In: Khoisan Consciousness
Zenzile Khoisan
Search for other papers by Zenzile Khoisan in
Current site
Google Scholar
Free access

It was only on my third reading of this most compelling, urgent, intriguing, and ultimately unsettling book by Rafael Verbuyst that I grasped the depth of this most exceptional, original contribution to the vibrant contemporary phenomenon that has come to be known as the resurgence of Khoi and San descendants in Post-apartheid South Africa.

In this refreshingly thorough and rigorous, and meticulously referenced work, through which Verbuyst interrogates the antecedents, the ideological, cultural, and sociological underpinnings, the methods and the motives of those driving this phenomenon, one is almost left standing on a piece of disturbed ground, a space where the remains of a crime scene have been excavated for a closer look at the body of evidence.

What sets this work apart is that it presents, in the classical emic view, a most cohesive insider’s view of the Khoi and San resurgence or, as Verbuyst puts it, the Khoisan revivalist movement, presenting the positions and perspectives of the progenitors, drivers, and active participants in this phenomenon, which, in less than three decades, has shifted both consciousness and actual policy in South Africa.

On a very personal level, I must record that it took quite some time before I actually acceded to what eventually became a marathon series of interviews with the author, even though I had observed him in attendance at numerous public events where critical issues were debated or where we were engaging in the process of cultural praxis through which the resurgence is given shape and form.

What struck me then, and what rings out clearly through the methodical presentation of the revivalist movement, is the sensitivity of the writer to the absolute agency of those identifying with this phenomenon to have their voice heard, to engage in the process of finding themselves, and identifying or associating themselves with what they hold as their heritage.

It is this process of deconstructing an imposed identity and reconstructing a more appropriate identity, drawn from the strands of a rich history which, for all intents and purposes, had been lost, distorted, stolen, and strayed over centuries of colonialism and, damningly, in the democratic era of South Africa’s history.

Verbuyst, through this methodically presented work has brought us face to face with a movement that no-one believed would survive the marginalised space through which it had been relegated by those in power, by dismissive members of the academy, and by those who have vested interests, for whom this phenomenon presents the greatest threat because it challenges the status quo.

What is furthermore most refreshing about Khoisan Consciousness is the authenticity of the voices of those who have been at the coalface of the process of revivalism, from across the spectrum of the movement, whose perspectives are presented in a dignified and respectful manner, not fetishized as has been the experience with so much other academic writing about indigenous movements.

Through this book, which needs to be widely read, we will connect the names of the critical interlocutors to events, follow the development of consciousness of the descendants of the original inhabitants of Cape Town as they travelled from the first victorious freedom fighters, through dispossession, cultural genocide, and, finally through a revivalist movement, risen to stake their claim to the ancient city where their ancestors were the custodians.

Zenzile Khoisan,

Cape Town, 28 November 2021

Born and raised on the Cape Flats, Zenzile Khoisan is an award-winning researcher, journalist, radio producer, and poet and author of Jakaranda Time, a reflection on his time as investigator for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and There are No More Words, his recently published collection of poems. He is an internationally recognised cultural activist and has served the Khoisan revivalist movement in several capacities, including as a fully initiated chief of the Gorinhaiqua cultural council. He currently lives in Cape Town and is the father of three sons.

  • Collapse
  • Expand

Khoisan Consciousness

An Ethnography of Emic Histories and Indigenous Revivalism in Post-Apartheid Cape Town

Series:  Afrika-Studiecentrum Series, Volume: 42


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 123 59 1
PDF Views & Downloads 0 0 0