story of the killing of Hintsa is told with extraordinary brevity and with references that lead us back to the colonial archive or through circuitous citations to the sources of power. Upholding a commitment to history from the perspective of the colonised, contemporary historians have signposted their use of colonial documents, alerting the reader to the dangers of an unfamiliar and a politically antagonistic descriptive vocabulary. Clifton Crais remarks, for example, that there ‘is no need to go into great detail recounting the war [in which Hintsa was killed]’. 3 It has been well described, he adds, particularly from the perspective of the colonists, by several authors. In proceeding, he stresses the emergence of conflict as a response to colonial expropriations of land and concludes with a summary of the event by suggesting that Hintsa attempted to negotiate with the colonial state and voluntarily entered the British camp in his territory. Made a prisoner, Crais adds, he attempted to escape, was hunted down, shot and mutilated. In perhaps the most important contribution to the history of precolonial society in the eastern Cape, Jeff Peires only manages a brief footnote in his House of Phalo with the rider that the entire court record that serves as historical evidence was extensively stage-managed by Colonel Harry Smith and is of little relevance to the historian seeking to construct an alternative or truthful account of events. As in a recent textbook of the southern African past by Neil Parsons, 4 Peires only manages a few lines on the killing of Hintsa. If the story of Hintsa was glossed over in the House of Phalo it was because the subjectivity of Hintsa is overdetermined by colonial concerns and administrative priorities or, to phrase it slightly differently, by a combination of cadastral prose and the prose of counter-insurgency. The memory of Hintsa is rather inserted into the 100 years of war that engulfed the eastern Cape. In narrating the 1840s and 1850s, for example, the memory of Hintsa serves as a prelude to reinterpreting the reign of Sarhili, Hintsa’s son, primarily by adding a quality of resistance to the narrative of the cattle killing in which many Xhosa embraced a catastrophic prophecy which promised the resurrection of the dead. Thus, on the eve of the War of the Axe

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in 1846–47, Peires emphasises how Sarhili recounted his first introduction to his colonial neighbours, claiming that he never forgot and he never forgave. ‘Where is my father?’ he asked his councilors when the War of the Axe broke out. ‘He is dead by the hands of these people. He was killed at

his own house. He died without

.Today we will fight.’ 5

In contrast to Crais, Parsons and Peires, Timothy Stapleton, a historian of Rharhabe experience and resistance to nineteenth-century conquest, offers a brief summary of the prehistory of the event – to borrow a phrase from Shahid Amin. 6 In Stapleton’s version, D’Urban crossed the Kei River on 20 April 1835 and established a camp near the Wesleyan mission of Butterworth. Under the guise of punishing Hintsa for encouraging the attack on the colony by the amaRharhabe, a descendent Xhosa chieftaincy, Stapleton claims that the governor declared war on the Gcaleka (an upper house of the Xhosa chieftaincy from which Nicholas Gcaleka draws his nom de plume). After a campaign of terror in which kraals were burnt and cattle seized, Hintsa and 40 retainers, it is held, rode into D’Urban’s camp to negotiate a settlement. The account then points out that they were subsequently disarmed and taken prisoner. Hintsa was instructed to surrender cattle and horses – alleged to have been stolen from settlers in and around Grahamstown – to the colonial forces, and to accept responsibility for Rharhabe hostilities. In turn, says Stapleton, Hintsa sent a message to Chief Maqoma describing his capture and warning the regent not to trust the Europeans. In concluding the story we are told that Hintsa was forced to accompany Smith’s patrol on a mission to gather Gcaleka stock, and on 12 May he was shot through the head by colonial soldiers, who proceeded to cut off his ears. 7 Despite the fleeting attention paid to the killing of Hintsa in recent historiographies on the eastern Cape, the story assumes a pivotal position in earlier nationalist narration of the early twentieth century. The work of SEK Mqhayi, John Henderson Soga and SM Molema attributes far greater signi- ficance to the task of representing Hintsa in light of colonial constructions.

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In these nationalist narrations it is not merely the question of the truth

about what happened to Hintsa that is at issue, but also the reconfiguration

of a historical subject who enabled a recollection of precolonial social and

juridical relations. Such a reworking sought to connect earlier forms of

resistance to colonialism to later opposition to segregation and apartheid.

A nationalist narration of the killing of Hintsa reveals incommensurability

between evidence and epistemology, and the possibility under those conditions for reworking subjectivity similar to that which organises Stapleton’s account. In anti-colonial nationalist narration, the story of Hintsa is located in an eighteenth century split in the House of Phalo into Rharhabe and Gcaleka houses (discussed in more detail in Chapter 4), and colonial exploitation of this social arrangement. The narrative is largely told in terms of patrimony and chiefly authority organised around the emergence of two houses that defined the precolonial Xhosa kingdom. Underlining the central distinction

between the Great House and the right-hand house, John Henderson Soga, writing in the 1930s, noted:

By courtesy, matters affecting Xhosa customs might occasionally be referred to a chief of the older branch [the Gcaleka branch] especially when a precedent was involved, but this did not prevent the Right-Hand House from following its own line of conduct, irrespective of what that precedent might be, should it choose to do so. Laws promulgated by the court of the Ngqika’s were not subject to interference by the Gcaleka chief. 8

Phalo, under whose rule the distinction between the two houses became noticeably marked, died in 1775. His son, Gcaleka, ascended to the paramountcy while Rharhabe emerged as the regent of the right-hand house. Gcaleka died three years later, in 1788, and was succeeded by his son Khawuta. Oral traditions present Khawuta as a very weak leader by claiming that he did not strengthen the position of his rule, which lasted until 1794. The Rharhabe house, under the leadership of Ndlambe and

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Ngqika respectively, experienced a marked consolidation of its power by the beginning of the nineteenth century through allying with the Cape Colony. The Rharhabe chiefdom became so powerful that they attacked the Gcaleka and drove them east of the Kei River near the modern town of Willowvale. The Rharhabe settled to the west of the Kei River, near what is today Stutterheim. After Khawuta’s death, Hintsa became the ruler of the Gcaleka and the paramount king of all the Xhosa. Hintsa, it is admitted in several nationalist texts, had a difficult relationship with the son of Rharhabe, the young Ngqika, brought about by the latter’s conflict with his uncle and proxy chief, Ndlambe. This was aggravated by the fact that Hintsa had given Ndlambe refuge at the time of a leadership dispute in the Rharhabe house and that, for his part, Ngqika had extended an alliance with the British against his uncle. When Ngqika died in 1829, apparently of alcohol abuse, his son Maqoma fought a guerrilla- styled war in the Amathole Mountains in which British forces suffered considerable losses. 9 The appointment of Benjamin D’Urban in 1834 and the deployment of Colonel Harry Smith to arrange the defence of Grahamstown where settlers had taken refuge, saw a change in tactics towards Maqoma. The British colonial officials at the Cape chose to target the paramount king, Hintsa, east of the Kei River in a town later renamed Butterworth for the war being waged against the colony. They accused Hintsa of complicity in Maqoma’s war and of harbouring cattle allegedly stolen from settlers along the eastern Cape frontier. On a mission to the Mbashe River to retrieve cattle, Hintsa was killed and his body mutilated and, some say, his head was severed. Narrative impasse stems from the manner in which the British cleared the scene of the crime, removed traces that may have enabled an alternative history and left in its place only one story: their own. It seems ironic, though perfectly understandable, that alternative versions of the South African past should defer the narration of this cowardly act, such a crucial event in South African history, to the very perpetrators of murder. More importantly, the deferrals and doubts that frame an alternative history

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of the killing of Hintsa seem to suggest that colonial sources are useful in describing everything around the event except the event itself. Phrased differently, why are colonial sources seen as reliable for accessing some aspects of Xhosa pasts but not others? And how do historians discriminate between reliability and liability or source and discourse? In this chapter, I explore the work that evidence performs (or does not perform) for an alternative history of the event by unfolding the complex web of techniques and procedures through which it is produced within the logic of colonial domination. I am especially interested in how a primary discourse – understood in this instance as a field of intelligibility that is more or less the product of colonial rule – emerges as a primary source – understood as the raw material upon which the historian’s practice rests. In other words, how is an institutionally bound discourse produced as an indispensable resource in the story of the killing of Hintsa? To pose the question along these lines is to ask that we attend to the very constitution of evidence. Evidence, whether in the form of the colonial archive or an archive of opposition, does not necessarily provide a window to some prior reality, nor should we only evaluate it in terms of the categories of ‘objectivity’ and ‘bias’. Rather, I suggest that by apprehending the procedures through which evidence is produced and the rules that inaugurate particular ways of knowing, we may encounter an altogether different perspective on domination. 10 This chapter explores the modes of a colonial information economy which rested on the tactics of intelligence and surveillance as these relate to the killing of Hintsa in 1835. My argument, briefly, is that the dismissal of colonial records as biased limits the possibilities of understanding the interior logic and effects of domination, and unnecessarily suggests the possibility of an objective history of the episode in which Hintsa was killed. 11 Colonial domination could not have proceeded without the accommodation of the African in the narratives that it produced of the conquest of African societies, even when the narrative was explicitly premised on the will of the coloniser. The terms of that incorporation are crucial to an understanding

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of the pervasive logic of domination in the writing of history. This chapter asks us to pause at the question of the constitution of evidence and its consequences for narrating the killing of Chief Hintsa along what came to be called the eastern Cape frontier. The tactic may yield a story unimagined and unanticipated by the perpetrators of this cruel act of violence – a story in which we track the itinerary of the emergence of truth as ‘empirical’ 12 and the social process of the subjection of agency. 13 We may have to think accordingly of the ways in which agency is conditioned by the norms, practices, institutions and discourses through which it is made available. In this sense the question of agency may also be posed in terms of the practices and procedures of evidence making and the protocols of history – the social process, in other words, of the subjection of agency.

The colonial archive and the subjection of agency

The colonial archive is not merely a condition for knowledge but an apparatus that inaugurates a very specific form of the subjection of agency. 14 Whereas the colonial archive is usually read in relation to its exclusions, its function in the process of subject constitution, its process of objectification in other words, reveals the techniques of colonial governmentality interlaced with the grammar of domination. The colonial archive thereby combines and orders dispatches, cartographic representations, information and intelligence reports, commissions of inquiry and the orders of language in a very specific way to keep the subject in its place. 15 Taken together, we may discern very specific modes of evidence in the colonial archive as well as the effects of such an assemblage of evidence. Ultimately, these modes of evidence of the colonial archive operate in a manner that organises our reading of its subjective effects. If we consider the archive along a reformulated notion of agency that does not merely hark back to nostalgic constructions, then we may have to attend to the further question of the materialisation of subjectivity in the colonial archive and the ways in which the latter is conditioned and sustained by

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specific rules and fields of intelligibility. This line of inquiry demands that we attend to the social process whereby agency is conflated with the agent – defined variously as object, subject or mediator – by way of a study of the agency entailed in an activating dynamic – institutions, practices, fields of intelligibility, forms of governmentality and discourses of intellectuals. The introduction of the activating dynamic into a study of history is an attempt at radicalising the project of history so as to undercut the proliferation of essentialist identity politics that seeks to appropriate the work performed in terms of the recuperation of the marginal subject of history. In undercutting identity politics, the demand here is to intensify our efforts by producing more history – histories of concepts, critical histories of historical practices, histories that interrupt the discourse of capitalism and multiculturalism, histories of the formation of objects and subjects, systems of knowledge and the elaboration of discourses. In this way the possibility arises of forcing identity politics, which relies so heavily on history for its legitimacy, into a space of self-referentiality – where it must confront its limits and interests – as it struggles strategically but in a scrupulously visible way. In the wake of the ascendancy of identity politics, one task might be to consider what possibilities – ethical and political – lie in the alternative and potentially enabling practice of history as criticism. 16 The question of agency as a sign of resistance that preoccupied an earlier generation of social historians has been reformulated in more recent historiographical interventions with a concept of agency as embedded in narrative possibility. Luise White, for example, affords us a view of written sources as a mode of narration that is constrained by oral narrative and ‘invaded’ (her word) by orality. 17 She insists on not treating oral and written sources as discrete narrative genres and thereby bypasses the objective/ biased opposition that often structures history as a discipline. 18 The emphasis on genre, mediation and narrative constraint relinquishes the burden of authenticity implicit in an earlier promise of oral history. If, however, oral history was the means through which an obscured African agency was made visible, then how can we account for a concept of agency in what might

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amount to a ‘blurring of genres’ of evidence? 19 Without relinquishing White’s innovative treatment of genre, we may pose the question of agency, it seems, in ways other than in terms of the autonomous subject or authorial subject. 20 The emphasis on autonomous or authorial subjects readily lends itself to an identity politics that may potentially undermine the pursuit of a postapartheid history. If agency serves alternative history and identity politics equally, is it possible to recuperate a notion of agency without surrendering ground to a politics which establishes identity as an end game? To answer this question we may need to inquire into how, in the story of the killing of Hintsa, the question of agency is tied into the discourse of the colonial archive.

The colonial archive and the killing of Hintsa

Fort Willshire offered a suitably safe venue to hear evidence about the killing of Hintsa, especially when compared to the gruesome detail that surfaced at the commission of inquiry convened in 1836. The metaphorical resonances in the selection of the fort to conduct the investigation into the death of Hintsa were not lost in the choice of venue. It was Colonel Willshire, in whose honour the fort was named, who in 1819 had given Hintsa the assurance that the ‘amaGcaleka would not in the slightest be interfered with if the king complied with what was right and reasonable’. 21 That warning seemed to confirm a long-standing belief that Hintsa had been plotting against the British and that his death might be tracked to the first indications and suspicions of treachery. The sense of suspicion that dated back to the governorship of Lord Charles Somerset was reaffirmed through the commission of inquiry into Hintsa’s death, instituted by Sir Benjamin D’Urban in 1836. Through the investigation of the commission of inquiry, Hintsa was blamed and held responsible for his own death. For scholars who stumble upon the military commission of inquiry convened by an embattled governor, Benjamin D’Urban, a year after the

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killing, there is reason to view the record with caution, if not suspicion, that matches that which coloured colonial sentiments about Hintsa. Many contemporary historians have understandably singled out the record of the hearings as unreliable evidence about the killing of the king. The argument, as one might imagine, is that this was an event managed, even choreographed, to counter metropolitan criticism for an incident that most settlers would have considered integral to the maintenance of the British Empire. The story of the killing of Hintsa and the charges of mutilation of his body by subjects of the British Crown after the fateful shot rang out in the depths of the Nqabara River valley were, however, not as easily reduced to the cut-and-dried terms of evidence that the commission proposed. The commission of inquiry in 1836 did not necessarily meet D’Urban’s expectation of neutralising suspicions surrounding the killing. The reason for suspecting that the commission of inquiry operated as mere stagecraft is perhaps a result of the impossibility of disentangling evidence from the grammar of domination. The discipline of history generally approaches the colonial archive with a measure of suspicion because of its supposedly inherent biases. This attitude has merely called forth greater caution in extracting the ‘truth’ of the experience of the colonised, who are thought to be embedded, even buried, in the bureaucratic procedures of documenting the work of Empire in civilising, conquering and controlling. 22 The complicity of the colonial archive in justifying an act of violence, however, is not reducible merely to the consciousness of its scribes. In the specific story of the killing of Hintsa, efforts to narrate the killing in ways that depart from colonial constructions and justifications are significantly constrained by the discourse of the colonial archive. Notwithstanding this apparent difficulty confronting the historian, the colonial archive has been subjected to numerous innovative reading techniques that respectively work against or along the grain of official pronouncements. Neither strategy, however, helps to answer the recurring questions: how does the historian who suspects the colonial archive of covering up the traces of complicity in violence distinguish

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between the reliability and liability of the evidence? When can we extract colonised agency, and when is such agency subject to the conditions of hegemonic or discursive constraint? The impasse is not altogether paralysing, especially since it alerts us to the possibility that the colonial archive is itself an apparatus that has the potential to organise our reading. The colonial archive approximates something like a dispositif or what I prefer to call a mode of evidence that renders it indispensable to the exercise of power. The colonial archive should not, therefore, be approached as a resource for the retrieval of the truth about the killing of Hintsa and its aftermath. As an apparatus, it does not readily lend itself to alternative histories that mark a break with the repertoires of colonial and apartheid narration. Neither is the colonial archive a storehouse of documents. It should be approached, rather, as a mode of evidence in which one can discern the social process for the subjection of agency. As an apparatus that activates and assigns subjects, even fabricates these, the archive specifies a level of facticity indistinguishable from an obscured, but necessary, technique of narrativity. The colonial archive is thus not a documentary collection but a technique of historical narrativisation – a distinguishable archival genre with, I will show later, considerable implications for imagining a postapartheid future. First, however, I propose that we consider how the archive operates at the levels of facticity and narrativity in the specific production of evidence about the killing of Hintsa. In contrast to the brevity of contemporary historiographical accounts of the killing of Hintsa, for the period from 1835 to 1836 the colonial record consists of more than 500 official documents of correspondence and reports on conditions in the eastern Cape, and 200 pages of military court records pertaining to the death of Hintsa. Countless adventure novels, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies and travelogues supplement this list. At first glance, the size of the documentary expanse simply reaffirms our general sense of the bureaucratic procedures upon which colonialism came to depend. A close reading, however, suggests that the colonial archive is

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designed around several technologies of evidence gathering and surveillance. It relies on strategies of cartography, autopsy, 23 on the building of alliances with the Xhosa west of the Kei River, on missionaries’ and traders’ accounts, travellers’ reports and information gathered from a scattering of settlers on the frontier. In these extensive – often arbitrary – networks of communication that came to be associated with colonial rule, the name of Hintsa is often mentioned alongside certain active verbs such as ‘contrive’, ‘instigate’, ‘plunder’ and ‘invade’, which emerge as stock phrases in dispatches from the eastern Cape frontier to the administrative nerve centres of colonial rule in Grahamstown, Cape Town and London. These grammatical orderings explain, to some extent, the subsequent manner in which Hintsa’s death came to be described, understood and judged in colonial circles. In the colonial context, these terms, which were reserved for the colonised, were neither unusual nor surprising. They suited and indeed qualified the object nouns of colonial rule – also known by the names ‘primitive’, ‘uncivilised’, ‘savage’ and ‘Caffre’. There was, however, a certain paradox in the configuration of the colonised as both capable of acts of intrigue and as objects of colonial rule. If the first of these conferred the possibility of agency on the African subject, the second denied the same subject any semblance of identity or agency of their own. Such a paradox militates, it seems, against the view of those who see in colonial texts a deliberate attempt to deny African subjects the capacity to act. 24 It is striking that the deployment of these verbs and nouns was neither random nor arbitrary. In fact, active verbs and object nouns were always organised and perhaps ordered within an accepted system of reportage common to colonial circuits of information and in relation to specific events – such as the killing of Hintsa – which threatened the entire colonial psyche and its moralising and civilising claims. Colonial officials did more than invent a vocabulary through which to describe the colonised as other. They also transformed themselves, in every manner of speaking, into victims of ‘savage’ violence by surrendering

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their position as primary referent. Thus, Governor D’Urban, in one of his dispatches of missionary reports of the Xhosa, represented the latter as:

wolves (which in truth they resemble very much) which, if they be caught young, may be brought to an appearance of tameness, but which invariably throw it off, and appear in all their native fierceness of the woods, as soon as the temptation of blood and ravage, which never fail to elicit their natural ferocity, presents itself to their instinctive thirst for it. 25

If such statements were clearly motivated by colonial racism, they may also be said to allude to the way in which colonialists presented themselves as victims rather than perpetrators – and this in spite of all their attempts at civilising the Xhosa for what D’Urban thought to be ‘their own interests and gratification in the matter’. 26 Colonial officials achieved the reversal whereby they represented themselves as victims rather than as perpetrators through two key mechanisms. Firstly, by reversing the order of subject and object, the Xhosa (and Hintsa in particular) were guaranteed a certain agency. Hintsa, after all, could not be presented as a threat – as an instigator – if he had been rendered incapable of acting. Secondly, the need to confer upon the colonised subject an agency, without denying the British their belief in their superiority or the very justification of colonial rule, depended on a repressive tactic of colonial domination in which assumptions were transformed into facts. This tactic was given the sophisticated and surreptitious name of intelligence gathering. The collection of dispatches and reports that makes up the bulk of the archive pertains to the communications between frontier and colonial headquarters in Grahamstown and Cape Town, between colony and metropole and between traders, missionaries, colonial bureaucrats and military officials situated in Xhosaland and along the frontier. Official reports generally relate to military strategy, the positioning of British troops and the costs – both financial and in terms of the loss of troops – of the

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Sixth Frontier War. The letters of missionaries and traders based along the Kei River were mostly concerned with informing the colonial officials of the movements of the Xhosa along the frontier. Missionaries’ and traders’ reports were included as enclosures to support administrative reports and decisions, and were at times used to show that those settlers who lived amongst the Xhosa demanded more stringent measures than those undertaken by the military. In his report to colonial officials in Britain, Governor D’Urban cited the greater control demanded by the head of the Wesleyan mission in the Cape, WJ Shrewsbury, who had ‘lived among the Xhosa and was therefore as experienced in their character as in colonial frontier history’. 27 Shrewsbury had written in January 1835 that ‘all Africans should be registered – every man wearing on his neck a thin plate of tin containing his name and the name of his chief – to identify offenders and enable the British government to know the number and strength of frontier tribes’. 28 The claims of expertise and dominance were premised on a desire to know. The correspondence that forms such a core component of the colonial archive on the eastern Cape, however, may also be read in terms of an inability to penetrate the veils of secrecy that so confounded British forces during the period of the wars of conquest in the Cape. In a letter from the trader John Rowles on 17 December 1834, for example, we find suggestions of the limits of colonial knowledge. Rowles writes:

I can state, from my own knowledge, that Hintsa’s chief councellors [sic] have been, for last six months, – that is to say, from the period when Hintsa went to the upper country on the pretext of hunting – in close communication with the frontier Caffers; – as soon as one of them returned, another was despatched and this intercourse was continued. Those councellors [sic] remained upward of a month before they returned to Hintsa. I never knew this kind of intercourse to subsist before between Hintsa and the Frontier Caffers. When I asked them what they had been doing among the Frontier Tribes, they made some trivial pretext, such as they went to get assegais, or some cattle or to pay a visit. 29

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Notwithstanding these limits, the colonial archive is organised around these fragmentary reports that came from informants located close to the centres of Xhosa political power and from an expansive administrative and military information economy. The traces of the diverse resources upon which colonial knowledge was based may be gleaned from a report from Governor Sir Benjamin D’Urban to the Secretary of State on conditions in the districts of the Cape Colony on 19 March 1835. The report set out to identify the allies and enemies of the British among the Xhosa, a task that proved immensely important for British operations in the frontier zones. Towards the end of his report D’Urban noted, with a hint of concern, that the strongest among the chiefs, Hintsa, seemed untrustworthy:

