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Barbara Tyrrell, Khoisan/Bushmen, and the Meaning of Universal History

To Begin at The Beginning (Instead of a Biography) The First People, Known As the Khoisan/Bushmen

Seeing that every !Kung household owned or had access to a store-bought iron cooking pot, I recently asked /Twi, “What did the !Kung do in the old days before they had iron cooking pots to cook in?” /Twi looked at me gravely and pondered my question. After a long, meaningful silence, he finally replied tongue firmly in cheek, “Everyone knows that people can’t live without iron cooking pots, so we must have died.”

-- The Dobe Ju/’hoanasi, Richard B. Lee

Barbara Tyrrell was a portrait artist. Following the dominant academic standards of her era, she presented her portraits divided into ethnic groups, with accompanying ethnographic text. Thus, like the botanical artist, her paintings present the individuals portrayed as specimens of a generic category. The analogy is particularly appropriate with her, because her primary medium was water-colour, whose special properties she adroitly used in depictions which successfully combine the general with the particular. At its best her work possesses that degree of abstraction which whittles away distracting details in order to capture the outstanding features which make her models unique: singular expressions of a singular culture which itself expresses one possibility within the human family, a species distinguished by its singular intepenetration with the rest of the biosphere.

What Marx called our 'species-being' is different only in degree, not in kind, to the universal intercourse of celestial bodies, elements, bacteria, plants, and creatures from which we have emerged. It is, in fact, precisely what complexity science calls an 'emergent property' of this universal self-activity, an astonishing example of how, as Engels put it, 'quantity changes into quality'.

Liberal intellectuals have built an entire industry on the politically-correct criticism of the sort of comparative research which produced these pictures. According to them, there is something inherently immoral in studying/depicting humans and plants in similar ways. Hurricanes of hot air on The Colonial Gaze, the violence of representation, the power-relations of knowledge-production, the perils of Grand Narratives, and other such gibberish, have blown generations of bewildered students from pillar to post-post-modernism without adding a single useful contribution to the universal struggle for a world without bosses. This is hardly surprising, since the producers of this vacuous verbiage are invariably bosses themselves, heading the illustrious editorial boards, university departments, and cultural institutes of a delirious epoch which has no use for any sort of sense and no enthusiasm for the slightest degree of intelligence. Their underlings, of course, simply parrot the party-line and covet the puerile privileges which domesticated beasts boast about to the ghosts of their wild ancestors.

The pretense that the research techniques of the old colonial establishment are all fundamentally reactionary has numerous benefits. Firstly, as noted above, it opens the field to hordes of enlightened intellectuals who can then build their careers on the critical deconstruction of the old-school. Secondly, as noted above, their professional false-criticism allows them to abandon the task of 'the ruthless critique of all that exists', for which honourable taxpayers and generous donors will not foot the bill. The intellectual is the house-nigger of the spectacle. She knows very well that the cold of the dog-house and the dirt of the plantation awaits pets who bite the hand that feeds them. She acts accordingly. Finally, the self-righteous denunciation of the old establishment allows the mandarins of the new establishment mask the fundamentally reactionary nature of their own roles. It is the method of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution deployed with the limited resources available to the professional thinker. 

Needless to say, I don't think the thousand and one plateaus of fashionable dissimulation warrant much further investigation. I don't think comparing a person to a plant is an insult. Neither has any other poet. A tool is a tool is a tool. As long as we remain aware of its limitations, which most are capable of grasping without the sententious sermons of educated bureaucrats, the application of the methods of botany to the study of anthropology can provide us with fruitful insights. It is useful therefore to consider the intentions and results of those who have attempted such an inter-disciplinary application, rather than blabber eternally about the patently obvious in language designed to be vapidly obtuse.

In fact, those who today continue to make such comparisons in the realm of biology are producing a rich body of material with which we can grasp in a far more precise way than ever before what it means to be human and how our specifically human being emerges from processes common to all living things. 

Thus the original format of her first book, Tribal Peoples of Southern Africa, from which all the images presented here derive, is preserved intact despite the possible displeasure of the politically correct. It is interesting to note that in Southern Africa a 'tribe' was a political not a racial unit. Its boundaries were geographic, not ethnic. There was always mobility of individuals and groups in search of greener pastures, or better leaders. Racism, xenophobia and tribalism are more products of progress than of tradition. 

The Meaning of Universal History

Reality does not become in time and space, but time and space are aspects of its becoming. Becoming is change. If a thing is changed, it manifests an unlike, a hitherto non-present quality. If change is real, and by our premises it is primary, such a quality does not come into existence either by the gradual decrement of a known quality to nothing, or the gradual increment of a very faint quality to something. Before, it was not, not in any way. Now it is, in every way. There has therefore been a ‘jump’. To deny this is to deny the reality of change, and to suggest that the quality was already there, but so faintly we did not ‘notice it’. But nothing new would then have come into being. There would therefore have been no change, and reality is, by our definition, change.

