Nongqawuse’s prophesy.
January 20, 2007 12:10 PM   Subscribe

In 1856, a young girl in South Africa went to fetch water from the river. When she returned, she convinced her uncle that she had spoken with spirits and that the spirits had said that, in return for the sacrifice of all their cattle and their crops, the spirits would sweep the European settlers into the sea, that the cattle and grain would be replaced by better cattle and full granaries. Her uncle told the Chief, the chief listened, and a society was reduced to a hungry shadow of its former self. The Xhosa cattle-killing.
posted by Aidan Kehoe (11 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: this may be a good story, but these are not good links.

That was a rather silly thing to do.
posted by econous at 12:20 PM on January 20, 2007

I think your post is missing another link.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:29 PM on January 20, 2007

I wanted to love this post, but... a Google map, Wikipedia, and How about a magazine article, an Africa-L discussion, a historian's response to controversy... something with a little meat on its bones (excuse the expression)?
posted by languagehat at 12:33 PM on January 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

I think your post is missing another link.

Yeah. It's an interesting story though.

There's an interesting looking article through Project MUSE that I'm just now starting, if anyone is interested (that has access to Project MUSE).

Here's the abstract:
The title of John Edgar Wideman's latest novel The Cattle Killing (1996) 1 refers to an episode in South African history still vehemently debated among scholars: the Xhosa cattle-killing movement of 1856 and 1857 which resulted in the proud nation losing its independence and its people becoming an oppressed class within the South African colony. The great importance the author attributes to this event and especially to the prophecy that seems to have sparked it shows in the fact that he moved the incident back in time and made it the kernel of a novel related to the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1793, which in an earlier story he had presented as an occasion for black heroism and pride. 2 This narrative gesture is typical of the book's dynamic structure in which stories weave in and out of memories, dreams, and epileptic fits, reappear embedded in other stories, and reach back to first-order "reality," to create a web of stunning complexity and seemingly limitless metamorphosis. Both events--the cattle-killing episode and the yellow fever epidemic--involve disease and betrayal, hope muted by skepticism, and, above all, visions and ritual acts of bonding and unbonding across time barriers which hint at metaphysical predicaments occasioned by moments of crisis.

As the historian J.B. Peires painstakingly documents in the first scholarly analysis of the ordeal, 3 the great Xhosa cattle-killing movement was an extremely complex affair in which tribal politics clashed with colonialist machinations, chiliastic predictions complemented issues of disease control, rational considerations vied with irrational reactions. The unprecedented slaughtering may have been in part a quite expedient response to the terrible European lung sickness with which South African cattle had been infected due to a Dutch shipment of sick bulls in 1853.
posted by The God Complex at 12:35 PM on January 20, 2007

L-hat, those are the first three articles I looked at after I saw this post and looked into it a bit further. Luckily for me, I still have university access to Project MUSE, though.

I, too, wanted to love this post. In fact, I would favor seeing it deleted so Aidan Kehoe can try again with more appropriate links.

posted by The God Complex at 12:37 PM on January 20, 2007

Also note that the article I'm reading is only partly related to the original information.
posted by The God Complex at 12:38 PM on January 20, 2007

This is why they needed the white people around.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:41 PM on January 20, 2007

In fact, I would favor seeing it deleted so Aidan Kehoe can try again with more appropriate links.

I agree. Hurry up! Otherwise it will be old hat and all the comments will be in this thread.
posted by bhouston at 12:44 PM on January 20, 2007

Sure, delete it. I didn't link to the articles languagehat mentions because I think it reflects really badly on the modern Xhosa understanding of how to use Occam’s razor that the belief is so widespread that the British were responsible. I did not want to bring that argument into what is a fascinating, exceptional and horrifying historical event.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 12:52 PM on January 20, 2007

Well, this was interesting to me - I'm a descendant of those settlers. My dad's house is easily visible on Google Earth, just a little ways off the linked GE image, and he and I did a 3 day hike along that coast - the Transkei 'Wild Coast' - a few years ago -we waded across that river at low tide.
I didn't know the river's name though, or anything about this history - so thanks. That land could tell a lot of stories.
posted by Flashman at 12:56 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese, what the fuck? If you believe my post racist, then say so, and explain whether or not those who wrote the Jim Jones Wikipedia article are biased against whites, and why.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 1:09 PM on January 20, 2007

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