Hintsa, the most powerful of them all (and whose territory extends from the mouth of the Kaie to its sources in the Stormberg Mountains, and between it, eastwards, and the Bashee) has been playing a double game. He has received the plundered cattle into his territory, some of his people have even undoubtedly joined the invaders, and his council (hemraaden) are decidedly hostile; but he himself professes not to be so, and so far as I can discover, in some communications which I have had with him during the last month, he is very desirous of holding off, to await the result of our first movements in advance, and then to act as may best suit his policy at the moment. In this, he may go farther than may be for his advantage; because, if he holds back from giving his essential assistance to the other tribes in the outset, he will weaken them, and when they are disposed of, will be left by himself to meet the ulterior proceedings upon our part, which, if we shall find it expedient to adopt them, I have little doubt we shall have discovered ample cause upon his, to justify our adoption. 30

The report appeared as a testament of the extent and importance of the colonial information economy. Judging from the regularity of such reports and the request for detail, the reports proved indispensable to supporters of

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colonial rule who had the opportunity to influence the colonial process at a distance. The suspicion of the double game, however, came largely from the reports produced by missionaries such as Shrewsbury and traders such as

John Rowles. To consider the implications of this uncertainty, let us look at

a second report to the Secretary of State dated 19 June 1835 to gauge the full consequences of the colonial information economy:

It may be in its proper place here to apprize your Lordship of my having, as early as the month of February, ascertained beyond all doubt that Hintsa (the chief of the country between the Kye and the Bashee) had been, if not the original contriver and instigator of the combination among the chiefs of the savage tribes in western Caffreland against the colony, very early referred to and consulted by them therein; that he afforded them his countenance and advice; received into his territory the plundered herds and effects sent thither from the colony; permitted (if not directed) many of his own tribe to join in the invasion; and that, consequently, the border tribes in all their measures relied on his support, and upon the ultimate refuge of his country in case of their failure. This certainty, afterwards still more amply confirmed, had rendered it obviously at once just and necessary that my operations should embrace the country of Hintsa as their concluding stage, and dictated the general outline the plan of them which I gave confidentially to the chief of my staff for his information and guidance, and to which I had afterwards found it necessary to add the postscript in consequence of intelligence then received of a change in the movements of the border tribes. 31

At a glance, there is very little discrepancy between the two reports. Both

point to the threat posed by Hintsa and to the possibilities open to the British

if this were to materialise. One small, though extremely significant exception

for my argument emerges upon a closer reading. This relates to the certainty within which the second report is framed. If in the earlier report Hintsa’s actions are presented in terms of possibilities, in the later report we learn

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that Hintsa had been guilty of conspiring with neighbouring Xhosa against the British ‘beyond all doubt’ and that there was a ‘certainty’ that the events should end with the colonisation of Hintsa’s country. Between the doubt and the certainty, another event would guarantee the British the conclusion that they sought. That event was the killing of Chief Hintsa on 12 May 1835. Much of the literature dealing with Hintsa’s death seems to suggest that it was the ability of the British to remain a step ahead of the chief that resulted in the colonisation of the region of the Kei River. To achieve this, the British had to be fully aware of and knowledgeable about what was occurring along the Cape frontier. However, it was not the certainties guaranteed by the information economy but rather that which was beyond colonial horizons of comprehension – the movements, moods and political alliances that were being forged outside of the purview of the colonial state and its information- gathering apparatus – that prompted the British to colonise the land of the Gcaleka and to kill Hintsa. The unknowable – or, more appropriately, the unverifiable colonial imaginary – was not only expressed in the period preceding the killing of Hintsa (as demonstrated by the first report or in racially charged claims that likened the Xhosa to untameable ‘wolves’ ready to prey on colonial society as soon as the opportunity presented itself). If read closely, the unknowable may be discerned from the very tone in which colonial officials such as D’Urban described the event in its aftermath, as they set about telling their story of a treacherous Hintsa who was responsible for his own downfall. In D’Urban’s report to Lord Aberdeen in June 1835, the governor set out to explain the circumstances surrounding Hintsa’s death. Hintsa, in this version, entered D’Urban’s camp on 30 April 1835 to sign a peace treaty in which he agreed to a British demand for the ‘return’ of 50 000 head of cattle and 1 000 horses in exchange for a cessation of hostilities. Upon signing the treaty, Hintsa apparently asked D’Urban for permission to remain at the camp with his son Crieli (Sarhili) instead of returning to his residence. Hintsa had offered himself as hostage to ensure that the British received the cattle and horses, which they demanded as part of the settlement. Initially

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this strange request was treated by D’Urban as a sign of goodwill but later, he claims, he came to see that this move was motivated by Hintsa’s fear of being accused of selling out the Xhosa by forcing them to surrender the cattle and horses. By remaining a hostage at the camp, Hintsa could claim to be a prisoner of the British, who was therefore forced to obey his captors’ orders. But Hintsa, it was suspected, was conducting a war against the British and their allies (the Mfengu in particular) from within enemy lines. This was the double game alluded to in earlier reports. Hintsa, claimed the governor, was directing the attacks of chiefs residing in the Amathole Mountains and every message sent out in terms of the treaty was accompanied by another message – it was assumed – instructing a line of attack or a tactic to bewilder colonial forces as to the whereabouts of the stock they sought. The messages that were sent out to the Xhosa chiefs, Harry Smith would admit years later in his autobiography, were always secretive. 32 After five days, Hintsa himself had asked to be taken to his people, accompanied by British troops, so that he could attempt to convince them to surrender the remaining cattle. In this instance, too, Hintsa proved tentative in notifying the British as to where he was leading them. It was during that journey that Hintsa escaped and was subsequently shot in the head and killed while attempting to hide along the bank of the Nqabara River. There are two instances in the report that may help to sustain the claim that an unverifiable colonial imaginary played a crucial role in the killing of Hintsa. In the paragraph where the single reference to 15 May is made – three days after the shooting of Hintsa – it is stated that the extension of the colonial border had become not merely expedient but absolutely and indispensably necessary and unavoidable. The statement reads as follows:

The only measure that could promise to repay the expenses of the war, which the colony had been most unwillingly compelled to wage pro aris et focis, and place a defensible barrier between the heart of the colony and the savage tribes of Central Africa, provide security for the future, and a just indemnification for the past. 33

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This claim was not unusual. It bears all the characteristics of an expression of colonial arrogance that could claim victory in the face of such brutal acts against those it encountered as obstacles to its expansion. But it was really in the elaboration of that place between the heart of the colony and what is referred to as ‘Central Africa’ that we encounter an anxiety produced by the unknown and the danger that was signalled by the failure to know. In the very next paragraph to the one just cited, D’Urban claimed:

A brief reference to the public correspondence of the Colonial Department with the successive governors of the colony for the years past, indeed ever since it has belonged to the British Crown (and its previous history, as a colony of Holland, is the same), will suffice to show that the main and insuperable impediment to its growing prosperity, and the source of its greatest misfortunes, have ever been the insecurity of its frontier, arising from the character of the country through which the advancing boundary line has been successfully traced; of this the two last extensions to the Fish River in 1812, and the Keishkamma and Chumie in 1819, are remarkable and incontrovertible instances. Both of these lines are involved in tangled jungles, impervious woody ravines, and in fact made by nature for the preparatory lurking place of the savage, before he springs upon his prey. 34

Grappling with the insecurities of the frontier necessitated the successful tracing of the boundary line – that is, a literal cartographic marking out of a territory that had been annexed. Cartographic claims, however, did not in and of themselves produce the desired securities. 35 In February 1835, D’Urban informed the Colonial Secretary that even though the Keishkamma was mapped as belonging to Britain after the war of 1819, ‘Enno [Nqeno], Bothman [possibly Bhotomane] and Dushanie’s [Mdushane]’ people had concentrated forces in the country. 36 D’Urban suspected that they had concealed themselves there to await the advance of British troops or to trap the troops ‘for the purposes of further ravages’. 37 Each marking or tracing of

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annexed land by colonial officials therefore demanded further annexation and cautioned of the supposed dangers left in its wake. The extension of the line to the Fish River, for example, also pointed to the Keishkamma and Chumie (or Tyhume). In 1835 it pointed toward the Kei River. Given that ‘all manner of danger lurked in those unknown spaces’, the importance of plotting – and extending the traced line – was the only guarantee of security. 38 The unknowable, in the case of Hintsa, was not merely that which lay beyond the colonial gaze. Since Hintsa had located himself within the British camp after 30 April 1835 and directed affairs with Tyalie (Tyhali) and Maqoma from behind enemy lines, colonial officials increasingly doubted the reliability of their intelligence work. While they suspected that Hintsa was organising an attack against the British, they were unable to decipher the messages – conveyed either in code or in secrecy, according to D’Urban – that Hintsa had dispatched to the outer reaches of the frontier. Hintsa was capable of threatening the colonial project from both within and beyond colonial spheres of control or surveillance. The sentiment of doubt expressed in the first report that D’Urban sent to the Colonial Secretary was therefore resolved through an act of violence in which those who threatened the extension of a line on a map and the securities that attended to that cartographic practice were killed and mutilated. Hintsa’s death was necessary for colonial expansionism. If cartographic representations were produced in relation to what I have suggested were colonial insecurities and anxieties, how did these simultaneously come to produce a sense of security and certainty? To answer this question, we need to consider the way mapping worked and was organised in the Cape. According to JS Bergh and JC Visagie’s cartographic guide of the Cape frontier zone, two maps were central to the unfolding drama in the region. 39 The first 40 was drawn by surveyor-general CC Michell and the second, 41 a sketch map, was, according to Bergh and Visagie, clearly carried and used by Governor D’Urban to record landmarks and place names as the invading force progressed. 42

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Maps, as Thongchai Winichakul reminds us, anticipate a spatial reality rather than serve as a scientific abstraction of reality. 43 Anticipation, however, bears the signature of time so that maps pre-empt the configuration of an encountered space. 44 Maps are therefore not merely representative but also pre-emptive. The work performed by the map is that of displacement and of negotiating the limits of the uncertain and the unknowable. Maps, we may argue, are constitutive of the will to power. If D’Urban’s sketch map constitutes the conditions of the enhancement of power, then Michell’s map – which bears the marks of the surveyor’s skill – fixes the conditions of preservation. In D’Urban’s map we have the replaying of the myth of the empty land. Xhosa polities are isolated and are represented through a singular symbolic inscription. No attempt is made to account for the expanse of Gcaleka, Ngqika, Gqunukhwebe or Ndlambe settlements, nor are the interconnections reflected in any way. Instead, we have a single symbol with the name ‘Hintsa’ inscribed below. Whereas D’Urban’s survey depicts the corresponding locations and movements of the first, second, third and fourth divisions of colonial troops, Michell’s map casts the territory as secure and is more detailed, representing the extent of the various chieftaincies and the areas of influence. If, then, D’Urban’s map anticipated a reality – casting its gaze into a field of vision and opening it up so that possibilities become apparent that may point the way to an enhancement of power 45 – Michell’s appropriated the anticipated reality and represented it in terms of a scientific abstraction. Both power enhancement and power preservation belong to the will to knowledge. The convergence of the two operations can be gleaned from James Edward Alexander’s Narrative of a Voyage. 46 Alexander had accompanied the first division along with Michell and D’Urban. The colonial travel account is presented in terms of the trope of adventure, where insecurity is connected to a notion of heroism and bravery while facticity is represented as accomplishment. Here I must limit my comments to two specific suggestions that enable Alexander’s travel account.

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Through cartographic practices, knowledge and colonial force coalesced to produce security for colonial officials and possibilities for the actual annexation of land. Actual annexation lay to rest the insecurities that cartographic practices failed to alleviate. Cartography and colonisation, it may be argued, were mutually reinforcing technologies of displacement, conquest and murder. Literature on colonial mapping underscores this argument. Simon Ryan asserts that in the Australian case, new inscriptions are firstly cartographical but also metaphorical of the transformation of the land by colonisation – the cartographic inscriptions are not simply reflections of reality but organise and license the expropriation and exploitation of land. 47 Similarly, Thongchai Winichakul’s study of Siam and the mapping of what he terms the geo-body frames the relationship between cartography and conquest in terms that echo Ryan’s central argument and that are being developed in this chapter:

Force defined the space. Mapping vindicated it. Without military force, mapping alone was inadequate to claim a legitimate space. But a map always substantiated the legitimation of the military presence. Mapping and military became a single set of mutually re-inforcing technologies to exercise power over space. 48

An understanding of the effects of cartographic inscriptions is crucial to making sense of the concept of the frontier in South Africa. To date, the historiographical tendency has been to pose the geographical (or cartographic) and the social as competing categories through which to describe the frontier. Hermann Giliomee, for example, nearly two decades ago, proclaimed:

The frontier has not only a geographical but also a social dimension. Unlike a boundary, which evokes the image of a line on a map and demarcates spheres of political control, the frontier is an area where colonisation is taking place. Here two or more ethnic communities co-exist with conflicting claims to the land, and no authority is

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recognized as legitimate by all the parties or is able to exercise undisputed control over the area. 49

It is not certain that the Xhosa shared the conception of the frontier that is suggested by Giliomee’s research on the Cape frontier from 1770 to 1812. This is a point I shall return to in a later chapter. For the moment

I wish to pause and contemplate a different answer to Martin Legassick’s

suggestion that more attention be paid to the ‘frontier’ itself. 50 Based on

the preceding discussion on the rules of the formation of evidence, the frontier was also a conceptual or imaginary formation premised on the rules of an information economy, cartography, colonial myth models and colonial anxiety that had devastating political consequences in the eastern Cape. As in Ryan’s argument, cartography in the Cape licensed colonisation because it demarcated certainty and uncertainty, fear and security, the familiar and the unfamiliar. The colonial advance produced evidence in as much as it depended on evidence to effect its advance against Xhosa polities. The frontier, I suggest, is not to be understood only as a place where social forces compete for claims to the land or authority. Rather, it represented a conceptual limit, a mapped space, the formation of which had fundamental political and economic consequences for those caught in the way of its operation. If, as John Comaroff has pointed out, there was a clash of three

models of colonialism in the specific instance of the missionary imagination

– a state model that emphasised trade and alliances with native chiefs, the

settler colonialism of the Boers that converted independent chiefdoms into servile labour, and the civilising colonialism of the missionaries – then perhaps it could be argued that these competing strands came together in the production of evidence that was so central to the annexation of land

and so crucial to conceal that which was incomprehensible. 51 Insofar as each of these models contributed to knowledge of the Xhosa, and since they were each marked by discrepant interests, the evidence was always partial if not contingent.

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The dominant concept of evidence that suggests itself in explaining the events leading up to the death of Hintsa is what we may call legitimation through knowing. Such knowing is premised on a wide-ranging set of techniques, from intelligence gathering to cartography to autopsy. Each of these technologies also proves inadequate in representing its object, which then establishes the limit to what is knowable. That which is unknowable must be confronted with an act of aggression. The unknowable always carries the potential to return and haunt those securities established by neat lines on a map. Hintsa had shown how permeable those cartographic securities were; and for demonstrating the provisionality of colonial evidence, he had to be destroyed. In ascribing motives for conquest, especially explanations derived from the suggestions of studies of the political economy of conquest, we would benefit, in my view, from considering this overlap of evidence and colonisation. The description of the events leading up to the killing of Hintsa profoundly shaped and foretold the ways in which the actions of British soldiers were justified in colonial circles. Such justification proved important both in terms of the moral high ground that colonialism claimed for itself, and in order to respond to accusations emerging from humanitarian groups in the colonies and the metropole. 52 On 15 July 1836, less than one year after the killing of Hintsa, D’Urban instituted a military court of inquiry to investigate and report upon the circumstances immediately preceding and following the death of Hintsa, especially in the light of the charge that he had been shot while begging for his life and the accusation that the dead chief’s body had been mutilated after being shot. The military court established by colonial officials was a response to public debate that raged in the pages of the South African Commercial Advertiser and The Grahamstown Journal – keenly followed by humanitarian campaigners in the metropole – on the question of the mutilation of Hintsa’s body. The inquiry instituted by D’Urban differed from a regular criminal court, as it was solely concerned with verifying or refuting claims about mutilation, and not with establishing guilt or innocence. 53 Verification and refutation, I wish to suggest, were

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forms of evidence that differed from earlier concepts of knowing that impinged on the very notion of evidence. If knowing entailed a piecing together of heterogeneous technologies through which information was filtered in partial ways, verification and refutation demanded an exactitude in which the larger context was temporarily suspended. This difference was noticeable both in the kinds of questions posed by the commissioners and in terms of the immediacy with which they came to perceive the event. Thus, for example, the entire record is framed by questions such as: ‘What space and time elapsed between the shot that killed Hintsa and your meeting the Hottentots?’; ‘Was the time so short as to lead you to suppose that the Hottentots were present when the shot was fired that killed Hintsa?’; ‘Whom did you see on the spot when you came up to the body of Hintsa?’; ‘In what part of the body did he receive his mortal wound?’; ‘Did you think the brains you saw was [sic] the consequence of the gun-shot wound?’ and so forth. In his study of the military court of inquiry records, the historian JG Pretorius warns against too easy an acceptance of the explanation offered. According to Pretorius, it is difficult to establish what exactly happened after Hintsa arrived in the British camp, because of the lack of disinterested evidence. Pretorius claims:

The official accounts – those of Harry Smith and D’Urban – were written only after the chief’s death, and so were the accounts of other eyewitnesses. Not much importance should be attached to the depositions of chiefs and other persons collected by Smith after Glenelg [Secretary of State for the Colonies] had censured the D’Urban–Smith settlement. The whites among these persons, such as the Wesleyan missionaries, were all friends of D’Urban and Smith, while the Xhosa, such as Tyali and Maqoma, could have made their depositions under pressure or by means of the question-and-answer method, and made to say whatever Smith wanted. All this evidence had the purpose of proving in retrospect certain things about Hintsa and must therefore be treated with utmost care. 54

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There is good reason to acknowledge and to accept this caveat. The possibility of extensive British annexation that followed the death of Hintsa, together with the strong chance that various testimonies were solicited under pressure, may have influenced testimony submitted to the commission. Tyalie, one of Hintsa’s closest allies, claimed that his people were never so happy since becoming British subjects and that Smith was their saviour and ‘father’. 55 Such statements from a sworn enemy of the British must caution against too ready an acceptance of the testimony. The recuperation of a story in which agentiary possibilities may be assigned to Hintsa is, however, constrained by the extensive way in which our encounter with the event is bound to confront colonial frames of intelligibility. These frames are significant in identifying the limits of a history that seeks to ascribe a place in the story for those formerly excluded, or those who were victims of colonisation. Pretorius, however, ignores the strategies through which these alternate possibilities are excluded. If evidence, as Arnold Davidson has suggested in reference to historian Carlo Ginzburg’s interventions in this regard, is mediated by codes, then we need to ‘enter the codes of evidence’ in order to gauge how they come to privilege certain claims against others. 56 The point of ‘entering the codes of evidence’ is not to be seen as an attempt simply to detect interests and bias, but rather to explore the distribution of techniques that produce a facticity that is the foundation of evidence in service of a claim. At best, Pretorius offers us a first-order reading of the court record that situates the text within a larger cultural and political context – the extraneous conditions which accompanied the text’s production. A second-order reading may require us to focus on the evidentiary strategies implicit in the text, which provide the basis for verification and refutation. In this respect, I suggest that we read the record in such a way that the story of Hintsa produced by colonial officials is also necessarily a story that depends on the production of the subaltern as effect. In other words, the story of Hintsa can only be told by recourse to the marginalisation of those actors that offer any hope of an alternative narrativisation. Here we

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must focus on the assignment in the narrative of Klaas (a member of the Corp Guides, a regiment composed of soldiers co-opted from local chiefdoms), the place of Hintsa, and those Xhosa along the banks of the Nqabara River who may have witnessed the killing of Hintsa and the subsequent mutilation of his body. Two charges emerged as central to the court record. The first claimed that Hintsa had been shot while asking to be taken prisoner; the second claimed that Hintsa was mutilated after he had been shot. In his testimony to the commission of inquiry, Dr Ambrose George Campbell claimed that the mutilation of Hintsa’s body was proverbial and spoken of generally in Grahamstown as a trophy of some consequence. 57 There appeared upon the church door, claimed Campbell, a number of lines of poetry idolising Southey (the soldier responsible for shooting Hintsa) as the saviour of humankind; and part of Hintsa’s body, whether his ears or his beard, was shown around Grahamstown as a mark of achievement. Klaas, who was named by Campbell as one of his informants, proclaimed that he was close enough to the actual shooting to have heard the chief cry out ‘taru amapecati’ – a cry for mercy – before a second and fatal shot was fired. Klaas also noted that Southey pursued Hintsa down the banks of the river and that he was accompanied by two members of the Cape Mounted Rifles called Windfogel Julie and Nicholaas Africa (identified in the records as Hottentots). After the shooting had taken place, Klaas (who is introduced as a Xhosa speaker) met Julie and Africa, who inquired about the meaning of ‘taru’ – a claim that confirmed that they had heard the chief’s plea for mercy and that George Southey’s failure to understand it proved fateful. Finally, Klaas pointed out that Hintsa’s brain was exposed by the gunshot wound, but that he could not tell for sure if the body had been mutilated – perhaps because he did not remain with the body for any significant length of time. Rather, the claim that Hintsa was mutilated emerged from the testimony of Julie and Africa – and later Dr Laing of the 75th Regiment – who had heard that Southey cut off the ear both as trophy and as proof of having killed Hintsa.

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A crucial mechanism used by the court of inquiry to vindicate the actions of Southey (and Colonel Smith under whose command the operation was carried out) and to discredit the testimony of Campbell, Klaas, Julie and Africa was to emphasise the importance of witnessing. Thus, in questioning Julie and Africa, proximity to the actual shooting was emphasised over claims made on the basis of that which was heard. Witnessing – or autopsy – in this respect conveniently points to a more accepted and preferred form of evidence. Klaas’s testimony is thus discredited because he was not a witness to the event. The commission was determined then to show that Klaas’s testimony was not to be trusted. Commissioner: Did you know whether Hintsa had attempted to resist his pursuers in any manner? Klaas: He threw an assegai. Commissioner: When did he throw the assegai? Klaas: I only heard that he had thrown an assegai at Colonel Smith. Commissioner: Did you see Hintsa escape? Klaas: I was not near enough to see Hintsa running. Commissioner: If you were so far off as not to know who were pursuing him, how did you know that it was Mr Southey who shot him? Klaas: I did not see him, I only heard so. 58

Klaas’s testimony, as it appears in the process of archival rearrangement, is important because it frames the rest of the questioning of the commissioners. It might be argued that while the outcome was not surprising, the method by which it was achieved was more important, especially since it depended on the marginalisation of testimony that may have been crucial to an alternative narrativisation of the event. In this respect it was not coincidental that the testimony of Klaas is placed at the beginning of the record. The entire record hinged on discrediting claims based on what was heard and on privileging that which was witnessed. 59 Autopsy helped to refute what may have been perceived as second-hand knowledge and came to represent the only basis for verification.

