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Accepted Paper:

Lost Prophets of Afrotopias in Pre-War South Africa  
Paul Landau (University of Maryland Fellow, University of Johannesburg)

Paper short abstract:

Early 20th century prophetic leadership in South Africa articulated community models lost with the 1920s' "Natives" laws enforcements against their meetings. Prophets blended Christian and secular into one discourse in presenting a model of a future Afrotopia. Might it be recovered?

Paper long abstract:

Early 20th century South African prophetic leadership articulated models of community lost to South Africa today. A.A.S. le Fleur and his land-purchase operations; the myriad followers of Samuel Moroka; the acolytes and paid members of the International Commercial Workers' Union or ICU (I See You); the Witsieshoek and Rustenberg claims made by dauphins of attenuated historical kingdoms, and lastly, the Pentecostal and other "spirit" congregations, all flowered in the 1910s and 1920s. Their mobilizations of persons drew the legacy of twin-courts and agglomerative chiefdoms, and, on then-futuristic mission teachings and spatial orders (Genadendal, Kat River, Farmerfield, "Kuruman" and Thaba Nchu).

This paper finds ideas in common, outlines a resulting common-denominator politics of these leaders, and recovers a suggested spatial order and mode of authority for living. It will be seen that prophets blended Christian and secular into one discourse in this model, even, of course, Pentecostal ones. Their resulting collective future Afrotopia as a this-worldly idea was, at the time, dismissed or called mad by South African authorities. Prophets were pressed into a purely tribal model (meaning, the chiefly rural affairs permitted before the Bantu Authorities law), or purely Christian discourse (meaning, performative, personal, and eschatological).

The forgotten original is here recuperated, and presented as detour to a future not taken.

Panel Arts05
Afrotopias - clearing pathways into African futures
  Session 1 Friday 2 June, 2023, -