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Re-tribe and resist: the ethnogenesis of a creolised raiding band in response to colonisation. In C. Hamilton and N. Leibhammer (eds), Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Identity and the material record in southern KwaZulu-Natal in the Late

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‘Bushmen’ are often thought of as smaller in stature and paler of skin than southern African pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, yet this is a stereotype of the San partly perpetuated by the popular media and partly by the colonial tendency to
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  Challis contribution to Hamilton & Leibhammer ‘Un-Tribe’ DRAFT 13/05/2013 * email: sam@rockart.wits.ac.za   Re-tribe and resist: the ethnogenesis of a creolised raiding band in response tocolonisation. In: Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Critical Enquiry into the Traces of the Thukela - Mzimvubu Regionfrom the early Iron Age until c1910 . C. Hamilton and N. Leibhammer (eds). In Press.   SAM CHALLIS* Rock Art Research Institute, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of theWitwatersrand ‘Bushmen’ are often thought of as smaller in stature and paler of skin than southern Africanpastoralists and agro-pastoralists, yet this is a stereotype of the San partly perpetuated by thepopular media and partly by the colonial tendency to classify according to appearance. The surviving San of the Kalahari have become the model for San throughout the subcontinent. In the nineteenthcentury, words like Bushman, San, BaTwa, and BaRoa were used to denote economy, not just race.If one was perceived to be a hunter-gatherer then one was ‘Bushman’. Some ‘Bushman’ groupsdesignated themselves as such, even though they practiced stock-keeping. There were advantages tobeing ‘Bushman’ on a destabilised frontier, which meant that peoples of differing cultural backgrounds sometimes banded together and actively created new ‘Bushman’ identities that mettheir needs: cohesion, subsistence and protection. In one particular instance this was done in such away that the group survives in the paintings they made of themselves with horses, cattle, dogs and muskets, in the rock shelters from where they raided their neighbours. An intermittent thorn in the side of the trek-boer and colonial administrators of nineteenth-century Natal was the threat of stock theft by ‘Bushman’ raiders from the Maloti-Drakensberg (Wright 1971, 2007; Vinnicombe 1976; Challis 2008, 2009). Quite who theseso-called ‘Bushmen’ were was not, in general, of particular import to the colonists. A‘Bushman’ was a ‘Bushman’ – but by the middle of the century, when several deputationshad been sent to both the ‘Bushmen’ and the Bantu-speaking authorities known to havecontact with them, it transpired in various hearings that the ‘Bushmen’ were comprised of several distinct groups. When I use the term ‘distinct’, I mean that they were named by oneanother, they were believed – by one another – to reside in certain specific locations, and  Challis contribution to Hamilton & Leibhammer ‘Un-Tribe’ DRAFT 13/05/2013 2 to adhere to certain named leaders (Cape Archives [G.H.] 23 1850:417; Wright 1971, 2007;Vinnicombe 1976; Blundell 2004; Challis 2008, 2009). Already the stereotype of theethnographic present from the Kalahari falls away: supposedly egalitarian bands of Sanhunter-gatherers were, in the nineteenth century, identified by the names of their leaders,or ‘Chiefs’, such as Nqabayo’s band, or Mdwebo’s band (Blundell 2004). Thomas Dowson(e.g. 1994) has suggested that the San would have had to select leaders in response to thearrival of hierarchical herders and farmers, and that San rain-making practices would haveled to the aggrandisement of San shamans (c.f. Campbell 1986, 1987). Further, David Pearce(2008:279-87) has argued that surprisingly ‘rich’ burials circa 7000BP in the Eastern Capemay put the lie to the ahistorical supposition that all San bands were always egalitarian.There have long been calls to ‘de-!Kung’ both the archaeology and the San ethnography weuse to interpret it (e.g. Parkington 1984). Contributions to the Kalahari Debate, mostnotably those of Jolly (e.g. 1996) and Mitchell et al. (2008) have brought to our attention theissues of interaction between the Maloti-Drakensberg San and their neighbours. But wait – who were the ‘San’ of whom we speak? Of course, debate has raged for many years as tohow to define ‘Bushman’ or ‘San’ people – whether physically, culturally or economically(e.g. Jenkins & Tobias 1977). I reject any pejorative connotations attached to either word,but rather use ‘San’ to imply the stereotyped San language-speakers, and ‘Bushman’ to meanthose people described as such in the nineteenth century, owing to their hunting and raidingway of life.I argue that one particular group of so-called ‘Bushmen’, perhaps responsible for themajority of raids on Natal and neighbouring regions (Challis 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013) were not San in the accepted twentieth-century ethnographic sense, but were a cohesive group of individuals from multiple cultural backgrounds who chose to think of themselves asBushmen, in part, in the nineteenth-century sense that they hunted (from horseback),gathered wild plant foods, and were considered wild and dangerous by their neighbours i .That they painted in rock shelters, in a fine-line tradition showing San dance postures andtrance-related images further corroborates this choice.  