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In this sense, Klaas is rendered marginal to the unfolding commission of inquiry. Klaas’s testimony – based as it was on what was heard – thus guided the questions of the commission as a whole. Autopsy, in the end, proved insufficient in establishing the colonial charge that Hintsa be held responsible for his own death. Firstly, the charge that Hintsa was involved in a conspiracy could not be proved through an insistence on autopsy. Secondly, the repeated reference to the Xhosa who followed events from the opposite banks of the river may have produced an alternative version of the event that undermined colonial claims. Under these conditions it became necessary to prove that Hintsa was plotting against the British while claiming to be at their service. Verification, it seems, could not do without justification. The threat that colonial officials speculated about in the period preceding Hintsa’s killing emerged as an uncontested fact based on the testimony of chiefs (both Hintsa’s allies and those co-opted by the British), missionaries and traders. Following the testimonies of Campbell, Klaas, Julie, Africa and Harry Smith (who provided the colonial justification for the killing of Hintsa), the court record introduces more than 100 pages of letters from traders, missionaries and military functionaries who had encountered the Xhosa east of the Kei River before the killing. The letter by Rowles that had suggested an inability to interpret the emergence of contact between the Xhosa on the frontier and Hintsa was now deployed as a justification for the shooting of Hintsa. Similarly, a letter dated 12 February 1835 from Captain AB Strong to Smith, raising concern over Hintsa’s decision to move his people a short distance from the frontier, was interpreted in 1836 as a plot aimed at threatening the security of British settlers. Finally, John Ayliff – a missionary based at Butterworth – whose letters had earlier complained of Hintsa’s secret intentions which were unsettling the missionary station, provided the court of inquiry with further evidence of a conspiracy. To support the interpretation of this correspondence, the commission heard the testimony of Xhosa chiefs who, as Pretorius has suggested, were used to confirm Hintsa’s guilt. Chief Eno (Nqeno), a lesser chief in the Cape who had

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supported Hintsa’s campaign against the British, stated that Hintsa, Tyalie and Maqoma were in constant communication. 60 This claim, which could have been read as an indicator of the permeability of colonial boundaries, now served the general case of the British who wished to establish the truth about a conspiracy. The cumulative effect of these testimonies – located in the larger framework of the colonial archive – was to shift responsibility unequivocally to Hintsa through the invocation of racist myth models frequently used to characterise colonised subjects. In the case of the chief’s testimony, however, it is possible to discern amidst the praises and gratitude for colonial rule the extent and limits of colonial intelligence gathering and knowledge. I have already noted that Hintsa’s actions and behaviour invariably bewildered colonial officials. No amount of translating of the movements of the Xhosa through reports and dispatches clarified the chief’s position vis-à-vis the expectations of the British. Similarly, Hintsa’s advice to Tyalie and Maqoma, informing them of the movements of the British – what might be called a counter-intelligence in the guise of surrender – hampered colonial attempts at retrieving cattle so as to finance the war. The surreptitious exchange was also a repeated source of doubt about the dangers that lurked beyond the securities that colonial society had mapped out for itself. Most importantly, though, the clearest indicator of the limits of colonial knowledge was the inability to anticipate another story. We shall return to this point later. Suffice it to say that in spite of all the collection of evidence – whether through heterogeneous techniques of information gathering or through processes of verification and refutation – the fear that counter-narratives could possibly emerge in the interstices of the uncertainty of colonial knowledge compelled the commission to summon Xhosa chiefs to declare their allegiance to the British and to implicate Hintsa in a conspiracy against those whom Tyalie called ‘British saviours’. Outside of these institutional sanctions there were always other stories to be told. Those stories would, unfortunately, bear the traces of the massive colonial evidentiary base produced so as to defuse the tensions

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of Empire. The alternative stories were, as we shall see, neither discrepant nor blurred. Rather, they were woven in a limitless but generically contradictory way so that the very concept of evidence was brought into question. The colonial archive, therefore, can be thought of as a mode of evidence that is distinguished by its ability to fabricate subjectivity. It achieves this through the subjection of agency and by establishing a difference between what can be said and what is actually said. Contrary to the prevailing common sense that suspects the colonial archive of an act of exclusion, the notion of the colonial archive as a mode of evidence calls attention to the modalities of the inclusion of the subject as a subordinate proposition in discourse. It attends to the rules, language games and discourses that produce the effects of the subjection of agency. As a mode of evidence, the colonial archive invites examination of the processes by which the subject of history is grounded and repeatedly returned to the exercise of power as subaltern. Mostly, it allows us to track the complicity of the discipline of history in this double move at the heart of the colonial archive, even when work on the subject is conducted in the name of resistance. My argument, as also stated elsewhere, is for reading the colonial archive as complicit in the process of the social subjection of agency and, as such, to view it as operating not as a source, but as a discourse – as a specific mode of evidence. The colonial archive should not be seen merely as composed of techniques of governmentality but as a narrative strategy in its own right, one that is capable of organising our reading. I believe that the challenge to historians reading the colonial archive is to point out the inconsistencies (where it stutters in its articulation, as Guha so eloquently puts it) in the story of colonialism and to mark them as sites where another story may have taken place. To claim that subaltern consciousness, voice or agency can be retrieved through colonial texts is to ignore the organisation and representation of colonised subjects as a subordinate proposition within primary discourses. While colonial discourses are premised on a subordinate will – Foucault would say that silence and marginality are constitutive of a discourse – that will is neither

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representative of a subaltern collective consciousness nor independent of the determinations of a colonial will. We might then seek to retain a sense of the colonised as an unfathomable point of irreconcilability – what Spivak calls ‘misfits of the text’ – in dominant frames of intelligibility. To claim that colonial texts unwittingly permit a recuperation of the subaltern is to declare a premature victory, one that may well surrender the consciousness or will of subaltern subjects to the workings of colonial domination. We need perhaps to approach that which is often mistakenly read as subaltern consciousness in colonial records as an effect of domination rather than as representative of the consciousness of the underclasses. What we are treated to in colonial texts is not necessarily the presence of the subaltern, but the mechanics of Europe producing itself as sovereign subject through its other. One cannot hope to retrieve a silence(d) subject (as has been suggested in some recent historiography) by way of the colonial archive. Reading against the grain, a tactic whereby the colonial archive is mined for subaltern agency, 61 is perhaps more usefully deployed, I would argue, as a practice of criticism and not for the aims of alternative representations. As I suggested in this chapter, agency has already been organised in relation to a condition of domination. We may then read the colonial archive in terms of a practice of criticism which, according to Ranajit Guha, begins by examining the components of a discourse, the vehicle of all ideology, for the manner in which these might have described any particular figure of speech. 62

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Mistaken identity

but oh the white man peering slit-eyed, hiding a musket under his arm. 1

how is iT ThaT a figure as prominent in South African history as Hintsa is so consistently a subject of mistaken and conflicted identity in historical representations of the colonial past? Writing in the aftermath of the shooting, Colonel Harry Smith described the persistent doubt about the king’s commitment to return cattle alleged to have been stolen from the colony. Smith recalled that on the journey to retrieve the cattle, Hintsa behaved in a manner that repeatedly prompted the British forces to suspect the king of duplicity. He is said to have procrastinated and prepared a necklace made of grass, probably as a token of luck for the deception he had planned ahead of time. Colonel Smith claims to have warned Hintsa against harbouring thoughts of escaping as they ascended the banks of the Nqabara River. The preparation of the token and the supposedly cunning smile offered by Hintsa as a response to hearing Smith’s warning all seemed to fall into place after the fact of the killing. The cause for suspicion was apparently confirmed for Smith as the news of Hintsa’s death emerged from the depths of the valley in which the Nqabara River flowed and as the danger lurking in the landscape blurred into the events surrounding the killing. These recollections combined to forge an image of the king in the aftermath of the killing.

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The killing of Hintsa was rapidly absorbed into the deliberations of a settler public sphere in Grahamstown. This sphere represented the contestations emanating from the war of 1834–35 in which Hintsa was killed and connected the relatively isolated settler society in and around Grahamstown to a larger framework of Empire. 2 A settler community, locked away in the far reaches of the eastern Cape frontier zones, could not merely rely on conventional forms of communication to establish its place in the world of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie. The debates that raged in the pages of The Grahamstown Journal and the South African Commercial Advertiser during the 1830s between humanitarian liberals and settler conservatives, which Andrew Bank persuasively marks as an inaugural moment of South African historiography, were not sufficient for constituting a settler public sphere. 3 Equally important was the work of representing the frontier to metropolitan audiences and winning their sympathies for the struggles being waged on the edges of Empire. Settler sentiment momentarily merged with this official colonial stance on the war. The governor of the Cape Colony, Benjamin D’Urban, used the war of 1834–35 as a pretext for initially mobilising colonial sentiment in favour of a policy of expansion. The killing of Hintsa in 1835, however, exposed the fragile basis of the alliance between settlers in the eastern Cape and colonial officials, especially around the office of the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London. The fragility of the alliance between settler society and colonial officialdom was exposed by the interventions of an emergent humanitarian lobby in Britain, and an expanding oppositional voice in the Cape Colony aggrieved at the ill-treatment of ‘British subjects’ at the hands of the settlers. The killing of Hintsa became another example of a growing problem of Empire, which was made up of competing interests and investments in the colonial project and increasingly defined by the tensions of Empire. 4 News of the demise of the king spread far and wide, serving in turn to forge the beginnings of a settler public sphere in Grahamstown pitted against the views gathering force in the office of the Colonial Secretary in London. It also served the course of the humanitarians as word of the killing

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reached Thomas Fowell Buxton in the House of Commons in London, who in turn referred to the incident to bolster the standing of those arguing against the ill-treatment meted out to subjects in Britain’s colonies. In the euphoria that ensued in Grahamstown following the king’s demise, his name was inserted into tensions involving a fledgling settler public sphere, a discordant Cape colonial officialdom and a largely metropolitan lobby constituted under the banner of a liberal humanitarianism. If the humanitarians found sources of inspiration in the British anti-slavery movement, the fledgling settler public along the eastern Cape frontier resorted to talk about the killing of Hintsa and the threat posed by the Xhosa to the settlement of Grahamstown to stake a claim in the broader politics of Empire. This they did in part by implicating Hintsa in the practices of slavery, thereby hoping to win greater support in the midst of a burgeoning anti-slavery movement. The formation of a settler public sphere in Grahamstown, in other words, benefited from the publicity generated by Hintsa’s killing. Given that it was in part sustained by an act of colonial violence, the deliberations of the settler public sphere allow us to review the civility generally accorded to the deliberative aspects of the bourgeois public sphere by critical scholars such as Jurgen Habermas. 5 The point is not merely to pit bourgeois sensibility against colonial culture but also to probe how the colonial archive impinges on an imagined settler public sphere. Ultimately, the very perspectivalism that punctuated the proceedings of the commission of inquiry in 1836, replete, as shown in the previous chapter, with references to the distance from the scene of the killing and the privileging of the scopic over the sonoric, produced a surplus of words and images that seeped into the deliberations of the settler public sphere. As the deliberations between settlers and colonial officials intensified around the outcomes of the war of 1834–35, the need to contain the proliferation and circulation of the name of Hintsa resulted in an attempt at what I call a ‘grounding’ of the subject. By this I mean specifically the way words and images combined to constitute the subject, not only for the purposes of colonial governmentality but also as the subject that most cogently mediated

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and served the emergent interests of a settler public sphere. I want to refer to this excess as an imaginary structure, in part because it continues the process of the interpellation of the subject begun by the colonial archive as it also seeks to limit the scope of enunciation to the dominant interests of settler society. This overlap of elements of the imaginary structure consequently produced a subject of mistaken identity, as the memory of the king was both literally and figuratively pinned to the metonymic grounds of his killing. The deliberations surrounding Hintsa in London and Grahamstown not only reveal how public spheres constitute subjectivities; they also allow us to track the function of the imaginary structure in producing the subaltern as a subject effect. Thinking ahead to 1996, this relationship between enunciation in the public sphere and the grounding of the subject in colonial discourse was perhaps what was also elided in the many responses to Nicholas Gcaleka. In thinking about the imaginary structure that is elided in the public responses to Gcaleka’s dream, we might begin by first considering the place that Hintsa occupied in the discourse of a fledgling settler public sphere in the early nineteenth century. To fully understand this process I want to turn to the textual productions of Hintsa in portraits, diaries, travel writing and art to explore how the subjection of agency was rendered complete in the aftermath of the king’s killing. The subjection of agency, I argue, is achieved by relating the colonised subject to the landscape or what I call the process of grounding Hintsa.

A case of mistaken identity

The image of Hintsa that today features in museums, popular histories and academic texts belongs to the colonial archive and an emergent settler public sphere on the far reaches of the eastern Cape frontier zones in the 1830s. Images of unreliable and treacherous Xhosa chiefs characteristically mediated the formation of a settler identity on the eastern Cape frontier during the nineteenth century. Specifically, the most persistent image of a cunning, untrustworthy and treacherous chief was that associated with a portrait of

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Hintsa produced in the 1830s by the surveyor-general, Charles Cornwallis Michell. Michell’s portrait served as an accompaniment to his cartographic representation of the landscape in which the saga of the death – as opposed to killing – of Hintsa unfolded, and as such was an indispensable prop in understanding the narrative of the war of 1834–35. 6 (See Figure 2 on p. 83 and Figure 5a on p. 98). The surveyor-general was part of the entourage that set off with Hintsa to the Mbashe River in search of the allegedly stolen cattle. Produced in the nineteenth century, the portrait by Michell may be explained in terms of a rapid rise in the demand among British military officials for portraits of Xhosa chiefs and studies of African people. 7 To explain this demand for images of ‘the enemy’, Lucy Alexander, curator of the Frederick I’Ons retrospective exhibition in 1990, suggests that they served as souvenirs and ‘that it was the expression of admiration for the opponent not unlike that of the trophy hunter’. 8 For Alexander, the portraits refer to the ‘ultimate exorcism of the enemy, exceeded only by the physical mutilation – as in the case of Hintsa – of the bodies of the enemy’. 9 An aesthetic practice originally directed at the ceremonial presentation of the bourgeois self in industrial Europe was adapted for purposes of casting a formidable enemy and exaggerating the bravery of British military personnel along the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony. 10 The portrait of Hintsa returns us to the place of the subject of violence in the colonial lexicon. In the space of colonial enunciation Hintsa would forever be consigned to the status of subordination – that place in the colonial statement reserved for those intransigent opponents of colonial advance. Hintsa, it seems, emerged as a figure of speech, a supplement of the desire to ground and govern the colonised subject as the war of 1834–35 approached. The story of the killing of Hintsa, especially when later told in the register of anti-colonial resistance, would often encounter this location of the proper name of Hintsa in colonial discourse as a specific limit. This was also the case when efforts were made to narrate the event as part of a larger story of colonial excess and violence, of objectification and the loss of subjectivity. What remained intact was the symbolic status accorded to the name of

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Hintsa by colonial officials. While the regime of truth reminds us of the status of Hintsa as object of colonial discourse, the imaginary structure of colonial enunciation reminds us why the truth about the killing of Hintsa is anything but self-evident. Lucy Alexander’s retrospective exhibition on I’Ons is critical for precisely this reason. It draws us into a strategy of reading that compels us to confront the referential illusion of portraiture with the accompanying demand for exploring the subject’s position in the grammar of domination that supports and sustains it. She encourages us not to think of portraiture as a series of objective representations, a point supported by the confusion that surrounds the image of Hintsa. In the catalogue to the retrospective exhibition held in 1990, Alexander expressed some doubt that Frederick I’Ons, who had arrived in Grahamstown in November 1834, would have produced a portrait of Hintsa. I’Ons was one of the leading producers of portraits on the eastern Cape frontier zones in the 1800s. He was responsible for producing a range of portraits of Xhosa chiefs such as Maqoma, Sarhili and Sandile, amongst others. Despite his reputation as a portraitist of Xhosa chiefs, Alexander notes that an oil painting assumed to be of Hintsa may in fact be of a lesser chief, Nqeno (see Figure 1). This seems to be the same chief depicted in a portrait in the 1820 Settlers Museum in Grahamstown (SM 2527) which is labelled as Eno [Nqeno]. The label (alluding to Hintsa) handwritten by John Levison Gower is contemporary. Hintsa died aged 46 in 1835: this looks like an older man. I’Ons may have seen Hintsa in captivity but he certainly met Nqeno. The dignified calm in the chief’s pose seems unlikely to be that of the captive Hintsa. 11

Far from being objective portrayals, Alexander suggests that many portraitists subsumed the colonised subject into the genre of nineteenth-century English artistic traditions, especially the picturesque – a distinct product of the nineteenth-century Romantic imagination. In the case of the portrait of Nqeno probably mistaken by its present owner as Hintsa, Alexander tells us

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Free download from Figure 1: The cover of the Frederick I’Ons exhibition catalogue; there is

Figure 1: The cover of the Frederick I’Ons exhibition catalogue; there is little clarity on whether the figure portrayed is Hintsa or Nqeno.

that the depiction is not devoid of colonial desire. In her reading of the case of mistaken identity, she suggests that the elegant pose of the subject resting on a rock signifies possession of land and its underutilisation – the issue allegedly around which the Sixth Frontier War was fought. For Alexander, it is the landscape that invites interpretation of the portrait. Another way of stating this is that the work of interpretation is a necessary condition for understanding portraiture because, even in this most literal sense of grounding, the subject of the portrait is meaningful only insofar as it is related to the circumstances

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of its production. 12 If reading the portraits of Xhosa chiefs produced in the 1830s can only be made sense of through the circumstances of their making, we might suggest that it was not to the English picturesque that Alexander should have turned to provide a reading of the portraits of Xhosa chiefs, but rather to more localised settler productions of history.

The settler audience of colonial narration

In the years following the conclusion of the Sixth Frontier War in 1834–35, the genocidal attitudes of settlers on the eastern Cape frontier became increasingly apparent, especially in response to the failure of the colonial government to compensate those subjects of the British Crown who claimed to have lost their livelihoods in the war. A growing sense of disgruntlement, if not anger, amongst settlers in the eastern Cape towards the colonial government can be traced in the letters that circulated amongst those who experienced, directly or indirectly, the war of 1834–35. This was a battle between political missionaries – as some aggrieved settlers labelled the officials seeking treaties with the Xhosa chiefdoms – and land speculators, comprising settlers and their local representatives, which continued well beyond the events of 1835. 13 These letters articulated views that were often echoed in the public outcry about the war of 1834–35. For the settlers on the eastern Cape frontier, the recalling of Benjamin D’Urban from the position as governor and the return of the ceded territory to its original inhabitants were construed as acts of betrayal on the part of the colonial office in London. Adding insult to injury, Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Glenelg’s insistence on the institution of a commission of inquiry into the death of Hintsa clearly angered settlers in the eastern Cape. The local press was increasingly filled with outraged responses at what was seen as a sleight of hand on the part of Glenelg. In the settler mindset, and even more so after official decrees against settler society as a whole in the eastern Cape, the memory of Hintsa could not be erased because it defined the political contests between settlers and metropolitan policy in the 1830s. The memory

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of the king therefore punctuated the settler imagination throughout the nineteenth century. Later, with the stirrings of the 1850s, we learn from the letters that these sentiments had crystallised into demands for the extermination of the Xhosa. In a letter from Harry Smith to Caesar Andrews – secretary to burgher forces in 1835 – during the War of Mlanjeni in 1851, for example, the gallantry of battalions marching to the Mbashe River in the 1830s was recollected nostalgically, if not chillingly:

If I had but the two battalions some of whom were with us over the Bashee and a few more such I would make quick work with those villainous Gaika’s. I wish the Boers would come into the Amatholes in straggling parties. They have my permission for extermination, it is now the only word and principle to guide us. I have named General Somerset Commandant General but I should be glad if the Boers would name their own Commandant. Under him they may go on their way and shoot as they like so that they add their force to the general cause. This is a war of Black against White and the White must combine or lose all. 14

By limiting claims for compensation to burgher forces that incurred losses while on duty, the colonial government had seemingly alienated large numbers of settlers. The Methodist missionary John Ayliff complained bitterly to Godlonton in 1850 of the loss of his horses in the war of 1834–35, for which he had not been compensated. 15 William Southey, Holden Bowker – a commando during the Sixth Frontier War – and others lodged similar claims. 16 Repeated calls for the ‘extermination of the native’, subduing the Xhosa and confiscating their land accompanied the sense of bitterness and betrayal. The failure of ever realising these outcomes – of pursuing a programme of genocide and unlocking potential sources of black labour – re-established a certain currency in the story of the killing of Hintsa. In 1865, the battle at Thaba Bosigo, for example, was accompanied by comparisons of the Basotho king, Moshoeshoe, with Hintsa. William Southey noted on that occasion that, like Hintsa, Moshoeshoe ‘does not relish to pay for the terrible depredations committed by

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his people in the Free State’. 17 Many settlers in the eastern Cape, in keeping with the vilification of Hintsa, sought to continue the process of expropriation of land despite the reluctance of the colonial state, which had returned land in the ceded territory that had initially been expropriated from the Xhosa after the Battle of Amalinde in 1819 involving Ngqika. Settler interests in the eastern Cape mediated the tensions that surfaced in a discourse that designated the rules of the true following the commission of inquiry into Hintsa’s death. They achieved this mediation partly by rearranging and redeploying the referent ‘Hintsa’ in colonial discourse. The desire to colonise land occupied by Xhosa chiefs had as its correlate the radical rearrangement of the colonised subject in colonial discourse. To explore the politics of this rearrangement, we may have to consider the difference revealed in the modalities of colonial enunciation, especially as these narratives approach the specific story of the killing of Hintsa. Critical to the formation of a settler public sphere was the mobilisation of sentiment around the war of 1834–35 in letters, diaries and autobiographies – documents with a private aura but a public intent. The resilience of the connection between a settler identity and the story of the killing of Hintsa was proved in 1877, some 42 years after his death, when Hintsa made a dramatic reappearance on the stage of colonial advance and its history. The spectre, it seems, was provoked by the pending resurgence of tensions along the frontier. Hintsa’s resurrection was primarily motivated by the trouble that colonialists attributed to the chief’s son, Sarhili, around 1877. 18 But colonial officials also alluded to rumours of the ghost of Hintsa circulating amongst the Xhosa, and used the spectre as a warning of pending warfare. 19 Knowledge of these rumours served as confirmation for those residing on the frontier that the killing of Hintsa had undermined the position of the settlers in respect of the attitude of their own colonial office. The resultant bitterness was recalled in several diaries and autobiographies of civilians who claimed immediate experience of the war of 1834–35. Caesar Andrews’s Reminiscences of the Kaffir War 1834–1835 was one example of this recurring theme linking the memory of Hintsa to the threat

