'A glimpse into Bushman mythology': interpretation, power and knowledge

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Peer-Reviewed Research


In 1873, Qing, a young man of Bushman background, recounted a cycle of stories and commented on some of the rock paintings he and the magistrate Joseph Orpen saw on a journey through the Maloti mountains. A year later Qing's narratives and comments on rock art, as recorded by Orpen, were published along with Orpen's account of the journey in an article in The Cape Monthly Magazine. The article is a blend of European and indigenous discourses and forms of knowledge, the latter mediated by the processes of recording, translation, writing and publication. This essay explores the different sorts of knowledge that are represented in the text, in Orpen's statements about his research and in Qing's stories in particular. It uses the literary technique of close reading in order to open the text up to different possibilities of reading and interpretation.