By Jennifer Wenzel
In 1856 and 1857, in line with a prophet’s command, the Xhosa humans of southern Africa killed their livestock and ceased planting vegetation; the ensuing famine expense tens of hundreds of thousands of lives. very like different millenarian, anticolonial movements—such because the Ghost Dance in North the United States and the Birsa Munda rebellion in India—these activities have been intended to rework the area and unlock the Xhosa from oppression. regardless of the movement’s momentous failure to accomplish that target, the development has endured to exert a robust pull at the South African mind's eye ever on account that. it really is those afterlives of the prophecy that Jennifer Wenzel explores in Bulletproof.
Wenzel examines literary and historic texts to teach how writers have manipulated photos and ideas linked to the farm animals killing—harvest, sacrifice, rebirth, devastation—to communicate to their modern predicaments. Widening her lens, Wenzel additionally seems to be at how previous failure can either motivate and constrain events for justice within the current, and her excellent insights into the cultural implications of prophecy will fascinate readers throughout a large choice of disciplines.
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Additional info for Bulletproof: Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond
W. Gqoba, one of the first black South African newspaper editors. This meaning making continues. The cattle killing’s significance remains a contested question, as is evident in two recent essays that posit Nongqawuse as an emblem for the present. Meg Samuelson associates Nongqawuse (as recuperated in Zakes Mda’s novel The Heart of Redness ) with post-TRC triumphalism, in which the democratic transition fulfills a teleology of inevitable liberation. This narrative of “sacrifice and redemption i n tr o d u c ti o n / 25 .
The cattle killing’s immediate and enduring costs in human lives and livelihoods and in sociopolitical and cultural autonomy have been profound—“sisimbonono kwizizukulwana,” “a perpetual lament to generations,” in Yali-Manisi’s words (200). I acknowledge these losses in Bulletproof, at the same time that I examine what meanings have been made of them. Such meaning making has generated a rich historical and literary archive that compels sustained attention. As I discuss in chapter 1, European Christian missionary endeavor and the introduction of literacy began among the amaXhosa shortly before the cattle killing and gained considerable momentum in its aftermath.
The exchange, gift, or loan of cattle was necessary for contracting marriages among the amaXhosa; unmarried girls and young women were “‘inkomo zomzi’ (the cattle of the family) . . 10 Cattle were in short supply in the 1850s, after losses during war, drought, famine, and a lung-sickness epizootic that claimed at least 100,000 cattle by 1856. Chiefs in British Kaffraria lost an important source of cattle when Grey proscribed their authority to levy judicial fines. 12 Although many writers address questions of gender in debating whether a young Xhosa woman—or a “crazy-headed girl,” as the Xhosa Christian Nkohla Falati dubbed Nongqawuse in 189513—could claim the authority to speak publicly, the role of sexuality in Nongqawuse’s prophecy has been obscured.