Although such a quality is new, it is not arbitrary, i.e. absolutely self-determined. By definition, the Universe is one. A quality that is self-determined is, as we saw, unknowable. Therefore each new quality, as it leaps into existence, is determined by all qualities up till then present in the universe.

These qualities do not come into being in time. Time does not flow on while they emerge. The emergence of such qualities is what time is. Time then is an aspect of, or abstraction from, change. Time is new quality as it emerges.

-- Reality, Christopher Caudwell

In the brief 2 million year period in which we have inhabited this planet, human beings have managed, in an enormous diversity of lifeways spread throughout every ecology from the desert to the arctic, to produce a common life together out of the material wealth of the physical world. 

The daily activity of individuals and groups, from which the subsistence of the species evolved, was organised in many ways. Some were egalitarian, others authoritarian; some were technically sophisticated, employing a complex division of labour, others used what they found in an almost raw state; some flourished in the ‘original affluence’ described by Marshall Sahlins, others collapsed in the catastrophic suicide depicted by Jared Diamond. However human labour -- that sensuous intercourse so uniquely a characteristic of our species through which the narrowly technical and the broadly cultural, the physical and the social, the personal and the convivial, the productive and the playful were all integrated in a unified space-time -- may have been organised, it was always done with personal relations at its center; the presence or absence of mere things - tools, techniques, resources: capital - was entirely secondary. Those who built the Egyptian pyramids were never forced into idleness because of a lack of foreign investment. Co-operation directed towards a determined goal, even when coerced, as with the slaves of Egypt, was the engine of action; the objective material which fuelled the engine was not particularly important, differing dramatically from one situation to the next. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” 

Today the simplest everyday activity, let alone organised co-operation towards a determined goal, appears to be entirely determined by the presence or absence of mere things. Those without money - pieces of metal or paper - find nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep, no way to live. But there is one very common activity that requires no capital: rebellion. Movements of revolt across time and space show how the organised co-operation of many towards a determined goal is possible without the possession of objects. For the most part, such movements have largely been negative: they have had to do with protest and resistance against the ravages of a miserable world. When moves towards something positive are made, they almost always involve the accumulation of capital: acquiring buildings, equipment, materials, and so on for the provision of propaganda (including ‘alternative media’) or social-services. Legal-resource centres, info-shops, labour advice bureaus, squats, childcare programmes, guerilla gardens, communications media, and so on, are all valuable in their place, but all are firmly chained to the capitalist determinations of property and its (at times illegal) possession. Even when property is not necessarily an issue, as with the Food Not Bombs, the activity stays stuck within that realm defined by separation between service-provider and passive consumer, organiser and organised: the established social-relations of business, charity, and state welfare. The fact that its ideology proclaims ‘Solidarity not Charity’ does not change the fact that the actual practice is -- besides the distribution of literature, although the chapter in which I participated never bothered to hand out anything out to or, indeed, interact with, the homeless we were serving -- identical to that of a charitable soup kitchen. In this regard, the individual practice of dumpster-diving represents and advance: people are at least appropriating things for themselves. When involved with the local Marikana occupation I tried to initiate a further development in this direction by setting up a Food Not Bombs chapter at the shack settlement in which the homeless themselves would organise their own food. It never got anywhere. Maybe my comrades were too accustomed to receiving handouts from charities and activists, too harried daily by the forces of law and order, too poorly propositioned by myself, too embarrassed to engage in an activity commonly associated with the dregs of society; probably there was some combination of all the above. In general, anyway, one encounters very few promising attempts at anything new.

History is made by those who participate creatively in the march of events. As Christopher Caudwell notes, the ongoing interventions which constitute each of these events produce the flow of time. Meanwhile the world of work, war and poverty proliferates. Our collective non-intervention, our failure to determine the conditions of our own lives is both the cause and the result. The rule of the old world requires of its slaves an ahistorical existence. Nothing other than a change of appearances is allowed. Everything remains the same because the reality of change is denied. This reality is successfully denied precisely because it can only be grasped in practice. This is not permitted. The hypothetical formulations of commonsense, academic theory & election promises, the changes of fashions, jobs, lovers and countries: all these substitute for that active intervention whose rare eruption of absolute novelty into social existence proves itself consistently inconvenient to the enforcers of law and order. 

The uses of universal history for those who are concerned with leaving the nightmare of the established order behind lies in its affirmation of the reality of change, and its demonstration of the significance for such an escape of particular, apparently unrelated aspects of the present order. The tactical importance of surprise for forces prepared to take the initiative has hitherto been poorly, haphazardly, and unconsciously grasped by proletarians in struggle. Such demonstrations as might be revealed by universal history, if put to astute use, could contribute significantly towards successful strategic action for those intent of imposing a revolutionary resolution to the social war. Around the time of the French revolution the philosopher Immanuel Kant famously distinguished between 'scholastic' and 'universal' philosophy, the latter of which was responsible for "the knowledge of the ultimate aims of human reason". The field of this universally significant philosophy he divided into the following questions. “1. What can I know? 2. What ought I to do? 3. What may I hope? 4. What is man? Fundamentally all this could be reckoned as anthropology, since the first three questions are related to the last.”