Challis contribution to Hamilton & Leibhammer ‘Un-Tribe’ DRAFT 13/05/2013 3 Figure 1a. Horse and rider fromthe most northerly Drakensberghorse site in the Giant’s castlearea. Note spears. Figure 1b. Horse, rider and outsize baboon from mostsoutherly Drakensberg horse site in the Mount Fletcher area.Note the similarity of postures and horses (and baboon’s)running gaits. Note also the similarity in headdresses betweensites, and with the headdresses in Figure 2. The AmaTola Known as the ‘AmaTola’, they herded large numbers of cattle, horses, sheep and goats(KwaZulu-Natal Archives FP 1850 [F.P.], [G.H.] 1405:224-6), yet they were still considered‘Bushmen’. ‘Bushman’ (or aBathwa ) was a term used by non-Europeans, and thenincreasingly by Europeans, to denote economy – or perceived economy – not race, innineteenth-century South Africa. Perceived economy came to include the associationbetween ‘Bushmen’ and stock theft (Skotnes 1997; Penn 2005). It was understood – at leastby Bantu-speakers – that once one opted for the ‘Bushman’ way of life, regardless of culturalsrcin, one became ‘Bushman’ (e.g. Webb & Wright 1982:7-8; Napier 1849:226). Moreover,to say that they were from multiple cultural backgrounds is not to suggest they were ‘multi-ethnic’. Multi-ethnic simply means that there is more than one ethnicity present, but in thecase I bring to light here, the group was culturally and physically creolised. They cametogether from many disparate srcins to form a new  cultural identity. In this creolisedculture some specific San beliefs were foregrounded, but were mixed into a hybrid cosmoscontaining elements of the prior religions of the constituent members (Challis 2008, 2012,2013). One of the strands of evidence used in reaching this conclusion was the discovery of rock paintings made in the Maloti-Drakensberg which depict people – with combinations of different material culture – participating in the San trance dance, but in novel ways which  Challis contribution to Hamilton & Leibhammer ‘Un-Tribe’ DRAFT 19/03/2013 4 see them transforming into horses, cattle and, most importantly, baboons ii ... Why shouldthis be so? Some members of displaced Bantu-speaking farmer groups ‘tribally’ identified by colonists,and sometimes by themselves, as Hlubi, Zizi, Bhele, Nhlangwini, Wushe, Tolo and othersmigrated to the eastern Cape during the disturbances of the early nineteenth century andbecame subjects of the Xhosa paramount, Hinsta (e.g. Peires 1992:241, Wright & Mazel2007; Challis 2012). No sooner had they arrived, however, than they became embroiled inthe frontier wars of the Xhosa and colonists. I argue that some of these Natal Nguniacquired horses and guns and opted to join groups of 'skelmbasters' (Giliomee 1992:458)who comprised San, Khoe and mixed-race people (Challis 2008, 2012). They would alsohave included dispossessed Xhosa-speakers. One band of approximately 200-400 individuals – the AmaTola – quit the frontier and relocated themselves in a large part of the southernDrakensberg from where they raided colonists and Bantu-speaking farmers on horseback,often as far afield as Estcourt, Mooi River and Pietermaritzburg (Challis 2008). They had asignificant impact on the settlement patterns of KwaZulu-Natal (Wright 1971, 2007;Vinnicombe 1976; Challis 2008).Identified in colonial hearings as a ‘nation’ iii of ‘Bushmen, Hottentots and runaway slaves’(Government House [G.H.] 23 1850) they became a new, creolised, entity and paintedthemselves, not colonists, on horseback with hats and guns (Challis 2008, 2009, 2012). Theyalso painted themselves undergoing transformation in their trance dances, not into eland orrhebok, but into baboons. It was agreed by members of San-, Khoe- and Bantu-speakingbackgrounds, that baboons were the manifestation of protective powers, vital for survival infrontier conditions and to raid one's neighbours and escape unharmed (Challis 2008, 2013).The constituent cultures of the AmaTola creolised around the symbol of the baboon, andalso the horse, forming a new 'Bushman' identity very specific to the nineteenth century(Challis 2008, 2013). They existed in the Maloti-Drakensberg, with large herds of cattle,horses, sheep and goats, from the 1830s up until the late 1860s when punitive raids of colonial forces, as well as Zulu- and Sotho-speakers, became too much to withstand. Likeother ‘Bushmen’ of the region they melted into the Bantu-speaking society from which manyof them had come (Challis 2008). One of the most famous art works in South Africa, the'Bamboo Mountain' ( eMvuleni  ) rock art panel on display at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum inPietermaritzburg is almost undoubtedly their work ( Figure 2 ).  Challis contribution to Hamilton & Leibhammer ‘Un-Tribe’ DRAFT 19/03/2013 5 Figure 2. The extreme right hand end of the eMvuleni  panel, showing horsemen driving cattle (in centre panelnot pictured) into camp, two leading horses laden with strips of meat. Image courtesy Rock Art ResearchInstitute. Alternative Figure 2. The eMvuleni  panel. Image courtesy Rock Art Research Institute. An archaeological perspective  Rock art cannot be read as an historical text. It is not evidence for a name, nor an exactdate, but it is evidence – in glaring physical manifestation – of a system of belief and, onlyindirectly, of a way of life. When we see livestock portrayed we can estimate a date for thepaintings (Manhire et al. 1986), yet we can be more certain of date when horses aredepicted. Horses probably entered the Maloti-Drakensberg with groups such as theAmaTola in the mid-1830s (Challis 2008, 2012) which, archaeologically speaking, is veryprecise. Smith (2010:354-5) has suggested that there was a certain amount of good fortunein finding the AmaTola historically named, and placed, in the region most densely paintedwith horses. This luck brings with it the hazards of uncritical ascription of provenance, but Ibelieve the evidence we have goes some way to removing the element of coincidence. Whatis important is that there was a group of people living up in the rock shelters of the Maloti-Drakensberg, with cultural practices observable in the rock art.
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