Theatre, Drama, and Performance in Post-apartheid South Africa
Edited By Greg Homann and Marc Maufort
Eastern Cape Voices in Post-apartheid Theatre
University of Cape Town
Bodies are washed ashore, along with the cargo – buoyant barrels, tea chests and dresses – sometimes a bleating survivor of the livestock. The beaches are lined with wooden bones of the most recent ship to go down on the fatal coast of the Eastern Cape. Staggering survivors, usually travellers from the east or from Great Britain, make their way along the beach looking for something familiar, looking out fearfully for the “savages” that they have heard live along these shores.
There were reputedly 111 shipwrecks on the Eastern Cape’s “wild coast.” One Xhosa1 clan, the abeLungu (roughly translated as “the whites,” but also meaning the foam/scum off the waves), trace their lineage to intermarriage with shipwreck survivors.
It was not only through shipwrecks that contact between Xhosa and settler communities came about. Inland, the Nguni (of which the Xhosa clans are part) people’s archaeological presence can be traced to the 8th century. Dutch and then British colonials challenged the Xhosa kingdoms for land near the Great Fish River from the beginning of the 1700s. The instances of cattle raiding and theft escalated between Xhosa and settler or trekboer2 on this frontier, peaking from 1779 with the First War of Dispossession (or the First Frontier War).3 There were nine wars in one ← 57 | 58 → hundred years, and the epicentre of the battles was over the Great Fish and Keiskamma rivers as boundaries.
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