Today all philosophy, so long as it remains within archaic boundaries that separate it not only from the vital concerns of our time but from any aim whatsoever other than its own decrepit self-perpetuation, lies buried alongside history, art, science & god in the mass-grave to which the irrational rule of Capital has condemned its own spiritual and intellectual forces. Nevertheless the four formulations above, in the forms of 1. Consciousness, 2. Praxis 3. Desire, and 4. Species-being, remain fundamental questions with which any future revolutionary movement will have to grapple. The central assumption of this gymnasiusm is that a concrete investigation into the relationship between universal history and self-consciousness can provide a powerful tool to reveal how 'the first three questions are related to the last' and what the practical implications of such relations may be. 

The aim is literally radical: to grasp at the root. Although it is true that 'the root of man is man', it is also true that for the human being the universe as a whole is the object: nature as 'the inorganic body of man'. Thus the urge for the all-embracing, a tendency expressed ideologically through religion and rationalism. Criticism of such universal ideologies remains precondition for all criticism since the secret of both the divine and the cult of universal reason was revealed in the philosophical anthropology of Germany (Kan, Hegel, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Marx, Engels, Buber) as a simple observtion: the object of a being  is that being itself in objective form. 

The universe itself produces (and is itself produced by) the continuous emergence of new quality. The study of new quality as it emerges is conventionally known as history (hence the geological, meteorological, hydrological, botanical, ecological and zoological sicences were until recently subsumed under the category 'natural history', itself previously known as 'natural philosophy').

Universal history is thus the object through which  the universal nature of human beings can best be grasped. This task can only begin when the majority of humans begin to act consciously against the universal aparthood which works to deny the reality of both change and interrelation. (Thus the remark in The German Ideology that communism is the 'world-historical' product of proletarian self-activity.)

In the meantime, both the negative struggle against alienated labour and the richly diverse human degradation produced therefrom conducted at present by isolated minorities, as well as the positive project for a material human community implicitly contained in these struggles (and explicitly striven for far more rarely) might find a fair deal of useful ammunition in the empirical affirmation of universality in its twofold aspect of change and of interrelation.

To demonstrate through example some practical uses to which universal history might be put is the sole task set by the gymnasium as its necessarily limited contribution towards a world without bosses. Against the moralists who berate from their intellectual high-horses the sort of analogic investigation that Tyrrell made her life's project, it is necessary that any future movement for social change reinvent a practice which 'joyfully and consciously recognises the truth of sensuousness'.

The reproductions of khoisan/bushman rock-paintings on this site were all made by George William Stow, a South African geologist, ethnologist, poet, historian, artist, cartographer and writer of the 19th century. He discovered them during his geological work and used his considerable artistic talents to preserve them for posterity. The other images displayed here are white folks' representations of black South Africans. These here paintings provide some of the few existing examples where colonial-era black South Africans represent themselves and others. The explanation provided for this one is: "‘Kafirs surprising Bushmen by adopting their tactics, viz., disguising themselves with buck-heads and hiding among rocks and long grass until the game they are after approaches near enough to be taken at advantage….’ The difference between the feet of the two races is emphasized here. The Bushman’s foot is small and slender, the Kafir’s almost three-cornered with broad toe and protruding heel. Of course the pictures of the enemy are caricatures."

Something New

"Consciousness of human practice is itself a type of human production, in which masses of people participate in various ways and with varying degrees of consciousness. Expressed theory is only a moment in this process, a refined product of practical struggles, consciousness momentarily crystalized in a form on the way to becoming broken down again into raw material for other struggles."

-- Double Reflection,  Kenn Knabb

The point is to come together and discover oneself through an exploration of one's surroundings: first of all oneself, a person whose existence is defined in relation to other persons. Naturally the others and our mutually-determining relations becomes the next focus. All such relations in their turn can only be understood through reference to the built & natural environment in which all are cradled. "But finally, all of these problems must be discussed at length in the following years. And the expression of all of their perspectives and investigations is quite necessary..." I don't know of anywhere that people are really doing this as rigorously and playfully as our comrades from the past have shown possible, but that is the only direction I am interested in moving towards.

On 27 June 2014 I organised, together with some friends and associates, the launch party of what we wanted to become a mutual-aid association in which those engaged in their own subversive activity could put themselves at one another's disposal. The intention was to allow projects initiated by an individual to flourish through access to the collective abilities of all. More on this initiative will be made available elsewhere on the website shortly.

Besides putting ourselves at one another’s disposal - essential for all self-organisation, an important element relevant to the subject at hand is the intrinsic pleasure of the activity. Considering their forms, many of which mirror those of ordinary charities, the existing positive actions of radical activists seem to arise from motivations that tend towards the altruistic. It is true that helping others is often satisfying in itself, and often the service provided is itself pleasurable. As such, it is important to recognise how “the voluntarist spirit has a part to play in the end of work.” But it is also important to recognise how the voluntarist spirit also has a part to play in the religious, sacrificial, other-directed role of the militant activist. It is recognition of the other-directed aspect of this attitude that clarifies the relation between an apparently ‘noble’ self-denial and a potentially tyrannical tendency to represent and ‘organise’ others. All too often this potential is realised even among avowed libertarians moment they are put in a position to exercise it, as when anarchists were willingly drafted into the role of radical supervisors to control ordinary workers during the Russian and Spanish revolutions. “Service to causes... causes servitude.”