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of war. The presentation of the diary for publication in 1877 coincided with the presumed threat of a Gcaleka uprising under the leadership of Sarhili. By the author’s own admission, the supposed threat posed by Sarhili necessitated a recollection of the war of 1834–35 in which the latter’s father was a prominent figure. Andrews’s account of the war was not merely aimed at emphasising the victory of the British over the Gcaleka in 1835, nor did it only strive to draw equivalence between Hintsa and Sarhili – although traces of both are readily available in the text. Rather, Andrews was determined to establish pathways to the truth supposedly shorn of the official colonial determinations that governed the narration of the settler experience. Early in his publication, he confesses:

It is not necessary for me to make any apology for submitting to those, who may feel interested in the subject, some notes of the events of the war of 1834–1835. I may at once state that I make no pretensions whatever to write in a style intended to produce any other feelings than that of perfect reliance on the part of the reader that what I write in the plainest language is true [emphasis in Andrews] and is compiled from notes made daily during that war, when the writer served as Secretary to the Burgher forces under Colonel Smith, Chief of Staff, afterwards Sir Harry Smith, the hero of Aliwal. I have considered it best to sketch the daily incidents from my diary as they occurred after my duties as Secretary were complete, for, being a tyro in the art of writing, I have feared to lose in accuracy through attempting to gain in style. 20

In the tensions of Empire, plain language supposedly promised truth as it addressed a community of settlers whose interests often diverged from the perspectives of the colonial office. Andrews’s plain language makes a concerted effort to link the events of 1834–35 and 1877 as a general strategy of bypassing the territorial policies of colonial officialdom. I shall return in Chapter 5 to the eruption of hostilities in 1877 which the diary narrates. Here it serves to illustrate how the colonial imaginary worked to organise the discourse surrounding Hintsa. The first effect of Andrews’s plain language,

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already mentioned, is contained in the introduction to the diary when he connects Hintsa to Sarhili, and by extension insinuates a continuity of characterological traits. The second example is by way of a parenthetical entry to a description of the events following the killing of Hintsa. The entry reads:

Taking his son Kreli [Sarhili] with us, we pursued the spoor of cattle towards the Bashee and came in sight of them before sunset. We observed vast herds being driven off in all directions on the opposite mountain range (Bomvanaland in 1877, where Kreli has recently done the same – repeating history). 21

What we encounter in a reading of this diary is a certain substitution of proper names with what is taken to be the general pattern of settler–Xhosa relations. Hence, in Andrews’s parenthetical detail it is a case of history repeating itself. That repetition, however, did not apply to the reproduction of the diary. The two versions of the diary, that written in 1835 and the subsequent one presented for publication, contain a notable discrepancy in the respective accounts of the death of Hintsa. In the original field notes from which the reworked version was drawn, there is no suggestion that Southey was in any way threatened and that his shot was in response to the threat posed by a fleeing Hintsa. 22 The diary reproduces its own authority by being framed by the aura of privacy and secrecy. Its public appearance therefore often conveys a sense of authenticity, if not immediacy. Yet, in every manner of their crafting and choice of subject matter, diaries are extremely public documents. There is an expectation that the text would be read at some point. Andrews’s diary was no exception, caught as it was in the hurly-burly of tensions between the colonial office in England and the settlers on the eastern Cape frontier. In the aftermath of the killing of Hintsa, the Colonial Secretary responded by removing Governor D’Urban from office, demanding the institution of a commission of inquiry and insisting on the return of land, which had been earmarked for settlement, to the Xhosa. The uncertainty and acrimony in relations between metropolitan officials and settlers after the killing of

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Hintsa meant that settler recollections would seek to establish a unified settler identity and response by controlling the narrative of the killing. Andrews’s diary expressed that sense of control over the narration of the killing of Hintsa. It was also a crucial element in negotiating a unified settler identity because in it author, experience, and casting of a moral subject were conflated as a code that unified settler society. Andrews makes a concerted effort to remind the reader that he had accompanied Smith on his expedition against the Gcaleka in the 1830s. He had also testified in favour of the innocence of Smith at the inquiry following Hintsa’s killing. The diary sets out to verify the version of Smith that was presented to the court of inquiry albeit independently, according to Andrews, of access to the record generated by the commission of inquiry. Regretting not having found ‘any record of the evidence in the court of enquiry’, Andrews’s narrative nevertheless supports Smith’s actions in much the same way as the court record does. 23 References to Hintsa appear in the midst of the enunciation of settler interests set against metropolitan hegemony over the colonial enterprise. The autobiography of Harry Smith, published in 1901, consolidates this ambition by elevating the settler as unified subject at the expense of the diminishing agency of Hintsa. It proceeds by distinguishing between the subject of history and the subject with history. Having described his journey to the Cape and his first months there, Smith turns to the beginning of D’Urban’s role as governor in 1834. D’Urban’s ascendancy was accompanied by the decision to dispatch Smith to the frontier to deal with the Xhosa, who at the beginning of Chapter 33 of the autobiography ‘burst into the Colony, carrying with them fire, sword, devastation, and cold-blooded murder and spoiling the fertile estates and farms like a mountain avalanche’. 24 Smith’s entire narrative is built around the adventures of the journey east from Cape Town. Interspersed in the telling there are extensive references to James Edward Alexander’s writings, especially his Narrative of a Voyage of Observation. We are referred to Alexander’s texts for descriptions of particular events, such as those of 9 March when the Boer Commandant Rademeyer is said to have evacuated a large number of Xhosa from the

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once impenetrable Fish River, or to verify D’Urban’s positive impressions of Smith’s actions. 25 Cross-referencing offers more than simply a device for filling narrative gaps. It also gestures, I would argue, towards a secular knowledge that is indispensable for determining the subject of history through the method of proof. The properly historical subject, moreover, is one that separates pleasure from mission, that possesses a consciousness of the importance of pastness, especially those aspects of the past which define the destiny of the self-proclaimed hero. Let us join Smith’s story at the point at which he provides justification for his mission to the Kei River to retrieve what he calls ‘colonial cattle’. Crossing the bed of the Tsomo, Smith describes his ‘most precipitate march on Hintsa’s kraal’. 26 Not finding him there, Smith set about burning the kraal. This provocation, it is claimed, brought Hintsa into the British camp in an ‘undaunted manner’. 27 It is at this point in the narrative that Smith places before us the weight of secularity, mobilising it against the inveterate weakness of desire:

(The poor savage always buries the past in oblivion, and regards the present only. He has not the most distant idea of right or wrong as regards his line of conduct. Self-interest is his controlling impulse, and desire stands for law and rectitude). 28

Smith’s statement separates the historical from the presumably ahistorical subject in a manner where the former is cast as the agent of the march of progress. Locked away in parentheses and followed by a description of the grievances against Hintsa that were recorded in writing by D’Urban, Smith’s narrative is not only an account of the triumph of the hagiographic figure of history – it is also a narrative of the triumph of those who possess the spirit of history. In short, history, in this account, belongs to victory in much the same way as it guarantees it. Such untimely subjects as Hintsa were prone to the negative stereotype of colonial discourse. Not too long after the description of the untimeliness of Hintsa, Smith describes the circumstances leading up to the

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killing of Hintsa. For all intents and purposes, the narrative is predictable and well rehearsed. The usual binaries apply: the supposed savagery of Hintsa metaphorised through the slaughter of a beast, described in chilling detail, on the eve before the entourage set out to retrieve the stolen cattle, compared to the remorse felt by Smith following the allegedly unintentional shooting of the king. Slightly removed from the actual scene of the killing, Smith claims to have heard of the outcome of Hintsa’s failed attempt at escape from Southey minutes after the shooting – with, he later added, a sense of melancholy. As may be expected of a discourse of virtues so common to autobiography, no mention is made of the mutilation of the body – its dismemberment – for that act was cast as a product of the imagination of those opposed to progress. The negative stereotype that founds the settler public sphere faced one major difficulty. The subject, Hintsa, refused to acknowledge Southey’s hailing as he scurried down the slope of the Nqabara River. He refused to heed Smith’s and Southey’s call to halt and he did not turn in recognition of the source of the hail. This double failure meant that the negative stereotype would be entirely given over to the task of grounding Hintsa. This was achieved by ensuring that the Hintsa who emerged as a figure of speech of the diary and autobiography was repeatedly and necessarily processed through the relations established between landscape and portraiture.

Travel writing

On its own, Michell’s portrait of Hintsa had little meaning until placed in a larger textual network. Shortly after the commission of inquiry into Hintsa’s death, its meaning was genealogically altered when it was included in the travel writing of James Edward Alexander, a member of the Royal Geographic Society, in the 1830s. Alexander’s An Expedition of Discovery into the Interior of Africa professed a strong desire to discover some of the secrets of ‘the great and mysterious continent of Africa while consenting to exchange civilized for savage life’, a view that was not too far from the

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prevailing views of most of the inhabitants of Grahamstown. 29 Desire and discovery, secrecy and mystery belonged to the ongoing saga of the competitive spirit of being the first to find, enter or discover areas unknown to Europeans – Gordon in 1777, Patterson in 1778, Le Valliant in 1781, Barrow in 1797, Truter and Somerville in 1801, Lichtenstein in 1805, Burchell in 1809, Campbell in 1813, Thompson in 1827, Hume in 1834 and perhaps Alexander in 1838. So powerful was the desire to be part of the list of firsts that from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, no less than 175 names of travellers and explorers, including that of Alexander, were carved into the walls of the Heerenlogement Cave in the north-western Karoo in the hope of posterity. 30 To have his name included in this list, Alexander had set his sights on the area between the 21st and 24th parallels – the area he identified as being inhabited by the Damaras. His arrival at the Cape early in 1835, sponsored by the Royal Geographic Society, unfortunately coincided with a South Africa that he would later describe as being ‘in a state of commotion’. As Alexander notes, ‘tensions between the Amakosa and the Cape colony meant that it was evidently not the time for geographical research’. 31 Instead, he opted for military service and became an aide-de-camp and private secretary to the governor, D’Urban, in 1835. The interruption profoundly affected relations between explorer and sponsor, so much so that in its recollection of the period in the centenary commemorative history of the Royal Geographic Society, Hugh Robert Mill (the Society’s president in 1930) alluded to the tensions that emerged around Alexander’s expedition. Alexander, it appears, was thought of as a promising traveller who would contribute significantly to the map collection in the Society’s library. Given limited financial resources, the Society, according to Mill, made arrangements for Alexander to travel as ‘a man of war and the Government’. 32 Effectively, this entailed a nondescript passage, the benefits of which could be shared by settler society and the colonial government. The uncertainty surrounding the terms of contract, then, may have been at the core of the tensions that would engulf Alexander’s mission to the Cape. Mill writes of this tension as follows:

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Before 1834, [Alexander] was on his way. The work went on year after year, and every Council meeting had to consider letters, sometimes several letters, from [Alexander], explaining delays, always asking for more money, and sometimes reporting results obtained which were communicated to the evening meetings. There was trouble in getting Government grants; there was even more trouble in getting replies from Alexander when asked for details and justification for his expenses. This led to threats of a suspension of supplies, and warnings that the society’s credit must not be further pledged. 33

As for the gains for geography – as Mill put it with a tone of disappointment, partly at the losses incurred by the Society – the Delagoa Bay expedition was terminated and instead excursions were undertaken across the Orange River into Damara and Namaqua lands, reaching Walvis Bay on the West Coast. To salvage something of this generally described failure, Mill notes that Alexander enjoyed much big-game shooting and rendered good services to the Cape government, for which he was knighted. Similarly, he is recognised for having gone on to fight in the Crimea and in New Zealand and for rising to the rank of General, until his death in 1885. Alexander’s oeuvre, consisting of five book-length accounts of his travels and experiences, defies the general assessment of failure offered by Mill in 1930. Neither simply a representative oeuvre of colonial mindsets nor merely a window to a colonial context, Alexander’s writing permits us to explore the relationship between discourse and narrative and to investigate the way an imaginary structure is folded into the operation of a system of knowledge. It also reveals what knowledge and the limits of knowledge meant for the colonial enterprise. The war of 1835 that interrupted Alexander’s geographical research and, consequently, the Royal Geographic Society’s ambition of cartographic procurement, was later incorporated into a book on travel writing entitled Narrative of a Voyage of Observation, published in 1837. Chapter 23, which is dedicated to the events that make up the reason for the supposed

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interruption, begins with a cartographical sketch of the Gnanabaka (Nqabara) River. The sketch, produced by the surveyor Charles Cornwallis Michell, was first made available as an accompaniment to the record of the inquiry compiled in the aftermath of the events of 12 May 1835. Michell’s map, appropriately titled Plan of the Ground where Hintsa attempted his Escape, and was killed, featured a representation of the four miles over which the action in which Hintsa was killed occurred (see Figure 2). A distance of one mile was covered in the approach of Hintsa and his escort of British forces as they reached the Nqabara River from the direction of the Guada River (‘a’ to ‘h’ on the map). The second mile started at the point at which the Nqabara River was crossed and illustrates, by way of a perforated line, the decision to follow the cattle trail to the right. The third mile (marked ‘a’ to ‘b’) indicates the distance covered by Hintsa as he tried to escape from Smith’s escort, the chase by Smith and the eventual dislodging of Hintsa from his horse. From the letter marked ‘b’ to an almost undecipherable ‘e’ placed in the Nqabara River, we have the distance covered by Hintsa as he is dislodged from his horse, pursued by Southey and Lieutenant Balfour and eventually shot and killed. The fourth mile brings into view a kraal to which Hintsa was allegedly heading before Smith stopped him. Two further points are ‘f’ and ‘g’, which respectively position Umtini (Hintsa’s councillor) – who had earlier left the party escorting Hintsa and who observed the events – and the other spoor of cattle to the left, which Hintsa dissuaded Smith from pursuing. Like the sketch, the summary of topics that precedes Alexander’s account in Narrative of a Voyage repeats a familiar story of the event. Phrases like ‘The General Proclaims the Kye to be a new Boundary – A Short Review of a Change in Sir Benjamin D’Urban’s sentiments – His Declaration to Hintsa – The Policy of Extending the Colony – Duplicity of Hintsa – Return of Colonel Smith’s Corps – Death of Hintsa’ all work to conjure up the terms of a familiar story. One consequential exception relates to the alleged treachery of Hintsa who had set a trap in advance of the British forces. While there is significant repetition of the plot of the story about the killing of Hintsa in Alexander’s travel account, there is also a unique

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Collection: South African Library, Cape Town
Collection: South African Library, Cape Town

Figure 2: Charles Michell’s cartographic representation of the landscape in which Hintsa was killed, published in 1835.

interplay of illustration and narrative – at least when compared to the commission of inquiry into the killing of Hintsa. ‘On the 7th of May,’ Alexander writes, ‘I witnessed a most interesting sight, and one which causes this day to be of great importance in the annals of South Africa.’ 34 The statement is followed by an illustration by Michell depicting the migration of ‘Fingoes’ and alluding to the catalyst for the events that are to follow (see Figure 3 on page 84). Illustration is here elevated to underline the importance of the visual and to lay the groundwork for a story in which the idea of a treacherous Hintsa and a dangerous landscape could be invoked as interchangeable signifiers. The slippage between sign systems is best demonstrated later in the narrative where treachery and danger are collapsed:

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It has thus been seen that, during the whole course of the negotiations and transactions with this savage chief, he never acted otherwise than with the greatest duplicity and bad faith; and only in the single instance of his stopping the massacre of the Fingoes, when under the influence of fear for the consequences to himself, did he ever act otherwise: but the day of retribution was at hand. 35

In the very next paragraph, Alexander writes of the landscape:

On leaving the bed of the Kye [Kei] we discovered, rather late, the dangerous situation in which we had been. There is a blaau tulp or pale blue moroea, which grows there in considerable abundance; and this, when other vegetation is scanty, the cattle devour, with fatal effect to themselves. As we ascended the heights, we passed ox after ox in the agonies of death; and we lost by the poison plant, which inflamed and swelled their insides, at least a hundred head of cattle. Some Fingoes also died from eating the tainted flesh. 36

After JE Alexander, Excursions in western Africa
After JE Alexander, Excursions in western Africa

Figure 3: Flight of the Fingoes [sic], by Charles Michell, 1836.

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We should perhaps read this interchange as expressing the possibilities of violence (a point developed in the previous chapter) and the fragmentation of a conception of the territory beyond the Kei River into the realms of the informational and the aesthetic. Michell’s work as a surveyor and his attention to detail were indispensable in defining a sense of the territory. The attention to detail, mediated as such by way of the visualisation of the landscape, served two interrelated functions. On the one hand, it helped to infuse actual danger in the landscape with associations with Hintsa and vice versa. On the other hand, it demarcated the informational and aesthetic within the broader logic of territorial conquest, thereby connecting an empirical description of the landscape in a way that validates the sense of danger represented by both. The dislocative gesture hinted at here has the added effect of duplicating the specific division between the real and the imaginary. This work of division was arguably crucial to the reconfiguration of the concept of space in the colonial imaginary. An informational logic was guaranteed by counterposing vision to imagination, the real to the aesthetic and order to chaos. By privileging the informational over the sentimental, and to circumvent the threat posed by language to their realist outlooks, travel writers like Alexander invented the category of the real danger wherein the imminence of danger was linked to an event that was marked as real. In effect, what seemed to be conveyed is a notion of landscape – to borrow liberally from Michael Taussig – as a space of death ‘the breadth of which offers positions of advance as well as of extinction’. 37 Alexander, for example, tells us how together with Lt. Col. Robert Thompson of the Royal Engineers, and Major Charles Michell, the first surveyor-general of the Cape Colony, he was commissioned to establish the first military post of occupation so as to ‘secure possession of the new territory’. 38 The area chosen for what was later called Smith’s Tower was selected for ‘its fine commanding site’ about ‘5 or 6 miles from the Kye’. 39 As described by Alexander, the building conveyed a sense of order imposed on an aesthetically appealing but nevertheless unassuming landscape.

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Consider, for instance, ‘a square redoubt of sixty yards each face, enclosing

a circular cattle kraal for forty horses, with a ditch and abattoir outside,

and the fence fifty yards distant, out of assegai range, all speedily traced, and with jackets off and working parties of pick, shovel and hatchet men set to vigorously complete the work’, 40 as opposed to ‘the banks of a small

stream called the Impotshana, near a ravine three hundred feet deep, with precipitous sides which almost approached each other, throwing the bottom filled with trees, into deep gloom, becoming a valley of death’. 41 The story of colonial advance and the tone in which the death of Hintsa was to be

narrativised privileged order and reality over a sentimental attachment to the landscape. In Alexander’s text, the actual event of 12 May is explained over six pages, with little if any digression from the script that was performed in the preceding commission of inquiry in 1836. However, colonialism was not only

a story of advance but also of retreat, repetition and loss. Alexander’s entry on 13 May, the day after the killing of Hintsa, tells a different story. It warns that the conceptualisation of space emphasising the importance of surveying – the desire to capture, describe and inhabit – was never beyond the spectre of danger. The day is marked in colonial memory by the calamity that befell Major TC White – the assistant Quartermaster General of the burgher force. White, regarded in colonial circles as an excellent scholar and surveyor, was anxious to add ‘to his carefully constructed map of the country through which the troops had passed since the commencement of the war’. 42 Having ignored the dissuasion of Captain Ross and Caesar Andrews, it is believed White proceeded to a hill above the camp where he was attacked and killed. The mourning of the death of White pointed to a double tragedy, for in the event that saw the demise of White, his vast cartographic output, sophisticated equipment and intricate sketches had also disappeared – lost, as it were, to history. Alexander quotes the three troopers who had accompanied White, to narrate the story:

The major had placed [them] at different points of observation; and with the corporal beside him, and his surveying table before him, he

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was looking down a krantz, or precipice; when a dozen Kaffirs crept on him from the bush and long grass, threw an assegai from behind through his back, and ran up and finished their work. They also stabbed the corporal through the heart; and then collected the horses. The three videttes, unable to render any assistance, fired off their pieces and retreated. 43

The bodies were discovered, we are told, stripped and bloody, and the double-barrelled guns, the major’s gold chronometer, surveying instruments and map carried off. The mourning implicit in Alexander’s writing of the event conscientiously claimed it as a sign of the revenge effected by ‘Hintsa’s people for the loss of their great chief ’, 44 and not as an attack on the systems of knowledge which inaugurated such violence. The decision to interpret the killing of White as a consequence of revenge for the death of Hintsa perhaps confirms the sense of security provided by the forms of colonial knowledge. Read as metaphor, however, the killing of White served as a warning that the secular was no guarantee of security or, perhaps, that insecurity had penetrated and infected the domains that colonial officials thought of in terms of their gift to colonised subjects. Two deaths dotted the colonial landscape: one, Hintsa’s, which was the result of colonial advance; the other, White’s, which placed before the secular project of which surveying and cartography were such crucial components, the image of extinction and loss. In the end, the secularisation of knowledge that supported colonial advance and its justification was little more than a position from which to control realms originally perceived to be obstacles in the story of Europe. Europe emerged as the only story worth telling and, indeed, worth remembering. Both Michell’s map of the scene of Hintsa’s killing (Figure 2) and his portrait of the king (Figure 5a), appeared in the second volume of Alexander’s travel narrative. In that textual setting the portrait highlights the idiosyncrasies of character much like the relief lines sketch the contours of the landscape. Alongside the cartographic survey of the area in which

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Hintsa was killed, Michell’s portrait conveys an impression of Hintsa, his downward gaze conveying a sense of cunning and intrigue, his mouth and ears shadowed so as to portray a sense of hidden intent. Both portrait and cartographic inscription reflect a sense of betrayal by the landscape which Alexander had previously anticipated as tameable and inhabitable. There is an attempt to associate difficult terrain and impervious country with Hintsa. The convergence that results from the textual network that operates in Alexander’s travelogue and the conjuring of a sense of danger might be explained by the inability of the British intelligence apparatus to anticipate competing linguistic registers through which the landscape was mediated. Displaying a specific linguistic incompetence in anything not English, Smith’s forces were unable to decipher the geography signalled in the name Nqabara given to the river they had crossed on 12 May 1835. Translated from Xhosa into English, nqaba at best designated a difficult, impregnable and inaccessible place – a place that was literally fortified. One wonders whether Hintsa read this linguistic incompetence, this oversight, as a general weakness on the part of the British before deciding to escape from his captors – if indeed we assume that he did make such a decision at all. Alexander’s travelogue, however, suggests that Hintsa was implicated in a specific reading of the landscape. When confronted with other modes of colonial expression, such as the diary and the autobiography, the solidity of the travelogue with its accompanying portraits and maps resembled the information economy of the colonial archive more than the deliberative aspects of the settler public sphere. The homology that emerges from reading Alexander’s travel writing in which the dangerous and impervious country is conflated with the image of Hintsa reaches something of an impasse in the logic of colonial expansion when considered in relation to the demands of the settler public sphere. This impasse relates to the conflicting demands made on the subjectivity of the king by the different genres of narration. In the diary and autobiography there is a necessity to complicate the relationship between landscape and colonised subject to support a stereotypical

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representation of the Xhosa as aggressors. Alexander’s writing, in contrast, followed the institutional prerogatives of the Royal Geographic Society, especially the cartographic imperative to map the world. 45 Cartographic practice in the nineteenth century tended to fix the landscape. The subject that is the effect of this genre of writing mirrors the topography of the landscape. By contrast, in the autobiography of Smith or the diary of Caesar Andrews or, as I will show, in the painting by Frederick I’Ons, the process of colonial expansion required a more discerning and selective application of the tropes of recognition and misrecognition. In this respect the negative stereotype, premised on a representation of the landscape, proved insufficient to the demands of a settler public sphere in Grahamstown. If the diary, autobiography and travelogue circumscribed what could be said about the killing of Hintsa, each genre’s writing of the event contributed in differing ways to the deliberations of a settler public sphere in the eastern Cape. What the settler public sphere demanded was not only the authority enabled by the colonial archive, but also an unmooring of the subject that it might be re-grounded in colonial discourse. The effects of that re-grounding and the consequences of its temporary unmooring from the strictures of surveying for subsequent narrations of Hintsa may be explored in a painting depicting the killing of Hintsa, in an instance when the image exceeds words.

