New Collaborative Research between Members of the Khoesan Community and Scholars at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum Published
A paper entitled ‘Mijnheer Lochenberg’: on the construction of Khoesan as a criminal class has just been published in the journal Southern African Humanities. The paper is the result of a four-year long collaboration between Troy Meyers, a member of the Khoesan community, Angela Ferreira of the University of Cape Town’s Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative, and Dr Geoff Blundell, the head of the Human Sciences Department at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum.
The paper traces the history of the Lochenberg family in the nineteenth century, beginning with Nicolaas Lochenberg, a Dutch colonist who rejected colonialism and partnered with a Khoe woman, Sarah, and who lived in Xhosaland as a translator and advisor to the paramount Gcaleka chief, Hintsa, for almost 30 years. Nicolaas and Sarah raised several children, two of which went on to play significant roles in the history of south-eastern South Africa—Willem and Hans. Willem was a catechist for the Wesleyan Missionary Society and served at several mission stations throughout the Trans-Kei region. Hans was a powerful chief who amassed a following of over 1,000 men and to whom sections of the Mpondomise, Bhaca and various San communities pledged their allegiance. He orchestrated resistance to colonialism and was a significant interlocutor in south-eastern South Africa. Despite this, historians and archaeologists have simply dismissed both Nicolaas and Hans as minor cattle-rustlers. Part of the problem lies in sloppy research that confused Nicolaas with his cousin; other issues with this portrayal stem from the uncritical adoption of colonial tropes that portrayed everyone who was not part of the colony or a member of a tribe as criminal.
The paper is the first in what is hoped will be a long collaboration between scholars at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum and the Khoesan community that will focus on restitutive histories that expose persistent, problematic scholarly treatment of the past.
Troy Meyers: co-author and descendant of Nicolaas Lochenberg