Furthermore, non-militants often have no interest in benevolent activism, and if positive revolt is to be inclusive of such people, it is necessary for self-interested, inherently satisfying practices to be far more fully developed. Also, it’s far easier for domination to occur in charitable activism, where only the zealous muster much enthusiasm and naturally fall into leadership positions, whereas playful, pleasurable action, being open inviting to the equal participation of all, hinders the dominance of specialists. 

The replacement of work and money (political-economy) by productive play (unalienated labour) and universal intercourse/dialogue (anarchy/communism) has always been the immediate goal of modern revolution. Revolution is negative before it is positive: the passion for destruction is at the same time profoundly creative. Pure sensuous pleasure is a byproduct of productive play, because the main aim is more serious (hunting, the study of plants and animals, and so on are done for the purpose of food). In order to destroy wage-slavery, however, the pursuit of pleasure can also be a conscious aim, a means to institute the reign of productive play. The conscious focus on immediate experience (the joy of a body alive in the middle of other bodies, the delight of a person in the communion with other persons, the wonder of a spirit rapt in sensuous intercourse with the flesh of the cosmos), on everyday life, can serve as a great aid to negative thinking, a good corrective to the lie that mangles men and women, and a means to sweep away the cobwebs of leftist activism, puritain comradism, accomodation to routine boredom, submission to the tyranny of mediocrity, and other counter-revolutionary dead-weight which blinker human beings to the significance of their own everyday lives. The quest for the liberation of the human spirit leads directly to the rediscovery of the body. This is the sense, in which Feurbach's poetry begins to speak in Levi-Strauss' language of the concrete. 'Consciousness become flesh and blood, the resolute consciousness that the human is the divine and the finite the infinite, is the source of a new poetry and art which will surpass all its predecessors in energy, depth, and fire. The belief in an other world is an absolutely unpoetic belief.' This is the meaning of poetry made by all, not merely by a few: the best way to put revolution in the service of such poetry is to put such poetry in the service of revolution.  

To conclude on a suitably apocalyptic tone let me quote a versified memory of childhood which I called, for reasons that should be obvious, Song of Advent. It was written shortly after encountering one of Marianne Moore's wonderful animal poems - an essential poetic subject on which she is equaled only by DH Lawrence of all her generation.

Awash on the beach,
adrift on the shore,
stuck on the sand for
as long as it stays 
beyond the tide’s reach – 

a watermark; dry foam; froth of jellyfish.
Manifest in individual lumps
of transparent meat;
the sea vomited
shards of cloudy glass – 

not much nourishment to hungry birds.
Host, wafer, blood 
of Neptune
don’t circulate 
in living veins,

but, discovered when 
beach-combed by children,
wobbling in their hands,
cold, coated with sand;
refracted an unqualified joy unknown

to martyred saviours or squawking beasts –
blasting out
the split of rainbow-light
from a unified, white-
hot beam of blazing Sun.

Description in published source: "A cattle raid. Three Bushmen driving off the herd, the others acting as rear-guard to fight the Zulus who are rushing up to recapture their possessions. The two races are distinctly characterized by their size, feet, shape of heads, and equipment. Here for once we see an attempt to reproduce the real colours of the objects depicted. The yellow is rather out of place, otherwise the markings of the cattle may be seen in native herds to-day. This is clearly a recent painting, probably dating from the Zulu invasion of about 1821, yet is one of the best group paintings, a sign that the artists belonged to no decadent race. Dimensions: 26 1/2 x 36 inches." 

Something Old

The old leftist movements concerned themselves with development of the productive forces, whose disastrous consequences we all continue to suffer every day. If their modern incarnations are able to acknowledge the limitations of such an approach, they have managed mostly to do little more than shift the focus to reproductive forces - culture, consumption, and ‘community’. In affirming the importance of the reproductive sphere, without at the same time advancing a radical critique of this realm, they have in truth gone no further than their predecessors, and typically end up affirming the perspective of the deadly enemy. 

The utopian aspect of these movements derive to a large extent from their pretence of embodying a new kind of social relation when in fact they prefigure no more than the domination of new territory by the commodity. To stop a massive wave of mutiny, insubordination and insurrection that was developing within the U.S. Army during the Vietnam war, the state launched a new ‘cultural front’. Its officers were made to grow sideburns, teach classes on current pop music, produce countercultural zines, and open up Patriot Clubs which served cheap alcohol, coffee and heroin. The war ended with a significant decline in mutiny and sabotage; resistance in the army was redomesticated through the recuperation of alternative culture. 