Images that exceed words: the limits of the settler public sphere

Frederick I’Ons undertook the rearrangement of this discursive field in an early nineteenth-century painting which, in 1958, while in the possession of the I’Ons family, gained the title The Death of Hintsa (see Figure 4 on page 90). According to Michael Stevenson, who conducted extensive research on the painting in preparation for its sale at a Sotheby’s auction in the 1990s, there are no markers indicating the title or the year in which it was completed. 46 In both the list of illustrations and in a reproduction of the painting, John Redgrave and Edna Bradlow title the painting Warriors Fleeing

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Collection: Private
Collection: Private

Figure 4: Warriors Fleeing Across a River/The Death of Hintsa, by Frederick I’Ons n.d.

Across a River, although this might be an error of listing. 47 Only once the painting was included in the inventory of I’Ons’s collection in the possession of a descendent, Douglas Galpin, does the title The Death of Hintsa appear. Some art historians’ interpretations of the painting support this naming. In her analysis of I’Ons’s painting, Marijke Cosser proceeds by placing I’Ons in the turmoil of the 1830s in the eastern Cape when he first arrived and then by alluding to the possibility – based on family accounts and on the fact that I’Ons had supposedly served in the Grahamstown Mounted Volunteers – that the artist had witnessed the event of the killing of Hintsa. Cosser also notes that the painting of the demise of Hintsa was, by I’Ons’s own admission, thought to be one of his best. Cosser tells us the painting

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was the only one that depicted ‘outright violence’. This, combined with the fact that the painting was never publicly exhibited, leads her to conclude that the depiction represented a potential danger. According to Cosser, ‘I’Ons decreed that the painting was never to leave the confines of the family [and] suggests also the politically sensitive nature of this account.’ 48 She speculates that one reason for this may be that the depiction contradicted official versions produced by, for example, historians such as George Cory, the early twentieth-century historian who ultimately used the discord surrounding the killing of Hintsa to produce a synthesis of settler and colonial history. Political sensitivity presumably derived from the depiction of Hintsa receiving a shot from Southey ‘who is shadowed behind a rock to the left of the painting’. 49 This, we are told, contradicted official versions that held that British soldiers killed Hintsa in self-defence. I’Ons’s painting engages a spatial slice in time in the composite sequence we have come to call the killing of Hintsa. It is a slice that positions four subjects viewed, it seems, from a position further downstream. On the left bank we have a subject who has fired his rifle (whom Cosser names Southey with the help of the archive); in the centre of the river we have another subject with rifle aimed at a fleeing figure. Wedged between the two we have an injured subject, blood oozing out of a wound to the right side of the body, and perhaps penetrated by another bullet from the fired gun on the left. A fallen assegai lies to the right, its pointed edge directed towards the placidly flowing water, as if to underline an intention to use the weapon. On the opposite bank we see another subject in the motion of escape with his back turned to the observer of the painting. The colonial archive provides a necessary index to the portrayal of the unfolding saga in the painting. As such, the work of art becomes, in this reading, a mere illustration of the archive or one amongst several expressions of witnessing. Viewing the painting as a supplement to the archive may derive from the burden of the title that the work acquired in 1958. In some sense then, the title commits us to a reading of the painting that foregrounds

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the action associated with the killing of Hintsa. Read under its former (presumably incorrect) title, Warriors Fleeing Across a River requires a closer, if not different, reading and analysis of the painting. Here the landscape takes precedence over the space of death. However, neither approach, in my view, is adequate because both fail to come to terms with the painting’s categorisation as an example of historical painting. Nineteenth-century artistic taste, we are told by some art historians, held the historical painting in considerably high regard. The historical painting took the production of the significant moment seriously, even though its concept of event was only one element of a larger composition. 50 Analyses of I’Ons’s The Death of Hintsa often neglect the fact that there is more to the historical painting than simply conveying the impression of documenting an event, although we must acknowledge that this was the impression created by the form. The Death of Hintsa places the observer at the limit of the historical and the aesthetic, between image and word, demanding to be read in the encounter with this limit. In relation to the depth and vastness of the landscape, painted with astonishing detail and with an abundance of the eastern Cape’s signature aloes, the killing is an enticing foreground to what had hitherto remained unspoken in the archive of the killing of Hintsa – that the king had in fact been shot in the back. 51 The painting made possible a sense that the king was neither escaping nor attacking his pursuer. The overlap with the minority humanitarian view in Grahamstown might explain why I’Ons refused to allow it to be publicly displayed, given that it ran counter to the general tenor of the settler public sphere which implicated Hintsa in his own death. In I’Ons’s painting, landscape and danger once again merge but with danger represented by the figure of Southey, not Hintsa. This dramatic reversal in the narrative of the killing has implications for the archival reading of the story of Hintsa. By following the narrative in the space of death, the eye is also drawn towards the immense

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intricacy of the landscape. 52 It is at this point that the image exceeds that which is said about the killing of Hintsa and where colonialism’s other histories may be contemplated. The Death of Hintsa – or the work that now goes by that name – was not a commissioned work. The painting, we could argue, does not merely supplement the archive, as some art historians have suggested, but significantly calls attention to a discursive rearrangement of landscapes and bodies by demanding that the viewer relate to its often competing historical and aesthetic claims. In connecting violence and vision, I’Ons substantially revised the terms of the official archive by reconfiguring the techniques of observation from those preferred by travel writers, diarists and autobiographers through making the aesthetic an indispensable factor in the macabre story of the killing of Hintsa.

Insight/oversight: renegotiating the postapartheid public sphere through images and sound

When Nicholas Gcaleka set off in search of Hintsa’s skull, there was a general feeling that this was an expression of someone whose speech fell outside of the norms of an emergent public sphere in democratic South Africa. Yet, as publicity and indeed curiosity increased about the search for Hintsa’s skull, there was a need for the public sphere to ground the subject. Left to his own fantasies, Nicholas Gcaleka was seen as a threat for having introduced a sense of incoherence to an already fractured public sphere. In arriving at such a hasty conclusion, the question of how the public sphere deals with that which is incommensurate was left unattended. In short, this meant that any response to Gcaleka in the public sphere would be measured by the violence that marked the emergence of that sphere at a point of departure in nineteenth-century colonialism. Rather than his claim leading to the formation of a subaltern counterpublic, 53 Gcaleka emerged as a subaltern effect in the sanctioned narrative of postapartheid South Africa. The subaltern entry into the realm of the public sphere, insofar as it fails the requirements of property, publicity and rationality, registers a failure

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that is not only constitutive but also a prerequisite for the functioning of that public sphere. It is for this reason that a public sphere would seemingly expend its resources and energies on deliberating the highly unlikely claims of someone who professed to speak and act on behalf of the ancestors. I want to propose that the entry of the subaltern into the historical formations of the bourgeois public sphere is enabled by the grounding of the colonised subject and sustained by the repetition of the subaltern effect. 54 If we were to set this against the expansive publicity that surrounded Nicholas Gcaleka’s search for Hintsa’s skull, we might inquire into how potentially effective the notion of a subaltern public sphere is in diminishing the hegemony of the bourgeois public sphere. If Gcaleka’s mission is anything to go by, then we might say that the search for Hintsa’s skull lent itself to bolstering the liberal rationalist alignments of the public sphere drawn from the colonial past. The publicity surrounding Gcaleka’s mission had effects that corresponded with the publicity generated by the killing of Hintsa in 1835. Both revealed a logic of domination that accompanies the rise of the public sphere rooted in hegemonic discourse; and in both instances the ruse of mistaken and conflicted identity lent itself to shaping the deliberations of a public sphere which reinscribes their respective subordinate positions. If in his search for a meaningful Hintsa, Nicholas Gcaleka was represented as something of a trickster in the media, it was only because he adopted the very strategies of make-believe that defined colonialism. Many of the colonial modes of evidence that organised the archive on the killing of Hintsa, we will recall, called into play the figure of the witness as an authenticating device of a regime of truth. The sonoric resonance of Southey hailing Hintsa to stop before the fateful shooting, and which served as a justification for an act of violence, was significantly diminished in the colonial account. As in the commission of inquiry, the demand for seeing leaves little room for undercutting the dehumanising trajectories of colonial discourse premised on the primacy of vision. The world filtered through the colonial retina is often the condition of possibility for history and, it might be safe to argue, colonial hegemony privileges such a visual economy.

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As the search for Hintsa’s skull unfolded in the local and international press, a deafening noise was readily audible in the nascent postapartheid public sphere. Gcaleka’s quest generated so much public interest that it prompted Brett Bailey, in the play iMumbo Jumbo which deals with the healer–diviner’s dream, to dedicate an entire scene to the media interest surrounding the mission. In a related comment on this media frenzy, Mike Nicol bemoaned the ways in which transnational corporate interests appropriated the search for the skull, reducing it to spectacle and entertainment. 55 For Nicol, when Gcaleka’s request for funding landed on the desks of public-relations divisions of Coca-Cola and South African Breweries ‘they must have thought it was a gift from the gods’. Here was a below-the-line project that was good for major media coverage not only in South Africa but in Britain too. It tapped a historic resonance that bound the two countries. It was dramatic. It involved a skull, a sangoma, leopard skins, traditional weapons and some catchy lines. That the project was based on shaky historical foundations was clearly of no concern. This was free advertising. What’s more, the copy wrote itself and the photo opportunities were endless: chief brandishing his cultural weapons bound in airline tape; chief being led through the streets of London by a po-faced bobby; chief getting into large black car; and finally, chief holding skull. This was made for the media: A novelty, a distraction, something more to add to what author Saul Bellow calls the modern noise. 56

By extending Nicol’s critique of the crass logic of accumulation, we might say that Nicholas Gcaleka represented for the end of the twentieth century what Sarah Baartman was for the beginning of the nineteenth – with, it could be argued, one small exception. Holding aloft the alleged skull of Hintsa for all to see, Gcaleka’s entanglement in the scopic economy called forth a discrepancy between seeing and believing. Leaving aside Bellow’s own disparaging comment on the absence of a creative genius of the calibre of Proust amongst the Zulu, 57 Nicol’s interpretation of the corporatist logic

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undermines the theoretical potential of his own claim. To treat this search for the skull as part of a corporatist plot was to lose sight of the tropes that allowed for this slippage. Let me return to this oversight in Nicol by exploring, once again, what we are made to understand by seeing and believing. Ordinarily, the importance of seeing is ascribed to its immediacy, a point I argued in the previous chapter. But it may also be explained in terms of its relation to consciousness, the process of its filtering. The retina, as Marx claimed in ‘The German Ideology’, 58 conveys the clarity of consciousness. The name for this relation is ideology and if, as Marx informs us, ‘in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life processes as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life processes’. 59 Wendy Brown has offered a provocative rereading of this argument, suggesting that for Marx the remedy to the inversion of reality in consciousness ‘may be corrected as completely as the brain corrects the inversion of images on the retina’. 60 The eye, Lacan would later claim – as if implicitly revising Marx’s earlier formulation – is a rather discerning organ, endowed with the fatal power to separate between a visual grammar on the one hand and, on the other, relating to the gaze which establishes the subject’s position in this grammar. If anything, the subject’s position in this grammar is a matter of instability, as in the case where the subject does not fit the language of original conceptualisation. Clearly, the Lacanian refinement contributed significantly to the model of interpellation that inspired Althusser’s forays into the operation of ideology. But the overemphasis on the scopic has left much of the discussion of ideology somewhat deficient in explaining the instability that attends to the subject. This is where Nicol’s reading of Nicholas Gcaleka’s mission is most thought-provoking. In the midst of the imagery of Gcaleka bearing a skull, Nicol recalls the cacophony that engulfs the subject. 61 This combining of the scopic and the sonoric helps us to conceptualise the subject as more than just that which is seen, but also how it is made to resonate in the public sphere. The coincidence of the scopic and sonoric I call the act of communicability through

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which the subaltern subject is forged. Gcaleka, it could be argued, is similarly

a product of the interplay of interpellation and enunciation. Noise has a way of

engulfing truth, as in the case when an emergent settler public sphere gathered around the ear of Hintsa in Grahamstown to celebrate his fall. 62 The noise

that engulfed Gcaleka may have been mistaken for a recent phase of capitalist

modernity but, I would argue, it is perhaps better understood as the noise that accompanies the grounding of the subaltern subject in the public sphere. When it became clear that Gcaleka’s claim would not survive the test of scholarly and scientific scrutiny, the portrait of the late king assumed

a prominence as a more truthful representation. Traces of Hintsa’s reign

are scattered across the eastern Cape. In Butterworth, the site that marks the Great Place 63 is identifiable by rusted and wrangled street markings. A tombstone erected by Xoliliswe Sigcawu in 1985, on the banks of the Nqabara River, marks the site of the killing. Similarly, the image of Hintsa found in Museum Africa in Johannesburg, in the Albany Museum in Grahamstown, in Jeff Peires’s The House of Phalo and as the frontispiece of a conference held at the University of Cape Town in 2002 titled ‘Memory and forgetting in the life of the nation’ attests to the continued significance of the killing of the king. All these representations currently in circulation, I wish to argue, belie the controversy surrounding the image of Hintsa. Portraiture, it seems, should be read within the terms of enunciation that seek to ground the subject and limit the realm of the sayable. A focus on colonial interpellation and enunciation opposes the current practice of public representations of Hintsa, which circulate as mere illustration and as inconsequential to the larger historical narrative through which the contemporary South African nation imagines itself. If colonial portraiture is taken as merely an objective representation, there is little possibility of making sense of later nationalist substitution. Let me draw this chapter to a close with a comment why seeing is not necessarily to be equated with believing. The file containing some of George Pemba’s sketches at Cory Library in Grahamstown includes a portrait of Hintsa with initials ‘GMP’ (see Figure 5b on page 98). My forays into the portrait of Hintsa led me to believe that the image that was in circulation

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had been produced by Pemba, probably in the 1930s. But one nagging question remained. On what did Pemba base his portrait of the king? Mda Mda, a prominent lawyer in Butterworth who introduced me to sites related to Hintsa, suggested that Pemba’s image was largely drawn from the descriptions of the king in the opening lines of a commemorative poem by SEK Mqhayi, written at the time of the hundredth anniversary of the killing. Mda’s lead made sense in terms of my estimated dating of Pemba’s portrait to the 1930s. I assumed that in versions of the portrait in circulation, the name of the artist had simply and perhaps unfortunately been removed. Two weeks before Pemba passed away, I travelled to his house in Motherwell in the eastern Cape to conduct an interview on history of the portrait. Having suffered several strokes by then, Pemba was not very lucid and barely managed a few recollections about his artistic creations. Midway through our discussion, I presented him with a programme from a conference held at the University of Cape Town in 2002, on which a sketch of Hintsa was featured. At first, Pemba looked at the sketch and asked why his work was being used without his permission and without payment.

After JE Alexander, Excursions in western Africa
After JE Alexander, Excursions in western Africa

Figure 5a: Portrait of Hintsa, by Charles Michell, 1835.

Collection: Cory Library, Grahamstown
Collection: Cory Library, Grahamstown

Figure 5b: Portrait of Hintsa, by George Pemba, 1937.

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Then, dropping the programme on the table, he proclaimed with a certainty that had been missing for much of our conversation that the drawing was not his work. He pointed out that it was very much like a sketch that he had found at Rhodes University in the 1930s when he was a student, and which he reworked for the purposes of illustrating Mqhayi’s publication poem, UmHlekazi uHintsa, published in 1937. The sketch that Pemba had based his work on turned out to be the drawing by Michell (Figure 5a opposite). Something happens when the two portraits are placed alongside each other. Pemba’s reworking becomes apparent, especially in relation to the eyes and other facial features of the king. But to discern the subjective envisioning of nationalist representation, one will have to echo the cry of George Southey as he set off in pursuit of the king down the banks of the Nqabara River, ‘Stop! Or I’ll Shoot!’ It is only in listening that deception and nobility are recognisable in the portraits, and through which the attributes of treachery and bravery are discernible. The very contingency that followed from reading the colonial portrait was the cue for impeding the effort to construct a settler public sphere through recourse to the colonial story of the killing of Hintsa. The name of that intervention was anti-colonial nationalism. However, to accomplish its task of interfering with colonial narratives, anti-colonial nationalist narration had first to overcome the historical and aesthetic foundations of a settler public sphere in which the story of Hintsa featured so prominently. That historiographical encounter is the subject of the next two chapters. For now, we must conclude that the portrait of Hintsa offers the outlines of colonial interpellation and enunciation as it participates in the formation of a settler public sphere that is aligned to colonial hegemony.

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The properties of facts (or how to read with a grain of salt)

The military operation involved in deconstruction therefore is in one respect an attack on a party of colonialists who have tried to make the land and its inhabitants over into a realization of their plans, an attack in turn partly to release prisoners and partly to free land held forcibly. 1

in grahamsTown and london, news of the demise of Hintsa was the source of a mixture of disquiet and jubilation, controversy and fierce public debate. These sentiments filtered through newspapers, public meetings, street protests and parliamentary debates. The publicity surrounding the circumstances in which the king was killed ultimately exposed the often acute tensions of Empire. 2 To complicate matters for the British colonial authorities, the killing occurred at a time of ascendancy of humanitarian liberalism – with all its attendant paternalism towards the native races of Empire – which was increasingly gaining ground in the bourgeois public sphere in Britain. News of Hintsa’s slaying was greeted with protest and, in one instance, the effigy of George Southey (who had shot Hintsa) was reportedly burnt in the streets of London. The Edinburgh Review of January 1836 said of the killing of Hintsa: ‘Here the wounded man, up to the waist in water, leaned against a rock for support, and begged for mercy; the Hottentots [sic] heard his prayer and spared him; but a British officer, climbing the rock above him, shot the unfortunate chief.’ 3 The killing of Hintsa marked a sporadic spiking in the tensions of Empire, pitting colonial official against metropolitan humanitarian and both against a settler society

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struggling to come into its own at the expense of the Xhosa. Symptomatic of these tensions was the often rancorous public debate in the newspapers of Grahamstown, the Cape Colony and Britain involving representatives of settler opinion and humanitarian sentiment. Given these tensions of Empire, and the animosity that defined the relations between colonial officials and settlers in the eastern Cape, how is it even possible to conceptualise a version of the South African past as settler colonial historiography? 4 Most responses to this question tend to be caught in the impasse of the race versus class debate in South African historiography. Very little, if any, attention is paid to the epistemological form of settler colonial history which also, I suggest in the next chapter, enables and posits unfortunate limits for anti-colonial nationalist history. 5 As a result of the tendency for historiography to be treated as a system of classification, settler histories are generally identified by the categories that define them, by their place in the ideological spectrum, and not by their form. Alan Lester, for example, tells us how identities were forged in relation to the spaces of colonial violence along the eastern Cape frontier. 6 While the elements of a settler public sphere are discernible in Lester’s work, he unfortunately does not follow through with a textual deconstruction of the mediating apparatus that leads to subject formation. This oversight results in a rather disappointing conclusion rooted in identity and a view of subjectivity that sees the colonial archive as a resource rather than an alibi for violence. The story of the killing of Hintsa offers much more to work with than merely the resonant traces of identity. The emphasis on the form of settler history is equally critical to understanding the modes of evidence of the colonial archive and the emergence of a nationalist response. Too often, settler histories are thought of as merely racially exclusive histories of whiteness. Such views are at best tautological because, in approaching the question from the standpoint of racial exclusion, they neglect to address the forms of subjection and their articulations that are necessary for settler histories. Diminishing our sense of the processes of subjection in settler histories undermines the possibilities of understanding what we mean

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by colonialism. In this chapter I wish to return to the question of settler histories by re-examining what is specifically colonial about them. In other words, I wish to avoid a racial reductionism common in attitudes towards settler history because such a move entails an unfortunate return of the same charge of racial categorisation. Settler histories are distinguished not by their whiteness but by their form, by what I call the modes of evidence of the colonial archive and its resultant subjection of agency. It was this subjection of agency that ultimately enabled settler pasts, which were initially distinctly at odds with colonial officialdom and the burgeoning humanitarian movement in Britain, to become not merely a (largely discredited) version of what happened, but actually sustained settler colonial historiography. This chapter proposes to disable historicist constructions of colonialism by unravelling the making of a settler colonial history. I propose to read neither against the grain nor with the grain but, as Marx once suggested, ‘with a grain of salt’ so as to invalidate colonialism’s temporalities in the interests of making apparent my concern with the processes of subjection. Such a move towards the textuality is intended to overcome an impasse in South African historiography which tends to treat colonialism in purely historicist terms. In South African historiography, colonialism is often thought of as a point of assemblage of the racial foundations for later forms of segregation, apartheid and capitalist accumulation. It is often construed in public discourse and scholarship as a stepping stone to more recent installations of systems of oppression. Colonialism appears as an absent cause in the later development of capitalist relations of exchange, extraction and production. In South Africa, the history of colonialism as a specific technology of power, as opposed to the basis for later economic development, was perhaps prematurely terminated by historians such as CW de Kiewiet who were interested in defining the specific factors that shaped a local system of capitalist accumulation. 7 For example, De Kiewiet, a leading historian of his time, argued that the greatest social fact of the century was neither gold nor diamond mining, nor even agriculture, but the universal dependence on black labour. For him, acknowledgement of this fact

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significantly affected the approaches adopted, presumably by historians, to colonialism and to South African history more generally. As he wrote in the 1930s, perhaps anticipating the restrictive anti-colonial nationalist narrative of colonial dispossession:

Out of the heaving and thrusting of the nineteenth-century there has emerged no romantic tradition comparable with the literature of adventure in which the North American Redskins [sic] were the heroes. The explanation is at least partly to be found in the different social and political position of the descendents of Pontiac, Sitting Bull, or Osceola in the forgotten and inoffensive Indian reservations of modern America, and the descendents of Hintsa, Chaka, and Sekukuni in the packed and controversial reserves, in the compounds of industrial towns and in European kitchens. In the inglorious change from an enemy to a servile proletariat there is little room for romance. South African schoolboys play at Cowboys and Indians, not at Boers and Zulus; for Zulus, Basuto and Bechuana are too manifestly an unheroic and desperate social problem. 8

The capitalist outcomes of colonial conquest, in De Kiewiet’s formulation of South Africa significantly affect the games we play; even the historiographical ones. Subsuming the historiographical question of colonialism into the general question of capitalist accumulation and transition – whether in notions of colonialism of a special type or in notions of racial capitalism – has had, in my view, serious consequences for the critique of colonialism and apartheid. In some respects the critique of the forms of capitalist accumulation has obscured – and perhaps rendered inconsequential – the critique of colonialism as a condition of power in its own right. In South African historiography, the critique of colonialism therefore assumed a secondary status and the forms of articulation of colonial hegemony were generally surrendered to the larger conclusions of a racially defined system of capitalist accumulation. At best, when histories of colonialism emerged they contained an anticipatory narrative of what

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was to follow. This might explain why colonialism is so removed from our discussions on the postapartheid. De Kiewiet’s insistence on addressing the problem of black labour was tempered only later by the work of Jeff Peires, who seemed to be arguing that the transition to capitalism in the eastern Cape was not a foregone conclusion. Rather, capitalism was the product of an often violent engagement with pre-existing social formations that had their own histories.

