Spotlight on the 'Mfecane' Debate
A presentation commemorating the 30-year anniversary of ‘The ‘Mfecane’ Aftermath: towards a new paradigm’ colloquium, which was held at Wits in September 1991. The colloquium focused on the then-emerging mfecane debate. Contrary to the consensus view of mfecane which attributed the violence of the 1820s and 1830s to the rise of the Zulu kingdom, Cobbing argued that European expansionism and slaving was to blame. He further claimed that the Zulu kingdom had been implicated as part of an elaborate 'alibi' to conceal the role of the white culprits. At the 1991 colloquium, Cobbing’s claims – many of them controversial – were subjected to substantial scrutiny by numerous scholars. With 'Spotlight', FHYA not only presents and the debates, but also tracks the sources and scholarship about them across three decades.
'Spotlight' consists of numerous components. It presents the original colloquium papers produced back in 1991 along with video footage from the actual conference. ‘Spotlight’ also supplies users with a timeline feature to help them track the complex history of the term ‘mfecane’ itself, which first appeared in writing in 1825. To help users grapple with the complexities of Cobbing’s argument, a bibliogram has been created to map Cobbing’s main arguments and track scholarship about them. The presentation also contains an extensive bibliography with live links to important scholarship and underlying sources. Finally, ‘Spotlight’ presents a digitally enhanced pre-print version of Nomalanga Mkhize’s essay “In Search of Native Dissidence”, an important paper that speaks to the need for further study of vernacular sources and historiographies.