Capitalism is constantly generating its own enemies; it is just as constantly neutralising them. Considered in historical perspective (which is, admittedly, the perspective of the still victorious bourgeoisie), the most significant effect of counter-cultural movements is the rejuvenation of the ruling society, which must constantly incorporate oppositional currents into its apparatus of domination and control in order to survive: “Power creates nothing; it coopts”. Fragmentary oppositions -- whose ideologies may totally reject capitalist society but whose ordinary practices fail to confront the constant reconstitution of one or another variant of that society within themselves -- are like the teeth on cogwheels: they each mesh with one another and make the machine go round.

The old ‘organised left’, with its stalinist-capitalist welfare state, heralded nothing more than the nationalisation of private misery, which it eagerly furnished with bleak decor but nowhere abolished. The diverse movement of today, with its proliferation of ‘progressive’ specialisations -- radical/alternative education, culture, and therapy -- can be said to prefigure the privatisation of public misery, which it ponderously decorates with glittering colours but never seriously attacks. 

This is not to deny, with “the enormous condescension of posterity”, the presence of any ebullient revolutionary potential in these historical tendencies. The point is to discover why such radical elements are always isolated, contained, smothered and burnt-out. If the study of history reveals anything, it’s that, more importantly than anything the external enemy did, their failure was primarily due to the fact that they were unwilling and unable to consciously confront contradiction in their own ranks (which is unavoidable) at every turn. “Always the enemy is the foe at home”. As a contribution towards this collective work of self-discovery, Gianfranco Sanguinetti, in the preface to his “Censor” scandal, detonated at the height of a wave of proletarian insurgency that rocked the foundations of power in his country, had this to say: “Today, from the point of view of the defense of our society, there only exists a single danger in the world, and it is that the workers succeed in speaking to each other about their conditions and aspirations without any intermediaries.”

When this necessary activity, which always involves personal risk and an openness to the continuous transformation of oneself, is substituted with safe discussion within the bounds of an ideological community (maybe the most successful intermediary of them all), the danger dissipates. The fact that this ideological collectivity poses as a prefiguration of the new world (which is the case with all of them, from anarchism to christianity) changes nothing. 

We need not pretend to be building the new world, our task is merely to destroy the obstacles to its development. But the passion for destruction is a creative passion, too, and the infrastructure of social liquidation does not yet exist.  It is necessary to develop the destructive forces. The means of expropriation must be expanded. Weapons for the demolition of alienation are also tools for conviviality. The profoundly stifling influence of the world we live in, to which we react according to our instincts rather than according to our aspirations, can best be counteracted through the conscious cultivation of subversive attitudes acquired through the constant repetition of subversive gestures. 

In relation to those we know, this involves first of all a necessary, though often painful, confrontation of contradiction. A reluctance to carry out this task results in otherwise intelligent people defending the indefensible, as was recently the case when the libertarian-communist community of the UK rose to the defence of one of its members, John Drury, a ‘revolutionary’ professor who used the access granted to him as a supposedly radical activist to assist the police in developing progressive crowd-control techniques. 

In relation to those we don’t know, we can always usefully approach individuals and groups as potential allies in struggle against our common oppression, educating ourselves about their experience and activities with an disinterested eye directed at past accomplishment, future potential and present limitations, communicating our discoveries, enthusiasms and criticisms forthrightly, without fear of possible consequences, and encouraging them as comrades to do the same for ourselves and those around them.

In any case, the reconstitution of a genuine human community has to do with sensuous intercourse among individuals rather than capital-formation among collectivities and their members, buildings and equipment. It involves practical struggle, the root of which is ‘the ruthless critique of everything that exists’ -- including oneself and immediate associates -- rather than ideological prattle by ‘radical’ specialists whose spectators fancy that a lifetime of passive consumption, when progressive enough, can be something other than submission to the same hierarchical relations that maintain this miserable society as a whole. Often this expresses itself in literally hierarchical terms of ‘low’ vs ‘high’ culture, where an elite minority, patrons of ‘serious’ art (in terms of music they might be consumers of classical polyphony, underground hip-hop, free jazz or punk rock) scorn the philistine majority whose entertainment, which they derogatively call commercial (choosing to ignore the extent to which commerce dominates the culture industry as a whole, including whatever branches happen to be blessed by their personal patronage), makes no pretensions of sophistication. Notwithstanding the delusions of such people, who mistake pompous radical advertising for actual revolutionary activity, their pet diversions are in fact no less a trivial distraction from a dismal daily existence than soccer or soap operas are for the unwashed masses. If the majority of proletarians choose to take their alienation neat, they still harbour, if only grudgingly, an unfortunate respect for Serious Art, since their intellectual betters all tell them they should -- a particularly despicable example of the hierarchical deference and passive submission demanded and enforced by art and culture. Moreover, this ideological separation of proletarians, like the analogous division into competing nation-states, political parties, religions, races, sub-cultures and trade-unions, merely forms part of the reigning spectacle’s apparatus of isolation and control. “Art only is art, and recognisable as such, in so far as it plays a social function. What is of importance to art and society is the question: What social function is art playing? This in turn depends on the type of society in which it is secreted.” In the society of the spectacle, culture functions as the commodity that sells all others. The technical manipulation of the image, slowly mastered by artists over the course of centuries, sees its apotheosis in the airbrushed models and graphic acrobatics of advertisements and the scalpel of the cosmetic surgeon. Art is a relation between persons, mediated by objects, but if today it appears as a relation between objects, mediated by persons (where artworks are hierarchically related to one another on a scale of value measured by money -- ‘masterpieces’ & ‘greatest hits’ at the top and their less successful competitors at the bottom -- a movement external to, and above the control of, mere human beings who, in their roles as spectators, dealers, critics, and artists, can only obediently administer its functions) this topsy-turvy state of affairs can be seen as a natural secretion of this society, whose modus operandi is always “to change representation into reality and reality into mere representation”. 