In The House of Phalo, Peires targeted the complexity of the precolonial Xhosa social formation – the history, as he put it, of the Xhosa in the days of their independence. The history depends in large measure on oral traditions and

a very crucial set of interviews with Mda Mda, a lawyer based in Butterworth

who is often seen by scholars as an important resource for oral accounts of the eastern Cape. In his study, Peires finds that cattle were central to demarcating class boundaries between chiefs and commoners so that the struggle between these two groups, he argues, took the form of a struggle for

cattle. Since cattle were the primary means of reproduction, Peires points out

it was also the means of controlling subjects who depended on cattle. Peires emphasises the blurring of the realms of political control and

economic organisation in precolonial societies. In this respect he draws

a distinction between ownership and possession where the latter was the

reward of the commoner and the former the means through which the chief expressed power over his subjects. Evidence for this analysis is drawn from both oral histories and accounts of settlers and officials such as W Shaw and Andrew Smith. Cattle were the sign of obligation and exchange, of control and reproduction. In distinguishing between ownership and possession, Peires draws an analogy between the position of the serf in the Middle Ages in western Europe and the Xhosa commoner, both of whom had access to the means of production even when it was owned by the lord or chief respectively. Peires’s House of Phalo is dedicated to the confrontations that undermined Xhosa feudal relations and paved the way for emergent, if not truncated, capitalist social relations. The task, however, was also to prove the distinctness of

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precolonial social formations. Here he invoked the homestead principle which, he argued, coexisted with a royal ideology to define Xhosa political and social formations. Clifton Crais’s study of the making of a colonial order in the nineteenth-century eastern Cape, published almost five decades after De Kiewiet’s Imperial Factor, expresses the ambition of exploring the emergence of the combinatory formation he calls ‘racial capitalism’. 9 Crais sees the colonial order that emerged in the eastern Cape as paradoxical, formed out of discrepancies of colonial culture between metropolitan control and settler capitalist ethos. It is then the working out of this paradox through redefining power and profit in dominant discourse that produced the conditions for the emergence of a racialised capitalism and a system of forced labour. Crais, for example, writes:

But could ‘barbarism’ become a legitimate basis of ‘civilization’? The British believed in varying degrees, in the capacity of Africans for ‘progress’, but many Africans were not particularly interested in becoming the docile and deferential laborers the elite so desired. In the opinion of many humanitarians, only the ‘worthless’ African would ‘abandon his liberty for the bondage’ of laboring for white settlers in the colony. What became increasingly clear to both the British colonial elite and a rising number of bureaucrats was that economic growth in the colony would ultimately rest not on free labor, but on its opposite. Counter to their most cherished ideals, economic growth and human progress depended on subjection and the violence which accompanied the denial of freedom. 10

Whereas De Kiewiet argued in terms of the necessity of black labour for the South African social formation, Crais articulates the concomitant force of culture and limits of power that accompanied the making of a servile black labour force. Crais marks the process of servility as uneven and haphazard – thereby wedging a space in De Kiewiet’s story for an African agency and resistance – so that it deepens the incidental nature in which black labour is

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invoked in an earlier historiography. The attempts to connect materiality of power to modes of accumulation, however, result in an impasse that inhibits the theorisation of that connection. That functionalism is particularly evident in the claim that:

The manner by which white settlers ‘comprehended’ the ‘black’ ultimately legitimated imperial expansion and the development of a racial capitalism in South Africa which rested on massive state coercion. 11

Or in reverse:

It was the development of agrarian capitalism and the protracted struggle over land and labor which accompanied it which initiated a fundamental change in the perception of the African in the colonial eye. 12

If we were cryptically and perhaps somewhat unfairly to caricature these different arguments, we might say that whereas De Kiewiet worked towards seeing colonialism as an absent cause in the development of capitalism in South Africa, Peires and Crais have called attention to the competing nationalist and anti-capitalist potential that arises from critical histories of colonialism. Yet, it is the incommensurability between the positions of Peires (who picks up on an earlier intellectual tradition initiated by SEK Mqhayi, JH Soga and WB Rubusana, amongst others) and Crais (who stakes out a critique of racial formations based on the cultural conditions of the rise of racial capitalism) that strikes me as crucial and that prompts me to return to the discourse of colonialism in the eastern Cape. 13 I wish to argue that the discord is not necessarily a product of a transcendent political choice but rather inheres in the very narrative dynamics and textual forms that underlie settler, colonial and even nationalist discourses. One reason why colonialism is such an unstable category in the discipline of history, I would argue, is that it is prone to historicist constructions. This historicist tendency emerges because colonialism takes the shape of a stage in historical development that precedes the critique

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encountered in nationalist narration. The convergence of a developmentalist conception of history and nineteenth-century colonialism, however, facilitated the assignment of subject positions and also later enabled a nationalist response by making available the techniques of subjection necessary for the functioning of power. 14 As competing and complementary forms of social subjection, apartheid and colonialism may be differentiated systemically even though they are essentially cut of the same epistemic cloth. This is not to conflate nineteenth-century colonialism and twentieth- century apartheid but to explore their shared expressions in determining the conditions of possibility for the production of subalternity, which is a major feature of postcolonial subjectivity. The mission to retrieve Hintsa’s skull is in this sense critical for debates about postapartheid South Africa because it calls attention to how difficult it would prove, under conditions of this colonial inheritance, to walk out of the narrative of power in which the subject is returned, again and again, to the position of mere supplement of power.

What is called a settler history?

In settler historical narratives, the story of the killing of Hintsa proceeds with the onset of war in 1834–35, which provides a contextual rationalisation for the British pursuit of Hintsa some 300 kilometres from the scenes of confrontation and hostilities. The mathematics of losses supposedly suffered by British colonists was a product of a politically expedient process of calculation, tabulation and recording. 15 In terms of the general list of losses for the 1834–35 war, it was claimed by British officials that 111 418 cattle and 5 438 horses had been lost. The cumulative loss in monetary terms totalled 288 625 pounds. The demand for cattle communicated to Hintsa was presumably part of this larger total, since it was alleged that he received the largest share of cattle taken by the Rharhabe from the colony. Clothes, guns, tools, bedding, books, crops, furniture, saddles, soap, corn, wheat and butter are also listed as losses in the record.

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Among the families that supposedly suffered the greatest loss, by their own admission, was the Southey family – the same family to which George Southey, the person responsible for shooting Hintsa, belonged. In the chronological list of losses for the period after 9 July 1835, 600 cattle were reported stolen from the Southey’s farm alone. The entry is for the period of the immediate aftermath of the killing of Hintsa. 16 In the general list of losses for the duration of the war, we are informed that the Southey family lost 40 horses, 610 cattle and 1 060 goats, all valued at a total of 3 010 pounds. 17 While the discrepancy for cattle lost by the Southeys in the two reports is minimal, it is not certain how the general losses were incorporated into later demands made by D’Urban to Hintsa. In all likelihood, the recording of losses was geared towards a confrontation with the Xhosa. Colonial officials tried to bolster their claims as much as possible in order to secure a moral high ground. Like mapping, it was part of a general strategy of colonial conquest, not simply an instance of ‘bias’. Settlers, too, used the opportunity presented by official reports of cattle theft to exploit the situation. The compiler of the statistics warned of the general unreliability of the figures received from settlers reporting losses. In what appears to be a preface to the list of losses sustained during the war, the archival record is preceded with the following caution:

The total number of claimants will be nearly 3 000 as some statements contain 10–15 names. I do not vouch for this account being exact as the state of many of the documents prevent the amount of losses being ascertained with any degree of accuracy. Whenever the parties undergo a strict examination as to the correctness of their statements and the balance of the property very considerable reductions will take place. 18

One reason for this uncertainty was that claims were being submitted on behalf of family members who resided at a distance. The possible exaggeration of losses may similarly have proved beneficial in justifying colonial encroachment but it also placed strain on colonial officials to meet

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the reparation demands of claimants, especially after the war. The ‘facts’ pertaining to losses sustained are therefore complicated by the ways in which the archive records and presents its figures. It is this interplay of calculation and miscalculation, of doubt expressed as numbers, that enters the field of history, first as a factual basis for D’Urban’s demand to Hintsa for the return of the cattle and other items and then as factual pretexts ‘that were always [also] becoming texts’. 19 Alex Wilmot’s biography of Richard Southey, published in 1904, went on to draw on this factual base to come close to hinting at revenge as a reason for killing Hintsa. Wilmot writes:

The Southey’s had lost their all – stock, house and furniture. They were left destitute in consequence of a totally unprovoked irruption of savages, and were aware of cold-blooded and brutal murders of white men and women. No wonder that they and the other settlers felt their blood boil in the veins when charges were hurled against them. Their losses during the war consisted of about 800 head of cattle, 1 000 sheep and goats, as well as 50 horses and all their household effects. 20

Once again the discrepancy is only slight and since Wilmot avoids the academic protocols of referencing in this instance, it is difficult to ascertain from where he derives his figures. Crucial for the purposes of the discussion here, however, is the way in which the ledger of losses seeped into a settler history and a biography as the basis of fact. There were, however, other consequences. If, as I argued earlier, the conditions of knowledge, and indeed the settler public sphere, always also articulated with the conditions of violence, then we may have to inquire into the specific forms of historical knowledge about the Xhosa produced as a result of this coincidence. My initial suggestion is that the histories of the killing of Hintsa were products of discrepant ways of knowing. In this respect, the ethnographic concerns of Colonel Collins in the early nineteenth century combined with a more open contest about who earned the right to be called victims of the war of 1834–35.

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The story of the killing of Hintsa was one instance amongst several others where such a crucial dilemma was worked over.

Knowledge of the Xhosa

In his ethnographic survey of Hintsa’s polity, Colonel Collins noted the following in his journal of ‘a tour’ to the Storm Mountains in 1809:

Not many years since [1780], Hinsa’s [sic] people resided on the right bank of the Kyba, where traces of his kraals still exist. An unsuccessful war with Gyka forced him to abandon that country; which he now only uses for hunting. The country now occupied by Hinsa’s people, is situated near the sea, between the Kyba and the Bassee, rivers of equal magnitude, and distant about forty miles from each other. In addition to the Gooa several more small streams serpentise through this fine tract, among which the Koho at a short distance east of Hinsa’s residence, which is situated in the middle of his territory, and the Juguga, a few miles beyond the Koho, are most deserving of notice. As the Kaffirs are themselves unacquainted with their population, it is impossible for a stranger to know it. We guessed, however, that this tribe might consist altogether of about 10 000 souls. They are all under the absolute control of Hinsa, but divided among a number of subordinate chiefs. It is not less difficult to form an estimate of the numbers of their cattle, than respecting their population. I think it probable that they may exceed 20 000. 21

The report is significant for at least two reasons. Firstly, all the proper names relating to the Xhosa underwent significant orthographic alteration in subsequent years. Thus, Hinsa would later be written in the colonial archive as either Hintsa or Hinza, Gyka would become Nqika and later Ngqika, and Bassee would be rendered as Bashee and later Mbhashe. What might be too easily dismissed as inconsequential relates to a second aspect of the excerpt, namely the desire to ‘know the population’. 22 Knowing the population

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in this ethnographic exercise pointed to something other than its cultural formation or its orthographic inscription. It also pointed to the demand for a census – a counting – of people and cattle. Shortly after Collins estimated the size of Hintsa’s polity, he turned his attention to a breed of cattle, observed in the different kraals, that had ‘colonial marks’ and to Hintsa’s two horses, thought to be of colonial stock. Avoiding the consequences of unsubstantiated accusation, Collins issued a friendly caution to Hintsa, informing the latter that he understood the cattle to have been stolen from colonists and then exchanged for others ‘in order that the proprietors should not be enabled to discover them’. 23 Collins promised ‘advantageous bargains’ if the chief desisted from the temptation to participate in exchanges of this kind in the future. Early travellers such as Colonel Collins made every effort to deploy the voice of the ‘informant’ as integral to the knowledge that was produced in order to subject ‘the Xhosa’ to ethnographic scrutiny. Judging from the presentation of the report and its subsequent reproduction in Donald Moodie’s The Record, Collins gave an account of his travels based on interviews with leading Xhosa chiefs such as ‘Hinsa’ and ‘Gayka’. One result of these conversations was detail relating to the everyday life of the amaXhosa: the division of labour, rituals around marriage and, more importantly, what was described as differences between the Gcaleka and Rharhabe houses. In almost every consideration of the detail, the centrality of cattle as cultural symbol was identified. In Collins’s account of his journey, this knowledge supposedly acquired through the medium of orality was further substantiated by the practice of observation that distinguished travel writing from other forms of narration. Travel ethnography was an interested enterprise on at least two levels. Firstly, Collins used the acquired knowledge – ethnographic snapshots – to define the relationships that were desired by settler society with the Xhosa. In other words, by narrating difference, Collins tried to insert settler society into perceived and prevailing social relations without disturbing prefigured cultural distinctions between colonist and Xhosa. His mission was to

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convince Xhosa chiefs not to enter settler spheres of control for the purposes of ‘begging’ and simultaneously to encourage trade as the proper realm of contact. Thus Collins writes:

I had been further directed to inform him [Hintsa], that as soon as the differences between the Kaffer people had been terminated, and they were all peaceably residing as formerly beyond the Great Fish River,

it was the intention of the colonial government to give directions for

their being annually supplied with such things as they might want in exchange for cattle and ivory, and I pointed out the great advantage they would derive from afterwards sending those things to more distant countries. 24

The demand for a relationship based on trade is premised on a hope for a common understanding of property as a basis of exchange. The presupposition that supported this contract was that property was exchangeable and that it ideally belonged to the realm of economic relations. Secondly, to draw the Xhosa into an agreement on trade relations, and to ensure that the settlers remained the central beneficiaries of the economic equation, it proved necessary to elevate certain Xhosa to a recognisable and distinct authority, indeed to affirm their position as chiefs. This was accomplished primarily through the work of knowledge of an ethnographic kind. Collins instructed – and in fact begged – both Hintsa and Ngqika to engage in legitimate commerce around cattle, which was to emerge as the interchangeable signifier of property. To Ngqika, who had been desperately trying to secure cattle to pay for bride wealth, Collins offered the advice that ‘the more elevated his station, the more necessary was it for him to give the example of propriety’. 25 Such advice pointed in every manner to the necessity to retain the semblance of Xhosa culture as a discreet social category. Without this level of separation, a concept of property as a specifically European invention could not function. Yet, cattle, status and property were concepts with discrepant meanings, even amongst settlers and colonial officials. Collins’s resolution to this

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discrepancy was to collapse notions of cattle as property – the basis for settler relations with the Xhosa – and cattle as the distinguishing referent of Xhosa culture. The recommendations that followed Collins’s ethnographic conclusions were implemented by the British governor at the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, before 1820. If we are to extend the general argument of a recent history of the frontier by Tim Keegan, 26 we might say that the implementation of policy based on Collins’s report resulted in the area between the Fish and the Kei Rivers being declared neutral and ceded territory after the battle of Ndlambe in 1818–19. The result was a marked separation between Xhosa and colonist. By the late 1820s, however, Collins’s ethnography was proving contradictory and unreliable. In the 1830s, Keegan points out, the ivory frontier had receded, and increasingly Africans were becoming dependent on the sale of livestock, animal products and agricultural produce for access to British manufactured products. This shift in trade, Keegan suggests, significantly undermined self-sufficiency and drained cattle resources among the Xhosa. It also demanded new relations with the Xhosa and with this came the demand for new ways of knowing the Xhosa – ways of knowing that did not exclusively operate on the premise of difference established by way of ethnography. In the face of mounting pressure from metropolitan interests, the settler public sphere drew on a concept of history to shift the claims about difference to a more fundamental distinction based on a formulaic understanding of the stages of economic development. Such arguments would also need to take account of the discrepancies at the level of social organisation and the principle of property that was at the heart of difference in the levels of development. The first move, it seems, entailed inscribing the Xhosa as antecedent of a settler concept of history – a concept that became especially discernible with the end of slavery in 1834. The second move – not necessarily separable from the first – was to highlight difference in understanding the meaning of property. The first move would ensure that settler versions of property would win out in the second.

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In this respect, D’Urban indirectly posited the necessity for a uniform concept of property which, in his view, also necessitated colonisation. We might argue further that in D’Urban’s estimation such a concept could not rely on the colonisation of land alone but had to work at appropriating cattle to the rules of property. When, therefore, D’Urban asked his translator, Theophilus Shepstone, to translate the conditions for a ceasefire for Hintsa’s benefit at their meeting outside of Butterworth in 1835, he was asking for more than a literal translation of the terms of the agreement. He was also asking Shepstone to inform the king that cattle now belonged to the realms of exchange value. In so doing, the concept of value in cattle was expanded upon so that it now circulated in the realms of private ownership, money and trade and also, in the case of an infringement of the rules of property, of punishment. A concept of property in cattle therefore connected the Xhosa to the realms of settler accumulation and simultaneously produced the Xhosa as an uneven factor in the paradigm of European development. The war of 1834–35 may be considered as an attempt to risk a decision that would clarify the form of subjection of the Xhosa. But a conception of difference premised on race presumably proved highly contentious under conditions of changing trade relations. Here Glenelg’s response to D’Urban’s expansionist policy and his desire for normalised trade relations simultaneously illustrates the demand for representations of the Xhosa as worthy of being trading partners. In December 1835, Glenelg, who eventually went on to reverse D’Urban’s expansionist policy following the war of 1834–35, refuted the latter’s characterisation of the Xhosa as ‘irreclaimable savages’ on several counts. Most important for our purposes was Glenelg’s argument about the inappropriateness of applying the label of ‘irreclaimable savages’ to natives with whom a trade amounting to about ‘30 000l per annum in the purchase of European commodities had been established on the frontier’. 27 In addition, ‘as many as 200 British traders were living far beyond the boundaries of the colony, protected only by the

integrity and humanity of the uncivilized

.To such a people,’

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Glenelg added, ‘the character of “irreclaimable savages” cannot with justice be assigned’. 28 The self/other distinction, we could say, proved to be inadequate when considered in relation to the emergent demands of trade on the frontier. The respective positions of Glenelg and D’Urban reflected a larger metropolitan debate about pursuing a policy of either free trade or colonisation. But in reversing D’Urban’s expansionist policies, Glenelg had effectively bypassed settler interests and structures of accumulation on the one hand, and settler constructions of race-based difference on the other. In the midst of this controversy between the government and a settler public sphere, however, a new history would be forged to legitimise the claims of those subjects of the British Crown who lived in the eastern Cape. Robert Godlonton, a journalist and vocal proponent of settler interests, would contribute significantly to what I shall call settler history.

