Accepted Paper:

Oral Traditions not for Archives: The Case of Lobolo/Magadi  


Gabriele Mohale (University of the Witwatersrand)

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on a Masters study presently undertaken, and it engages in the archival discourse around the ‘Archives of Memory’, a concept initially raised by Jacques Derrida, referring to the human memory as an Archive. This particular archival discourse is situated against the background of what is widely debated as a possible change, distortion and loss of oral traditions, said to undermine the culture and social fabric of black South African communities. A number of initiatives therefore aim to capture accounts of oral traditions, for storage and preservation in the conventional archival institution. The study enters this debate with the example of the deeply rooted cultural tradition of ‘Lobolo’ or ‘Magadi’, as a case to explain its firm place in memory and its dependency on oral transmission, thereby acknowledging the dynamics, fluidity and continuities of cultural practices. ‘Lobolo’/’Magadi’ refers to the conclusion of the legal act of marriage, establishing the relationship between the two families and the status of the bridegroom in future. This tradition is strictly guided by language and transmitted entirely through the spoken word. This is why it is so well suited for the critical engagement with and the deconstruction of the western concept of the archive. Thus, this paper is firmly placed in the context of Post colonialism and demonstrates the need for not only the accommodation, but also the acceptance of the ‘Archives of Memory’ as an archival institution of equal standing to the western conventional archive.

Panel F2
Oral history