The radical critique of modern production forms an inseparable unity with the practical critique of modern reproduction - of culture, including all its leftist varieties. Far from an indulgent exercise for citizens of rich countries, it is as vital for ‘developing’ nations as a revolutionary critique of modern economic development. All those sensitive souls who loudly declaim the need to burn down the factories and prisons would do well to recognise, as the poet Antonin Artaud did during his travels through Mexico, how “Today when one speaks of culture, governments think of opening schools, starting the printing presses for books, making the ink flow in the printers, while to make culture ripe, one should close the schools, burn the museums, destroy the books, stop the spinning of the presses.”

Such a perspective, if it is not to be mistaken as yet another expression of trivial nihilism in which the art industry so happily traffics, can only be understood dialectically, in terms of the realisation and suppression of culture. It is significant that what Artaud went to do in Mexico was an early foray in what has subsequently been called 'the critique of civilisation'. Unfortunately, his modern followers fancy that our catastrophic civilisation can be abolished by wishing it away rather than through a double move of affirmation and negation. One of the last real poets produced by the now thoroughly-rotten corpse of modern art, Artaud – for whom poetry meant that one cannot realise oneself in a “work,” but rather realises oneself, period: “No more masterpieces” – could confront the contradictions contained in common words with commendable clarity. If he sounds like a cultural Luddite, it is obvious that his fiery funeral dirge contains within it a cry of birth. He wants “to make culture ripe”, which means abolishing everything that makes culture rot. 

What is meant by culture in the positive sense of 'something we want to realize', and civilisation in the negative sense of 'something want to abolish', is succinctly summarised in an aphorism of Karl Kraus: 'Culture is the tacit agreement to let the means of subsistence disappear behind the purpose of existence. Civilization is the subordination of the latter to the former.' It's clear, however, that at our stage of civilisation the subordination of 'the purpose of existence' to 'the means of subsistence' is so total, and so totalitarian, that there can be no talk of culture whatsoever ('capitalism: a society without culture') and that whatever currently passes for culture can only be one of the means by which civilisation asserts its dominance. When the meaning of life has been placed in abject submission to the means of production, it is only accurate to define culture as 'the commodity that sells all the others'. One aspect of dialectical thinking is an understanding of how words, and the ideas they represent, change – sometimes all the way into their opposites. Thus far we stay within a realm in which the critics of civilisation remain comfortable – some have taken the critique of culture & civilisation so far as to attack the basis of logic and even language – but advancing towards an opposite movement, it's time to step out of bounds into an inseperable affirmation: the realisation of civilisation. If it is possible for culture, over the course of its historical development, to turn into its opposite, it begs the question: can the same be done for civilisation? Can civilisation be bewildered a  subordination of work to life, necessary production to free creation? And if not, what hope do we have of ever getting out of this mess? It's not too difficult to figure out the answer. If culture could previously make work 'dissapear' behind a community of mutual-pleasure, there is nothing stopping a future association of revolutionary subjects turning the 'objective' definition of civilisation on its head, and by so doing set an upside-down world back on its feet. 

From a practical standpoint, what I am concerned to emphasise here is: 

1) It is both possible and necessary to re-centre subversive efforts around a basis of practical, sensuous intercourse amongst an expansive community of dialogue and action


2) The obstacles posed to such a reconstitution by the current uncritical, unimaginative, and unharmful reproduction of literature, agit-prop art, and social-services on the one-hand, and petitions, marches and (pseudo-)insurrectionary attacks on the other. While I don't intend to denounce any of these things in the abstract (this pamphlet is after all also an article of literature!) my point is that, as the song goes, “there are other worlds they have not told you of”, and in a society that crushes us under the contradictory vice-grip of violent slavery and voluntary servitude, where the gears of oppression are kept turning as much by the force of habit as by the force of law, sticking to the tried and tested (and failed) forms of action and association is hardly the smartest subversive strategy. 

Only once they abandon their submission to the noise of the spectacle -- the endless hymn in praise of the commodity -- can the strangled voices of billions, the daily struggles against misery, loneliness and humiliation, find one another and in the uncertain embrace of mutual recognition, begin to stutter together, to stumble for and by themselves -- and maybe, eventually, in the heat of impassioned rebellion, to dance.