Settler history

One of the foundational texts of settler collective memory and history was, as Alan Lester has suggested, Robert Godlonton’s A Narrative of the Irruption of the Kafir Hordes published in 1836 in the immediate aftermath of the Sixth Frontier War in which Hintsa was killed. 29 Godlonton’s narrative was aimed at the reconstruction of the settler’s past, an analysis of the present predicament of the colonists and a defence of their activities. 30 In Lester’s assessment, Godlonton’s text pointed to the demands for a specifically settler identity that promoted unity and cut across class, gender and political divides. Godlonton’s text, in this reading, was aimed at narrating the cause and course of the Sixth Frontier War and sought to win favour with metropolitan audiences who may otherwise have sided with humanitarian propaganda about the extreme forms of settler violence against colonised peoples. Irruption is a text that leads us towards an understanding of how the Xhosa came to be known, defined and colonised. We could argue that the text is invariably, if not specifically, about the Xhosa even though it is often seen

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as a text of settler history. At the level of plot, Godlonton’s narrative depicts a persecuted settler community, misunderstood by metropolitan adherents of humanitarian ideology and defending itself against the intolerable pressures of the Xhosa. It is a story of reasonableness versus tyranny, of patient settlers against persistent Xhosa. Compiled from journalistic extracts drawn from The Grahamstown Journal, of which he was editor, and official documents generated by the war of 1834–35, Godlonton’s account might be read as assembling the prose of cadastral domination for narrowly settler interests. According to Arjun Appadurai, this is a prose composed partly of rules, partly of orders, partly of appendices, and partly of letters and petitions, which must be read together. 31 Cadastral prose, in other words, is made up of administrative records pertaining to colonial governmentality. Rather than simply refining a rationalist empiricism, Godlonton’s deployment of cadastral prose is best understood when placed in the service of a narrative of the stages of development in which the Xhosa were produced as an antecedent of history. The prose of cadastral domination had uses beyond simply supporting

a general story of progress. Its target was John Philips’s Researches in South Africa, which was seen to be at the heart of instigation of metropolitan criticism of settlers. 32 Philips had scoured the Dutch and British archives from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries to prove his argument of widespread violence against indigenous populations by colonial officials and settlers. As a member of the London Missionary Society, Philips’s work had serious consequences for metropolitan policies, including being particularly influential in shaping Glenelg’s views on the unjust treatment of colonial subjects. To counteract this, the likes of Donald Moodie and Robert Godlonton set about constructing histories that supported local colonial interests over those of metropolitan lobbyists. Unlike Moodie’s The Record, Godlonton’s history was specifically presented in the form of an eyewitness account. Godlonton assembled

a vast array of official documents, weaving these together with personal observations and journalism to portray the war of 1834–35 and the

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circumstances that led to the killing of Hintsa through a mixture of journalism and history. The benefit of the use of journalism as a strategy in this context was that it produced a totalised sense of process composed of the movements captured in unfolding events and the development of history. These two complementary temporalities not only reveal the text’s operation but also point to the totalising claims of settler histories. The movement of unfolding events, of the everyday in other words, I will call for the purposes of the argument ‘movement in the first degree’; larger-scale movements of society I will refer to as ‘movement in the second degree’. 33 Such a metaphorical distinction is intended to help us understand the intersection between knowledge production and the conditions of war. Movement in the first degree began by presenting the Xhosa as perpetrators of acts of aggression against settlers and missionaries. The torching of the Methodist Mission Station in Butterworth in 1827, the destruction of the London Missionary Society Station under Reverend Brownlee along the Buffalo River, the desperate escape of Reverend Ayliff northwards to the safety of the Clarkebury Station, and the capture and torture of traders such as Eccles and Horton who operated in Hintsa’s territory are incidents reported to illustrate the social conditions that preceded hostilities. For this Godlonton relied extensively on descriptions by Reverend John Ayliff, who in his own narrative presented a picture of intrigue and suspicion. Ayliff, for example, writes:

Late at night, the manse door was opened, and Nonsa [sic], the great wife of Hintsa, and whom Mrs. Ayliff had nursed through a dangerous illness, entered, and fearing that some one might be listening to what she had to say, whispered, ‘Sing some of your hymns’. During the singing, Nomsa said, ‘There is a snake in the grass, and you will not see it until you tread on it. Take warning and go.’ 34

Combined with this, we are treated to the story of the advance of colonial forces under Somerset into what was considered neutral and later ceded

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territory. The aim of movement in the first degree was the simple one of reversing the criticism of settlers as oppressors contained in, amongst others, the campaigns of John Philips and his humanitarian lobbyists. Godlonton notes:

Whilst on the one hand the character of the Kaffir has been placed in the most favourable light, on the other, the Frontier Inhabitants have been held up to the scorn and abhorrence of the English public as the systematic oppressors of the poor and the defenceless. Their struggles to defend their homes and their families against the continued invasions of the natives have been stigmatised as wanton aggressions, and their attempt to recover their property from the hands of the active despoilers who are incessantly plundering them, as unjustifiable inroads upon a quiet and comparatively inoffensive people. 35

Cadastral prose served movement in the first degree well because, firstly, it highlighted, as I suggested earlier, the agency of the Xhosa and opposed their characterisation in humanitarian discourse as victims of settler excesses. Secondly, it narrated events in such a way as to demonstrate a unity of purpose on the frontier, especially when this concerned relations between the British and Dutch farmers. Godlonton, for example, emphasised the fact that:

several of the most gallant affairs which took place during the war were those in which the Dutch farmers particularly distinguished themselves. It is pleasing as it is just to accord this need of praise. Much has been done to excite between the English and Dutch inhabitants a suspicious jealousy; but we are happy to say that late events have discovered the injustice of the attempt; and it may be confidently expected that the only rivalry between them in future will be a generous emulation as to who shall most efficiently advance the true interests of this land of their joint adoption. 36

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Finally, cadastral prose served movement in the first degree insofar as it tabulated the extent of losses of cattle, horses, sheep and other commodities. Drawing on the ledgers of reported losses and the general calculations produced to cost military operations, Godlonton’s narrative of atrocities produces a corresponding number to substantiate his elaboration of an argument in favour of those he thought to be ‘true sufferers’ – those incidentally vilified in humanitarian propaganda. Movement in the first degree would end with a quarrel, a set of demands and a killing – a kind of synthesis aimed at turning the accusation of the humanitarians on its head. In the quest for reversing blame, the narrative outlines Hintsa’s evasion of colonial attempts to negotiate the return of cattle thought to be in possession of the paramount. One example of such negotiation relates to the apparent mission undertaken by Field- Commandant Van Wyk who, according to Godlonton, was dispatched to warn Hintsa that the latter would be treated as an enemy to the colony unless he ceased to ‘countenance the hostile chiefs; neither affording them harbor, residence or protection’. 37 Hintsa, we are told, declined the interview. Matters apparently came to a head when missionaries and traders in ‘Tambookie country’ were increasingly threatened and when on 21 April a British settler, Armstrong, was killed. 38 On 24 April, we are told, the governor decided to record the causes for quarrel in writing for Hintsa’s attention. These are given as:

1 st – for the causes already set forth by the Commandant Van Wyk (relating to coalition with hostile chiefs and receiving a large share of the cattle plundered from the colony), no satisfaction thereon having been given. 2 nd – because in the month of July last, a subject of his Britannic Majesty (William Purcell) living within the territory of Chief Hintsa, (indeed not far from the chief’s residence at the time) under the chief’s sanction and permission to trade with his people, was deliberately murdered at his own door by a Kafir of the tribe of Hintsa, or by a Fingo for which no atonement has yet been made; and though this atrocious

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and unwarrantable act that was then duly made known to Hintsa, no effectual steps have ever been taken for the punishment of the murderer. 3 rd – for the recent murder of Armstrong, a British subject, by which also Hintsa’s people broke the conditions of my truce, and commenced hostilities. 4 th – for the violence, rapine and ill-treatment practices against the British missionaries at Butterworth. 5 th – for the violence, rapine and outrages committed also upon the British traders. 39

Five days later, on 29 April, the quarrel was translated into demands, which were not only written but also translated into Xhosa by Shepstone for the benefit of Hintsa. 1 st – I demand from Chief Hintsa the restoration of 50 000 head of cattle, and of 1 000 horses. 25 000 head of cattle and 500 horses immediately, as hostilities will continue till they are delivered, and 25 000 head of cattle and 500 horses in one year from this day. 2 nd – I demand that Hintsa, as the acknowledged chief of western Xhosaland, shall lay his imperative commands, and cause them to be obeyed, upon his chiefs of the tribes Tyali, Macomo, Eno, Bothma, Dushani, T’slambie, Umhala, and their dependents, instantly to cease hostilities, and send in, and give up to me, all the fire-arms which they may possess. 3 rd – I demand that the murderer of William Purcell be immediately brought to the condign punishment of death by the Kafir authorities, and in the presence of Commissioners, whom I shall appoint to witness the execution and to whom the Chief Hintsa will cause to be delivered 300 head of good cattle for the benefit of the widow and family of the murdered man. 4 th – I demand, that the same atonement be made for the murder of Armstrong, as that demanded for the murder of Purcell.

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5 th – I demand that for the due and full execution of the above conditions, the Chief Hintsa shall deliver into my hands here, on the spot, and immediately, two hostages, to be chosen by me from among the chief persons about him. 40

The act of writing and translation was more than a summary of the grievances held by colonists against the Xhosa. It was also the culmination of a general belief in what colonial officials thought to be their moral right and legitimate purpose. It was a right demanded on the basis of prefigured notions of private property and justice – the foundational concepts of an order fundamental to settler ideology – and accentuated by movement in the first degree. However, concepts of private property and justice, so crucial in movement in the first degree, could not exist without movement in the second degree – that is, movements ascribed to society on a larger scale. In Godlonton’s narrative, movement in the second degree is introduced by way of a digression in the plot – by the happenings of 17 April 1835, when the Mfengu were said to have approached the colonists for protection against their Xhosa overlords. Taking advantage of the anti-slavery sentiments in the metropole, Godlonton describes the life of the Mfengu as a dislocated and enslaved population. The term ‘Fingo’, Godlonton noted, ‘is not their national appellation, but a reproachful epithet, denoting extreme poverty and misery, – a person having no claim to justice, mercy or even life.’ 41 Having been dispersed by Shaka, the Mfengu had fled westward and there, Godlonton claims, they were received by Hintsa and his people and rendered entirely dependent. 42 In fact, they were thought to have suffered in the ‘tenure of the most abject slavery’. Their general tasks, we are told, were herding cattle, hewing wood, drawing water and cultivating the ground for their supposedly cruel taskmasters. But that was not all. As if to recognise the injustices of serfdom and slavery, Godlonton pointed out that:

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when, by extraordinary exertion, the Mfengu had obtained, by the sale of any little surplus produce beyond that required for their own use, a few head of cattle, they were either forcibly taken from them, or they were charged with the crime of witchcraft, their bodies put to the torture, and their property confiscated. 43

More damning was the information gathered from Reverend John Ayliff, who had spent five years as a missionary near Hintsa’s residence, and the researches of Reverend Kay regarding the capture of female children from the Mfengu for the ‘most odious purposes’. 44 The nuanced distinctions between possession and ownership that we have encountered in Peires’s attempts to construct a history of the Xhosa in the days of their independence were of course lost on Godlonton. Rather, he focused on the apparent centralisation of ownership and control by Hintsa, a strategy that was in keeping with settler designs on expansion. Coincidentally, such a course of centralisation, premised on the will of the paramount, was reminiscent of the account of the feudal relations out of which the British bourgeoisie had emerged. Far from being invested in minority histories, Godlonton’s description of the Mfengu represents an attempt to characterise Xhosa social relations in terms of a framework of feudalism and also to prove the practice of slavery. The settlers, in his characterisation, had sought to liberate the Mfengu and their property from the precarious tenure of the supposedly ‘capricious, cruel and avaricious task-masters’. 45 In this sense the defeat of the Xhosa – or the supposed liberation of the Mfengu – was integral to the story of progress and in keeping with the march against preceding feudal social relations. The conceptual underpinnings of cadastral prose, then, encountered their logical outcomes in the larger story of the development of society. Cadastral prose and the story of progress were constitutive elements of an anticipatory structure of time, narrative and subjectivity. In Godlonton’s hands, this was a resolution posited in the general direction of settlement rather than solely modelled on the possibilities of ongoing trade. In this

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sense it was a truly colonial history because it promoted progress at all costs – a progress guaranteed by force and not, as in the missionary constructions of humanitarian lobbyists, by gradual conversion and improvement. Ultimately, in Godlonton’s depiction of the war of 1834–35, the difference between the settlers and the Xhosa was increasingly defined in terms of a combination of movement in the first degree and movement in the second degree.

Beyond the ideology of settler histories

There is a tendency to see settler histories as merely biased, an idea that has also framed nationalist constructions of colonial history. Unfortunately, to reduce settler histories to a methodological aberration is to ignore the complex weaving together of the subject of history through its narration and constructions of historical time. One example must suffice, since it also features prominently in the list of demands for reparation put to Hintsa that Godlonton outlined. In his History of the Abambo, John Ayliff tells the story of the killing of the English trader, Purcell, near Butterworth. Purcell is said to have beaten one of Hintsa’s subjects who had behaved ‘insolently’ in his trading store. According to Ayliff, Hintsa ordered Purcell to pay a fine for the blows, which the trader refused unless the alleged offender also be made to pay. In Ayliff’s description of the killing of Purcell there is no doubt that his provocation was the reason for his death. The refusal to pay the fine, according to Ayliff, roused the anger of Hintsa and cost Purcell his life. The killing is set forth as follows:

On the Sabbath morning, in the middle of July, a Native came to Purcell with two horns which he wanted to sell. Purcell was at breakfast, and through the open window, he called out that he did not trade on Sunday. The Gcaleka then said he would leave the horns and come on Monday to trade, and asked Purcell to come out and take them. Purcell went out, was immediately stabbed in the right breast, and dropped down dead. There is reason to believe that his murder was committed at the command of Hintsa. 46

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We are left at a loss as to the reason for believing that Hintsa condoned the killing of Purcell. One reason may have been Purcell’s provocation and his subsequent refusal to pay the fine. The connection, judging from Ayliff’s description, lay in a more complex passage of historical narration that gave rise to the exercise of colonial power. The conditions that made it possible

to forge a settler history depended on the way the colonised subject was

situated in a larger prefigured temporal framework of history. Godlonton’s history was similarly not merely biased or a product of a deeply entrenched perspective that emerged from within a settler-dominated public sphere; it

was also a necessary step in returning to the subject of colonial discourse.


settler history would not be adequate if it did not return to the subject both


terms of an agency tasked with the possibilities of change and one whose

subjection was necessary for such change to occur. In Godlonton’s narrative, the elevation of the concepts of progress, justice and property significantly elided the reliance on a constitutive imaginary structure. He was, after all, a journalist. Godlonton’s was an account of the war of 1834–35 that had seemingly been necessitated by the outcry amongst a small but vocal humanitarian lobby about the killing of Hintsa. The anthropological presuppositions that gave rise to a

colonial imaginary structure, which I called attention to in the discussion

of grounding Hintsa in the previous chapter, would resurface later to

undermine the counter-claims about the killing of Hintsa and the distinct possibility of an alternative history that emerged from within a fractured public sphere. The fracture was formed around a vocal liberal campaign that charged the settlers with abuse of local populations without, we should note, surrendering the story of the master journeymen of the British Empire leading the way to progress and civilisation. The pronouncements that sparked the crisis in Grahamstown were made by humanitarian liberals and organised around the reports of Reverend John Philips. Philips provided the humanitarians with the basis for arriving at competing versions of what happened to Hintsa, which detracted from the official version that surfaced

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in the commission of inquiry in 1836 and instigated a deliberation that was indispensable to the formation of a settler public sphere. Much of this deliberation was carried out in the pages of the South African Commercial Advertiser, a newspaper that professed the humanitarian course and that itself prompted the journalist Robert Godlonton to offer his history of the war of 1834–35. Based on the report of the commission of inquiry in 1836 – which became the official statement on the killing of Hintsa – and the defensive stance adopted by Godlonton and others in Grahamstown towards the much smaller, yet vocal lobby of the humanitarians, the story of the killing of Hintsa affirmed the modes of evidence of the colonial archive and supported the process of the subjection of agency. However, for all their expressions of the higher pursuits of property and progress, settler historical narratives could not escape the effects of the imaginary structure, discussed in the previous chapter, upon which they were founded in the first place. Godlonton’s record of the events of 1834–35 expresses a commitment to applying universalising concepts of progress and property drawn from nineteenth-century bourgeois economics to a notion of history that privileges proximity to the events recounted. It has pretensions of an objective history by connecting things as they appear in ideas to things as they really are. In a Marxist reading, it would qualify for the pejorative charge of being ideological because of an inversion of the concept of property at work in its narration. In other words, Godlonton needed to distort the representation of cattle in Xhosa society in order for his notion of progress to work. The underlying distortion has resonances with Marx’s discussion of the universalising claims of bourgeois economics in his study ‘The German Ideology’. There Marx notes:

Although it is true that the categories of bourgeois economics possess a truth for all other forms of society, this is to be taken only with a grain of salt. They can contain them in a developed, or stunted, or caricatured form, but always with an essential difference. 47

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One way to read with a grain of salt, as Marx proposes in relation to his account in ‘The German Ideology’, is to set the record straight by correcting

the distortion that was at the very core of a settler historical narrative. This sense of setting the record straight, I will argue in the following chapter, was a project that consumed the energies of an anti-colonial nationalist response

to colonialism and, more specifically, an event such as the killing of Hintsa.

However, I want to argue that the demand for reading with a grain of salt might be more usefully directed at those concepts, metaphors and utopian ideals that prompted settler histories. This is crucial for reorienting the critique of colonialism and extending an anti-colonial argument beyond the requirement of limiting critical history to serve as a corrective of that which precedes it as a form of history. The challenge, it seems, is to overcome the limitations of ideology. In a significant reorientation of ideological critique, Paul Ricoeur points out that Marx resorts to a metaphor of the inverted image found

in a camera or in the retina to elaborate a concept of ideology. Ricoeur

argues that the ‘essential difference’ that is invoked in Marx’s rendering


the universalising claims of bourgeois economics need not be thought


entirely in terms of later formulations of base and superstructure.

Rather, he calls for much closer attention to connect the notion of ideology

to an imaginary structure, or utopian impulse, if we are to take seriously

the call for an epistemological break. 48 As I see it, Ricoeur seeks to pry

open a space in the model of overdetermination proposed by Althusser to name ‘the simultaneous action of infrastructure and superstructure’ for a

reconsideration of what I have been calling the subjection of agency. In the context of the present argument, this would amount to an understanding

of how Hintsa became the subject of settler history and how settler history

came into being in part by assembling narratives of the killing of the king.


settler history was not merely a product of placing the colonised subject


a particular relation to settler interests. It was also a product of broadly

prescribing to the modes of evidence of the archive. As a result, the subject

of official discourse usually reappears in settler history to legitimise acts

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of violence and to justify these actions by linking progress and property to presupposed bonds amongst settlers, colonial officials and metropolitan elites.

Contemporary historiographical evaluations of settler history tend to emphasise the ways in which these histories are produced in the cleavages of the public sphere or they tend to construe settler histories as purveyors of racial ideology. These arguments are of course crucial in the political positions adopted by the discipline of history to oppose apartheid, although these very epistemological choices remain aloof of the Mannheimian paradox in which the charge of ideology boils down to yet another ideological claim. Perhaps by alternatively setting our sights on the potential for an epistemic rupture we may begin to unravel the workings of ideology through annotating its relation to the question of colonial subjectivity in history. This might require, as I stated earlier, tracking the points at which history elides its imaginary structure, if only that it might offer us a way of stepping out of the shadows of the colonial archive. If, however, the specific utopian form of the imaginary structure that Ricoeur promotes in his understanding of the concept of ideology offers us one possible pathway out of the shadows of the colonial archive, it is equally crucial to understand how deeply it might be imbricated in the process of the subjection of agency. The previous chapter was dedicated to outlining this level of complicity. The entanglement, moreover, may incite us to single out how the imaginary structure is deployed in the operation of settler historiography which combines the cadastral prose of officialdom with a settler public discourse to produce a coherent settler colonial historiography. In the tensions of Empire we should consider how the subaltern is frequently conscripted to produce hegemonic histories. One such moment may be discerned in the early twentieth century, when George Cory, an amateur historian and professor of chemistry based at Rhodes University, set out to forge a synthesis of the South African past from the fragments of the colonial archive.

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George Cory and the making of settler colonial historiography

In the early twentieth century, George Cory combined extensive oral interviews with ‘old people’ and archival research in the records of the Civil Commissioner’s Office in Grahamstown as part of his effort to produce a new synthesis of the South African past. Judging from the publication of the six-volume The Rise of South Africa, the research was aimed at reconciling the histories formed in the settler public sphere and colonial administrations in order to form the outlines of a settler colonial historiography. What is striking is how this reconciliation was achieved through reference to and the mobilisation of the figure of Hintsa and the story of his demise. The research undertaken by Cory was indeed extensive. He made an effort to interview descendants of Hintsa, even though he tended to privilege the documentary records of colonial administration and settler narratives. At a magistrate’s court in Willowvale in 1910, Cory interviewed Hintsa’s son, Lindinxuwa, as part of his ongoing research. Lindinxuwa contradicted settler characterisations of Hintsa, who like Hintsa’s father, Kauta, was described by Lindinxuwa as ‘a peaceful man [who] did not make war on adjacent tribes [sic]’. 49 As for the charge of being treacherous, Lindinxuwa characterised Hintsa as someone with a strong sense of loyalty. Referring in particular to the tensions between Hintsa and Ngqika (of the Rharhabe branch of the family), he pointed out that even though Ngqika betrayed Hintsa in the battle of Amalinde, the latter ‘would not succumb to English demands for cattle stolen by Ngqika since he did not think it proper to betray his relative’. 50 In short, Lindinxuwa refused to surrender Hintsa to the colonial officials’ descriptive vocabulary reserved for intransigent enemies. Yet, The Rise of South Africa made no specific mention of the testimony offered by Hintsa’s descendant. The reason appears to have been Cory’s judgement of Hintsa:

Hintsa was richly endowed with all the vices of the savage, cruelty, treachery, avarice, and the deepest cunning, all of which had actuated him during the last few days of his life. But he had over-reached

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himself on this occasion, and was caught in the trap he had set for others. It was but too clear why the troops had been led into that wild region, and also what would have been the fate of a small force had it accompanied him; for the hills and the immediate surroundings were crowded with his people. And there had been wanting, any further evidence of the mischief premeditated by Hintsa, it was supplied by the presence of Umtini and the servant with the fresh horse which had been sent so mysteriously from the camp and which was there in readiness for the chief. Hintsa got no more than the reward for his perfidy. 51

How did Cory arrive at such a characterisation of Hintsa, especially after all his effort to interview a descendant of the king? Cory’s perspective had to be supported by a particular organisation of the narrative of the killing which corresponded to the modes of evidence of the colonial archive described in Chapter 1 of this book. Interspersed in the six volumes of The Rise of South Africa, Cory engages a portrait of Hintsa that serves to repeat not only the content of the colonial archive but also its form. Some of this content is derived from Lindinxuwa; the remainder is derived from the visit by Colonel Collins to the Great Place between the Kei and Mbashe Rivers in 1809. In the nearly 100 years that passed following the encounters between Collins and Hintsa on the one hand, and Cory and Lindinxuwa on the other, the marks of uncertainty in the original report from Collins to Lord Caledon, colonial governor in the early 1800s, were noticeably erased. Cory made an appearance in Willowvale on 28 January 1910 specifically to meet Lindinxuwa but was disappointed to find that the chief was not there; he had, Cory learnt, travelled some 20 miles to sort out a land dispute. Hargraves, the resident magistrate, sent a messenger to request Lindinxuwa to return as soon as possible. The interview commenced on 29 January in the courthouse. ‘I was furnished with a table,’ noted Cory, ‘below the magistrates desk.’ 52 The description of the setting of the interview was not inconsequential, as I will show.

