South African Voices

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Harold Scheub is the Evjue-Bascom Professor of the Humanities in the Department of African Languages and Literature at UW-Madison. He specializes in African oral traditions and written literatures.

South African Voices is a three-volume work that includes: A Long Time Passed, Created in Olden Times, and The Way We Travelled: Oral History and Poetry

From the Introduction to Volume 1, A Long Time Passed, Professor Scheub writes:

“Beginning in the late 1960s and continuing into the 1970s, I made a number of research trips to southern Africa, hoping to gather a representative collection of oral tales, histories, and poems from among the Nguni peoples: the Xhosa and Zulu in South Africa, the Swati in Swaziland, and the Ndebele in the southern part of Zimbabwe. I encountered a wealth of oral traditions, met hundreds of storytellers, mythmakers, poets, and historians, and was allowed by these enormously talented raconteurs and poets to tape many of these works. In the end, I had taped and filmed over 9,000 pieces of oral tradition.”

“Of the many artists whose productions I witnessed, one of the most brilliant and talented was Nongenile Masithathu Zenani of the Transkei. Her home was on the slope of a lazy hill some thirty miles from the Indian Ocean in Gatyana District in the Transkei; she was about fifty years old when I first met her, a member of the Gcaleka state of the Xhosa nation. She had become a traditional doctor some years ago, and she was a successful if somewhat forbidding one. She was also an expert creator of Xhosa iintsomi, fantasy stories in the oral tradition.”

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