For those who dare to risk the gamble, the challenge is to define a field of play in which the above-outlined aspects of revolt, currently so woefully underdeveloped worldwide, can be experimentally investigated, and to develop forms of action and association appropriate to the terrain. In brief, it is a call to embark once more on the quest for the conscious, practical reinvention of revolution demanded of each new generation. 

It might appear absurd to propose so ambitious a project in the commentary to a few ancient documentary images, just as the immodest proposal of world revolution might seem an absurd thing to pose to a few billion quite unremarkable souls. Viewed arse-end first, the growth of a tree from a seed, or a nation from a family, or a universe from a singularity, can seem equally giddy prospects. To propose otherwise, however, would be even more absurd. It has been noted of Bakunin that “to a large extent, his influence was the result of his enormous epistolary activity.” If one person’s correspondence could so greatly influence a world-wide revolutionary movement, what might unfold from the subversive intercourse of multitudes?

The Heart of the Matter

Our epoch involves an interpenetration between human and non-human nature not merely unrivaled in intensity and extent but literally unimaginable to every preceding era. At the same time, more persons are more alienated from this same non-human world than ever before. As is the case between man and man, man and nature are united, but separate. There can be no adequate grasp of personal history without some perspective grounded in universal history. My intention is to conduct an investigation of nature as a mutually determining subject in intimate, yet separate, relation to myself. The purpose is to define the details and determine the implications of this separation for my own subjectivity. If 'by economic production we mean an active interpenetration of organism with nature' (Christopher Caudwell, The Breath of Discontent), we seem to have paid very little attention to the particulars - both possibilities as well as problems - posed to sensuous sentience by the peculiar ensemble of circumstances in which we find ourselves.

The revolutionary critique of religion and of political-economy will remain as poor as they are as long as they remain separate from each other, and from the critique of science, which is just as underdeveloped as the previous two in the domain that counts: the realm of the concrete. In short, we need to develop not merely a unitary critique, which to an extent has already been advanced in its preliminary stages, but a sensible one. As long as criticism remains intellectual it will touch very few, and of those still less will be able to make any consequential use of it to address the most basic needs in their daily lives. It's not enough to offer 'the knowledge of what the uneducated really wanted', even if it seems 'our ideas are in everybody's heads'. What is needed, which is a task beyond our capacities but one for which we can agitate and in a very modest way initiate, is a movement which can offer the possibility to satisfy what 'the uneducated' want, or more accurately in which they can begin to work out the means to satisfy their desires for themselves. What is it we want? What are we doing to get it? Is it working? If so how, and to what extent? If not why? What else have we tried? How have they worked out? What have we not yet done, or not yet done adequately? Why not? What are the conditions in which satisfaction can occur? What prevents the creation of such conditions? What steps can be taken immediately? The basic questions which should be at the centre of any attempt at social change remain everywhere unasked. The underlying unity in the persistence of pseudoscience, of religion and of political-economy can be rendered much more transparent through a number of practical measures. For example, the critique of modern medicine currently limited to academic researchers can be brought out into the open through 'clinics' which demystify the causes of health and illness, which have more to do with hierarchical relations and basic living conditions than anything else, through 'treatment' that addresses these actual causes in whatever way practical. The same can be done for child-rearing, education and housework (it is simple enough through basic chemistry & mechanics to understand why all commodities marketed for personal hygiene and cleaning are not merely unnecessary but harmful and to replace them with cheap easily manufactured products; one can do the same thing regarding the vast industry which has developed around babies -- from diapers and baby formula to toys, extra-curricular activities, schooling and so on, although the latter due to state involvement presents more complications). The scientific techniques used to satisfy bogus needs are necessarily bogus; hitherto, criticism of the one has rarely led to its logical conclusion in criticism of the other. Leftists attack the economy for excluding the poor from mostly bullshit 'services' like the pharmaceutical-health and educational industries which are an abomination in the first place; environmental, medical and educational critics attack the services without addressing 'the delusory, futile nature of all arrangements hitherto made in order to escape want, which used wealth to reproduce want on a larger scale'.

A selective appropriation of recent research into the secret life of plants promises to provide insights essential to that enriched understanding of subjectivity so necessary to the revolutionary project. It seems that the following perspective, for example, could be very useful: 'The advantage of methodical adaptation of communication and linguistic terminology is in having appropriate tools for differentiation at specific levels, which is otherwise difficult to describe non-reductively by pure physiology. This means that language-like systems and communication processes occur at the bottom of living nature. Language and communication are not inventions of humans, nor are they (as often claimed) anthropomorphous adaptations to describe the non-human living nature. It is becoming obvious that every coordination and organization within and between cells, tissues, organs, and organisms needs meaningful signs: chemical molecules that serve as signals, symbols and codes for conveying essential messages that serve as vital indicators of environmental (both abiotic and biotic) conditions. Because no code codes itself, as no language speaks itself, these signs need to be sensed and interpreted in a correct context by biological agents, i.e., there must be subjects/representatives of sign production and sign interpretation... biosemiotic rules do not function by themselves but need semiotic subjects, i.e., living organisms that use and understand such rules.' (Preface to Biocommunication of plants; Günther Witzany & F Baluéska; 2012)

This approach has been quite interestingly put into a personal perspective by Stephen Harrod Buhner's The lost language of plants, where the emphasis is on what all this has to do with you and me. It seems such a perspective -- stripped of Buhner's new-age mysticism and considerably deepened and widened -- might have all sorts of interesting implications for the subject that occupies me, which is, to use Debord's description, "the fundamental question of consciousness in history and what it does in it."