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The old man with his chief councillor, Gosani sat in chairs at one end, the Court interpreter Pamla next to me. A number of natives interested in the proceedings sat in the court, while others blocked up the windows. Lindinxura [sic] is a fine looking fellow – about six feet tall and stout in proportion – he was slightly bent with age, tho [sic] he is only about 75, his hair was almost white, short beard and whiskers. Both he and Gosani were in European costumes. Gosani had a rather sinister appearance, but Lindinxura had a somewhat royal bearing. Having seated himself my mission was explained to him. 53

The historian’s description of the setting replays the themes of doubt and certainty – expressed through descriptions of Lindinxuwa and Gosani – that marked the strategies generic to the colonial archive for narrating Hintsa’s killing. Cory’s meticulous recording of the circumstances and the content of the interview was not merely a product of the standard of historical methodology. It plotted in detail what would be Cory’s conclusion about the character of Hintsa. After a familiar outline of family genealogy and geography by way of the indexicality of graves of his ancestors, Lindinxuwa proceeded to narrate the story of the killing of Hintsa, with a few twists to the official tale. Cory’s account selectively drew on this narrative, especially by taking seriously Lindinxuwa’s insistence that Hintsa had lost his temper and decided to escape. While latching onto the affirmation of Hintsa’s escape, he ignored suggestions of the king as a prisoner. He also tended to ignore Lindinxuwa’s response to the question about the mutilation of the body. Asking him about the mutilation of Hintsa’s body, he said it is true – Hintsa’s head was cut off. It is a disgraceful thing to say that thing [i.e. to talk about it]. All the Gcalekas say that Hintsa’s head was cut off. That is why Kreli never had any peace of mind with the Europeans until his death and ever since we have been fighting with the white people until now, on account of that thing. Hintsa was buried at Nqabara by his chief councillor, Ncoko. 54

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Quite clearly, Lindinxuwa’s testimony was beginning to show signs of the nationalist retrievals of the story of the killing of Hintsa, especially with the probable threats of land dispossession on the horizon at the beginning of the twentieth century. There was, however, another more telling reason for ignoring the bulk of the account supplied by Hintsa’s son. Midway through the interview, the chief explained that he was thirsty because of all the talking. Gosani, according to Cory’s notes, concurred. With the permission of the magistrate, a permit was issued for Cory to purchase a bottle of brandy which, we are told, Lindinxuwa and Gosani took neat, before proceeding to speak about the beheading of Hintsa. Cory may have been encouraged to complete the portrait of Hintsa as a treacherous and unreliable king after hearing the account given by the supposedly inebriated Lindinxuwa, in spite of what the chief communicated to him about the killing of Hintsa before taking a swig of brandy. That view would, however, have to take into account his more accommodating stance on John Philips or his later invitation to poet and writer SEK Mqhayi to produce what Cory called ‘a native version’ of the killing of Hintsa. On Philips’s humanitarian pursuits, Cory suggests that future students of African history may find in the personal papers of John Philips, unavailable to him at the time, that ‘all the dispatches of Governors, statements of Judges and officials are unworthy of credit’. 55 This attitude sits uncomfortably with his dismissive or at best selective treatment of Lindinxuwa’s comments in 1910. 56 The dismissive attitude towards the content of the interview was not merely a question of bias on the part of Cory or his distrust of what might be said after half the bottle of brandy was drunk neat, as he tells us. What we have here is a relation to the archive that bears heavily on the effort to produce coherence in the nineteenth-century settler narrative. Cory ought to be read seriously, not only because his is a corpus that can be cast as an example of settler colonial history, but also for allowing a glimpse into how settler history is made out of disparate strands of official and public deliberation and, of course, reliant on the accretion of narrative and discourse through which Hintsa’s killing is mediated. Cory’s history is responsible for reconciling

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and smoothing over the disparities between settler and official colonial contests. This is the production not of a settler history but of a settler colonial history that is both sustained by and committed to the modes of evidence of the archive. Cory’s depiction of Hintsa begins with Colonel Collins’s visit to the Kei in 1809. He tells us that when Collins arrived at the Great Place, Hintsa was away, supposedly hunting. The reason for the visit to Hintsa was to gauge how many ‘white people, fugitives from law and justice, were taking refuge in these parts’. 57 While waiting for Hintsa, Collins and the young Andries Stockenström who had accompanied him discovered Henry MacDaniel, a deserter from the Cape Colony, a ‘boer refugee’ called Lochenberg and some runaway slaves who explained their presence in Gcalekaland by way of the cruelty of their former masters. All, we are told, refused the offer to return to the Cape Colony. The meeting, as Cory seems to suggest, proved rather meaningless in comparison to the effort Collins made to reach the Great Place. Hintsa, he claims, ‘manifested a friendliness towards the Colony; he promised to assist both in sending back exiles and in preventing others from entering and taking refuge in his country’. 58 Nowhere in this narrative do we find explicit reference to the concern with concepts of property and progress that were so prominent in the nineteenth-century account of Godlonton. Also erased is the caution presented to Hintsa about harbouring stolen cattle. By the time Cory was constructing his history in the 1920s, the Union of South Africa had set in place the notions of rights to property and ownership, so that concepts of property and progress must have appeared as a fait accompli and therefore unnecessary to return to. This is perhaps what differentiates the history produced by Cory from that of Godlonton. Instead, Cory’s account of the journey of Colonel Collins makes available the tropes of the empty land and the necessary racial markers that would qualify it as a settler colonial history. The racial markers went directly to the character of the Xhosa chiefs. Collins’s earlier visit to Hintsa’s brother, Buru, ends in a very specific description of the chief. Little is mentioned of the conversation other

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than the fact that Buru was unwilling to discuss matters related to Hintsa or the ‘tribes’ that fell under him. 59 Yet, Cory provides a detailed description of Buru as being of ‘about twenty-four years of age; his countenance was rendered interesting by a good-humored smile and a very fine set of teeth; his figure was tall and elegant, but, as well as his face was rendered more like that of a Hottentot than a Kaffir by being all over smeared with ochre’. 60 About Hintsa, Cory cites the degrading analogy found in the autobiography of Harry Smith in which it is claimed that the king was ‘a very good-looking fellow, his face though black the very image of poor dear George IV’. 61 In narrating the story of the killing of Hintsa, Cory was faced with a major problem. If he was to resort to constructing Hintsa as a treacherous king, who, it could be proven, was leading the British troops into a trap, and if this testimony had been recorded as part of D’Urban’s commission of inquiry in 1836, then the killing of the king would have amounted to an assassination and an act of premeditated murder. The historian had to transform the earlier forms of reasonable doubt into a sense of reasonable suspicion and spontaneity – without of course implicating those who killed Hintsa in an act of murder. Cory’s depiction of the killing of Hintsa does not depart from the version of events that surfaced in the 1836 commission. Large parts of the testimony are reproduced in his history, and there is an unquestioning acceptance of the explanations given by British soldiers. To support this alignment with the commission of inquiry, Cory negotiates the uncertainty of that record in ways that deepen the suspicion surrounding Hintsa, and which ultimately, in the eyes of the British soldiers and later Glenelg himself, made him responsible for his own death. Not only did the alignment combine with presuppositions of property, progress and justice generic to Godlonton’s narrative but also with the properties of facts folded into the colonial imaginary. Taken together, I suggest, these formed what I call settler history. Two examples may help to highlight this crucial point of convergence in settler colonial history. The first relates to the meeting between D’Urban

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and Hintsa shortly before Hintsa’s fateful journey. The meeting is shrouded in contradiction and Cory negotiates this difficulty by recourse to the subjectivity of Hintsa himself. As might be expected, the discussion of the meeting is preceded by the communication of a set of demands to Hintsa:

His Excellency recounted to him the wrongs of which he was accused and formulated the terms on which hostilities would cease. These terms were, that 50 000 cattle and 1 000 horses were to be restored to the Colony. Of these, one-half was to be forthcoming immediately or as soon as they could be collected, and the remainder was to be sent in a year’s time; that Hintsa, being the paramount chief of the whole of Kafirland [sic], was to command Tyali, Maqoma, Nqeno, Bottoman and the other chiefs to cease hostilities and to deliver up to the Governor all the fire-arms they possessed; that for each of the murders of the trader Purcell and the settler Armstrong, 300 head of good cattle were to be given to the relatives of those unfortunate men; and finally that two approved hostages were to be left with the Governor for the due fulfillment of all of this. 62

Notwithstanding the similarity in recording the demands as Godlonton had done, Cory also includes a further statement about Hintsa’s response to the requirement that he meet the demands in 48 hours. Hintsa, on hearing the demands, ‘sighed, apparently despondent, gave his head a toss, and said he would consider it’. 63 The reference to the gestures leads one to a heightened sense of anticipation. To illustrate the accompanying surprise that followed Hintsa’s decision to abide by D’Urban’s stipulations, Cory invokes the theatrical manner of Colonel Smith’s announcement: ‘Now let it be proclaimed far and near that the great Chief Hintsa has concluded peace with the king of England, and let the canon fire,’ whereupon three loud reports from the field-pieces half-deafened all and reverberated among the distant hills. 64 Following an exchange of gifts with Hintsa and his wife Nomsa and the appearance of his son, Sarhili, at the camp, the king supposedly offered

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himself and his son as hostages. They were, however, assured that they were not prisoners and free to leave when they chose. At this gesture, we are told, the governor was ‘disarmed of suspicion’ towards the king. Cory does not tell us here what the cause for suspicion was in the first place. That much must be inferred because it cannot be corroborated. This is precisely where the imaginary structure is called into play in the work of history, often organised around those who fail to function by the rules governing the true. Once again, a subaltern effect reveals the compromise between a regime of truth and the imaginary structure that constitutes the colonial archive. Settler colonial history therefore demands a reading in reverse or, as Marx put it in ‘The German Ideology’, with a grain of salt. Such a reading grasps the consolidation of modes of evidence at the point at which settler colonial history presents itself as an ideological claim. Thus, the second point of convergence in settler colonial history relates to making sense of the suspicion surrounding Hintsa’s decision to adhere to D’Urban’s demands. Everywhere, says Cory of the atmosphere that prevailed on the eve of the war of 1834–35, there were signs, though perhaps indistinct, of a coming storm. 65 How does the historian deal with

this level of suspicion or that which is anticipated? Cory traces the sources of suspicion in those subjects who do not make the cut of the true, yet are critical to delineating a line of action. He finds a perfect possibility in the ‘rascal’ Hermanus. On the eve of the war of 1834–35, Cory’s narrative turns to the figure of Hermanus or Xogomesh, the supposedly ‘dangerous rascal’ who had spied on Maqoma for the British. 66 Generally, Hermanus is lambasted as the scourge of Albany and accused of theft and leading a rebellion to attack Fort Beaufort later in 1851. Hermanus seemed to have exploited the conditions of quiet ferment which threatened the Colony late in 1833. Tucked away in a footnote, Cory offers us an assessment of the role played by Hermanus leading up to the outbreak of hostilities in the 1830s:

History repeated itself in the career of this

and a man of considerable ability; spoke Dutch as well as his own language and also understood English; he thus became very

.he was a Gaika

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useful in the many negotiations which subsequently took place between the Government and the Kaffirs. Like Makana he had acquired considerable information and knowledge on a variety of matters not usually possessed by those who had the disadvantage of his surroundings. ‘His ideas of religion were whimsical and extraordinary. He believed in a Supreme Being, and an Evil One, but allotted more power to the latter than to the former – that creed suited him best. “As to de oder people”, meaning the other Persons of Trinity, he said “he knew notin at all about dem”. Intelligent and acute on most points, yet he was as much the victim of superstition as the most untutored savage of his tribe.’ – (Biography of the Rebel Hermanus, Godlonton and Irving’s Kaffir War, p. 144). Shortly after these times he gave great offence to his compatriots by disclosing to the Government some conspiracies which came to his knowledge, and as, in consequence, his life was not safe in Kafirland [sic]. 67

As in the case of Nicholas Gcaleka, charges of lies are lodged in a regime of truth, in this case one that leads to an explanation of the violence that befell Hintsa by ratifying its official documentary trace. The speech of Hermanus – ‘he knew notin at all about dem’ – and the ridicule of his dubious religious beliefs are uncomfortably placed alongside the reliability of the information he supposedly provided about Hintsa’s plot against the British. In the end, Hermanus is the place keeper of suspicion that would allow for a justification of the killing of Hintsa and coherence in settler history which cemented over the cracks that the killing produced in an emergent public sphere in South Africa. The story of the killing of Hintsa, with the attendant doubt created by the ‘rascal’ Hermanus, supplements and links the elements of cadastral prose to produce a measure of coherence in settler colonial history. The problem here is not merely one of representation but one of the catalytic function that the trope of suspicion performs in the larger story of the killing of Hintsa. At one level, it conveys a sense of why it was that Hintsa was suspected, on the basis of intelligence gathered from Hermanus,

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of leading the British troops into a trap. At another level, this information derived from a ‘rascal’ such as Hermanus served to anticipate but did not determine British actions. This is why the intelligence provided by Hermanus did not feature in the commission of inquiry convened in 1836. Yet, it was critical to the justification for the killing of Hintsa in the context of the public sphere. What Cory’s voluminous history of the rise of South Africa achieved in respect of the story of the killing of Hintsa was to realign the fissures and discordant elements that had appeared between the settler public sphere and the colonial government. Such a history functioned to undermine the liberal humanitarian appeals that drew on acts of colonial violence such as that related to the killing of Hintsa. To achieve this, Cory was compelled to justify the killing of Hintsa by making an ideological choice. In the process, he drew on narrative elements that fell outside of official records, but nevertheless were known in the public sphere, to produce a syncretic tradition of historiography that folded an imaginary structure expressed through the sentiment of suspicion into a documentary trace that, together, brought about the coherence of an ideology of settler colonial history.

Settler colonial history

The imaginary structure of colonial rule conveyed a sense of a contradictory impulse at the core of the narratives of Empire. Much of this impulse was

a product of attempts to justify acts of colonial violence. In the case of the

killing of Hintsa, the trope of suspicion is one which casts some doubt on the story of the perpetrators of the act of violence. Nevertheless, it also conveys

a sense of justification for the killing. For this reason, it is not sufficient to identify the racial histories attributed to settler historiography. The work of settler historiography is not merely categorical but also conceptual. In this chapter I have argued that the conceptual work that emerges in relation to the narration of the killing of Hintsa relates to the manner in which it seamlessly links ideas of property, justice and progress as indispensable

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to colonial hegemony. They are interdependent of the very temporalities of settler historiography. Such a historiographical crafting smoothed over the cracks that had appeared in the public sphere in Grahamstown as a result of the war of 1834–35 and the killing of Hintsa. If Godlonton’s journalism established the basis for later productions of a more coherent settler historiography, Cory’s is symptomatic of a history founded on the terms of cadastral prose of domination. Rather than reduce such history to an ideological identity, I have argued that we may have to attend to its form. In Cory’s The Rise of South Africa I see a conservative realignment of the public discourse of Godlonton with the official version that emerged from the colonial commission of inquiry into Hintsa’s death and the liberal public sphere. Critical to understanding the form of settler colonial historiography,

I would argue, is how it is intimately dependent on the production of the

subaltern effect. The trope of suspicion introduced through the footnoted character of Hermanus and the general unreliability of his information helps to connect conservative elements of the public sphere with an official evidentiary mode of subjection. Suspicion is the tissue of such a connection and the subaltern subject its unreliable mediator. The manner in which Hermanus is entered into Cory’s narrative recasts the motive for killing Hintsa. Therefore, it is perhaps useful to treat settler historiographies not as merely racial histories but as a form of history that helps to secure the subjection of agency. The advantage gained by reading settler histories with

a grain of salt is that we are able to view this historiographical production as

deeply implicated in subjection, but necessarily through a process that also leads to the production of the subject of history in the service of a reconciled settler colonial history.

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Reading ‘Xhosa’ historiography

.who would not drink nectar but from the skulls of the slain. 1

if The sTory of The killing of Hintsa is embedded in the modular form of the colonial archive, the question, to paraphrase Partha Chatterjee, is: what is left to the alternative imagination of anti-colonial nationalists? Benedict Anderson, in his Imagined Communities, 2 would have responded that there was very little alternative. In his Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World, Chatterjee responds to Anderson’s notion of the modular form of the west as follows:

If nationalisms in the rest of the world have to choose their imagined communities from certain ‘modular’ forms already made available to them by Europe and the Americas, what do they have left to imagine? History, it would seem, has decreed that we in the postcolonial shall only be perpetual consumers of modernity. Europe and the Americas, the only subjects of history, have thought out on our behalf not only the script of colonial enlightenment and exploitation, but also that of our anticolonial resistance and postcolonial misery. Even our imaginations must remain forever colonised. 3

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The attempt to dislodge the monopoly of the colonial archive in talking about the history of the eastern Cape resonates with Chatterjee’s concern that opposition to colonialism may turn out to be merely, or simply, derivative. If we were to rephrase Chatterjee’s question slightly, we might ask what the utopian underpinnings of nationalist history were and to what extent these formative conditions of opposing colonialism allowed it to extricate itself sufficiently from the prescriptions of colonial history. More succinctly, we might revitalise a phrase coined by Shula Marks several years ago in her discussion of the ‘ambiguities of dependence’ to capture the sense of entanglement mentioned by Chatterjee. 4 One of the sources of nationalist ambiguity, according to Marks, is that it was staffed by ‘men of two worlds’. 5 The constraints imposed on nationalist imagination are not unrelated to an intelligentsia caught between the conceptions of a precolonial social order, Christianity and a more ruthless and exploitative system of modern governmentality. The very access to the English language and literacy brought by the missionaries made possible the ‘new imagined political community’ 6 implied by nationalism. However, the question of nationalist ambiguity might be posed not merely as a historical question but also as a historiographical one. The relationship of the discipline of history to nationalist historiography is a source of considerable discomfort in contemporary southern Africa. In an article on Zimbabwe, for example, Terrence Ranger made a plea to distinguish between nationalist historiography and patriotic history, given the way history has served as an alibi for the bolstering of a Zanu PF version of the past. 7 Elsewhere, there has been more vehement critique of nationalist historiography on the basis of its hagiographic and biographic form which promotes elite projects by way of a monolithic and undifferentiated category of the people. Ciraj Rassool, for example, has criticised the biographic complex in South Africa, but as a strategy aimed at reviving and animating the contestations at the heart of an emergent democratic public sphere. 8 But, having noted the discomfort with nationalist historiography, what do we make of nationalism’s political critique of

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colonialism? The difficulty in locating the source of the ambiguity of nationalism calls for revisiting nationalist historiography as a textual network. Rather than only emphasising the limits of nationalism, we may have to place nationalist historiography in a particular relation to the colonial archive and disciplinary formations so as to understand better its ambiguity. Nationalist historiography ought to be read as texts of opposition that coincidentally lend themselves to an elaboration of disciplinary reason. 9 In the specific case of the story of Hintsa, nationalist historiography is primarily discernible by its critique of settler colonial historiography. However, somewhat unwittingly, the work produced by nationalist writers, mainly in the first half of the twentieth century, was increasingly sustained by the changes taking place in the disciplines of history and anthropology in South Africa. With the rise of segregation and later, after 1948, apartheid, disciplines such as history and anthropology underwent significant shifts, especially as a result of their encounter with the pervasive, if not elusive, ‘native question’. 10 In most instances, this was a product of changing institutions, international influences following the defeat of fascism in Europe, which impacted on scholarship locally, and a reorientation of the very objects of disciplinary inquiry in South African scholarship. At stake in this fissure was an effort to extend disciplinary knowledge to the social problem of the ‘native’ that would, in some instances at least, result in a concept of pluralism to counter the racial segregationism propounded by the state. Paul Rich gives some indication that the overlap of terms between liberal pluralists and state was deliberate. He informs us that the philosopher RFA Hoernle, and AW Hoernle, a social anthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, helped to direct liberal thought towards ‘establish[ing] a dialogue with the segregationist state’ because of its importance as a political position which South African liberals had to adopt. 11 At the same time, there was growing dissent at the static cultural objects of humanist disciplines that neglected the prospects of social change as a condition for knowledge. Amongst these dissenters were historians such as WH MacMillan and CW de Kiewiet and anthropologists such as

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Max Gluckman. While MacMillan and De Kiewiet emphasised the role of industrialisation in their respective studies, Gluckman set about challenging the foundations of social anthropology by arguing that the focus on culture resulted in a functionalism that thwarted scholarly attention to social change, even when it professed to analyse such change. The ‘native question’ was the source of considerable disciplinary upheaval. Quite clearly the problem could not, it seems, be solved in the frameworks of history and anthropology without producing narrowly defined empirical specialities. Paul Cocks has shown that MacMillan objected to the empiricism of cultural anthropology, arguing that the localised study, presumably overwritten with notions of experience, did not allow for an understanding of the interdependence of cultures, nor did it lead to an understanding of how adaptable Africans were to the forces of modernity. 12 Segregationist policies had revealed the deep complicities that ‘culture’ as an object of knowledge shared with the exercise of power in South Africa. The attempts to rework disciplinary knowledge, however, brought the disciplines of history and anthropology into greater antagonism, while simultaneously deepening the divide between liberal discourses of progress and social criticism of the racial logic of accumulation in South Africa. 13 In the light of segregationist policies of land expropriation, the intellectual frameworks were torn between concepts of pluralism and the notion of South Africa as a single social field which linked political actors. 14 In the midst of this acrimony, a vocal strand of scholarship argued for a deeper understanding of the interdisciplinary possibilities if the insights of history and anthropology were combined. Max Gluckman’s critique of Bronislaw Malinowski, especially the latter’s virulent anti-historical position in favour of functionalist anthropology, pointed out that while it might be possible to understand the effects of the Glen Grey Act of 1899, it offered nothing in the way of altering the land policy in South Africa. 15 Gluckman argued for closer attention to history and noted the limits of anthropology when he curtly argued: ‘A government unmoved by the sufferings of thousands of people is not likely to be moved by the pretty chart of an

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anthropologist. Knowledge alone cannot make a moral policy; it can as easily serve an immoral one.’ 16 In 1975, Jeff Peires presented a critique of the failure to dislodge the pluralist agenda in anthropology that had subsequently emerged as indistinguishable from the justifications for the homeland system dividing the Ciskei and the Transkei in the eastern Cape. 17 Peires argued vehemently against the anthropological studies of WD Hammond-Tooke, especially his aetiological errors of reading the present into the past and thereby providing justification for apartheid social engineering. Peires complained that the conclusions drawn by Hammond-Tooke were founded on the forms of evidence collected amongst mission-trained western Xhosa, which emphasised the independence of the right-hand house, located west of the Kei River, in relation to Hintsa’s Gcaleka east of the Kei River. In other instances, the conclusions relied on deliberately distorted colonial administrative accounts. The problem for Peires lay in the sources of Xhosa history and the ahistorical approach of anthropologists’ understanding of the right-hand house. The ambiguities of nationalism presumably lie in attempts to construct a history of Xhosa society in opposition to that described through the colonial archive but ultimately understood through the frameworks of disciplinary knowledge. Filtered through the disciplinary grids of knowledge, nationalist historiography was reductively read as ‘cultural history’. The implicit refusal to abide by the terms of the colonial archive in the former was mobilised in support of a disciplinary response to segregation in the case of the latter, at times to reinforce the very segregationism that was the object of critique. Nationalist historiography was understood as supplementing disciplinary disagreements, debates and contests that were either explicitly or implicitly cross- referenced. At times, it rejected ethnic signifiers tout court in exchange for more universal categories of class and progress. At other times, it recuperated ethnic signifiers only to attempt to exceed the limitations posed by those very categories in a period of segregation. In this, nationalist historiography was often appended to the competing configurations of historicism and culturalism that marked disciplinary debates. Given that some of the foremost contributors to writing in

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isiXhosa were members of the South African Native Congress (the precursor

to the aNC), in the early 1900s the shift from nationalist historiography to

cultural studies, at the very least, worked to reorient significantly the political

force of knowledge to normative and accepted disciplinary study. 18

In this chapter I want to examine the shift from Xhosa historiography (which I will show was an expression of nationalist historiography)

to its more reductive rendering as cultural studies. I am interested in

what happens to nationalist narration of the killing of Hintsa when it is connected to the reorientations of historical and anthropological knowledge that serve as responses to a state-sponsored and -defined concept of the ‘native question’ in an environment of rapid industrialisation and social dislocation. In short, what happens to nationalist narration when it is read

simultaneously in relation to the claims of the colonial archive and Bantu Studies, that disciplinary formation that emerged in the midst of the intensification of segregationist policies in South Africa in the first half

of the twentieth century? I will focus on three texts that, taken together,

might enable a different approach to the ambiguities of nationalism. These include John Henderson Soga’s The South-Eastern Bantu and SEK Mqhayi’s Ityala Lamawele (The Trial of the Twins) and his commemorative poem ‘UmHlekazi uHintsa’ (Hintsa, The Great). 19