Increasingly insightful investigations into plant-neurobiology and other aspects of plant-intelligence appear equally relevant. As a recent review of the literature summarises:

 "Plants do behave in ways that are unquestioningly intelligent and thus force researchers to clarify their domain further in order to account for the behavior of plants... This work is highly relevant for research on adaptive behavior and embodied cognition more generally. For one thing, it furnishes researches with a whole new set of relevant phenomena that deserve attention. In addition, by departing from textbook examples of intelligence and adaptive behavior, its theoretical importance in helping disentangle essential characteristics of intelligence and behavior from merely parochial ones is manifested." (Plants: Adaptive behavior, root-brains, and minimal cognition; Paco Calvo Garzo and Fred Keijzer; 2011)

The latter sentence is key here. Since the historically specific characteristics of human consciousness, from communication to self-preservation, are elaborated from their most basic evolutionary manifestations, it is apparent that the method described by Keijzer and Garzo has to do with dialectics: human subjectivity does not take place at a 'higher level' from that of other organisms, rather our specific form of consciousness is an emergent property of the general subjectivity basic to all organisms.

"An investigation can be conducted according to two methods: by the transition from the concrete to the abstract, and conversely by movement from the abstract to the concrete. The former, the analytical method, consists in taking a complex concrete phenomenon as the starting point of the investigation, and selecting a single, or several of the most important, characteristics, disregarding the multiplicity of its features, and so making the transition from the more concrete to the more abstract concept, to the simpler, or thinner concept. By further analysis we move on from this concept to an even simpler one, until we have reached the most abstract concepts in the particular science or the particular complex of questions, which interest us.

But however necessary the use of the analytical method is in the first stage of scientific enquiry, it cannot satisfy us in itself, and it must be complemented by another method. Once we have traced the complex phenomenon back to its basic elements by means of analysis, we have to take the opposite direction and, starting from the most abstract concepts, show how these develop to lead us on to more concrete forms, more concrete concepts.

Marx calls this method ‘genetic’, at one point, because it enables us to follow the genesis and development of complex forms. Elsewhere he terms it the dialectical. I hope we can also agree to describe the first method as the analytical, and the second (which includes both the analytical and the synthetic method) as dialectical.

Marx indicates that he considers the dialectical method to be the only one which solves scientific questions satisfactorily. Accordingly, we have to subject the problem which interests us to investigation not only by the analytical method, but by the dialectical as well." (Abstract Labour and Value in Marx’s System; Isaac Ilich Rubin; 1927)

The potential of this method for those who want to change life needs no emphasis. Because of its very nature; its application in botany proves as useful as its application in political-economy. When handled from a unified revolutionary perspective; the fundamental question of universal 'inter-subjectivity' is apprehended equally well in both cases.

On the other hand; the same process which forces subjectivity out of production forces it out of reproduction. The break-down of the nuclear family, which spreads from one community to the next, is one moment in this uneven process. Not even the mother-child relation is necessary for the reproduction of human capital, and in South Africa we see childcare falling to grandparents as a very common phenomenon. Is it still considered heresy to affirm "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny"? For me this is a good way of looking at it: two perspectives of human desire and a third composed of the interaction of both: a glance at the dance between the history of the subject and the subject of history. There is a lovely paragraph of Christopher Caudwell's essay on Love:

'Love is man’s name for the emotional element in social relations. If our definition of love is correct, it is true that love makes the world go round. But it would be rather truer to say that the society going round as it does, makes love what it is. This is one of those relations like that of knowing and being, which can only be understood in a dialectical manner. Thought guides action, yet it is action which gives birth to consciousness, and so the two separate, struggle, and return on each other, and therefore perpetually develop. Just as human life is being mingled with knowing, society is economic production mingled with love.'

The attempt to develop preliminary contributions towards a "materialist conception of history" very different that dominant among leftists today, one focused on the history of the individual person rather than the history of society in general, a conception which necessarily leads to a perspective on economic activity focused on reproduction rather than production; such an attempt is useful most of all as a way to ascertain through particular instances the general truth of critical theory. The point is that the 'system of needs' studied by bourgeois political-economists includes not only far more than these people (who happen to be overwhelmingly male) have made out; its very centre has been marginalised and its marginal activity placed at the centre of theoretical analysis. The arts of basket-weaving, iron-smelting and hunting  are all incidental (in one place/time they fish, in another they farm, etc) but nevertheless integral prerequisites (obviously one must eat somehow) the chief domestic art: the production of human beings.

When the production of human beings is placed at the center of research into the system of needs, a whole host of measures ignored by economists, but at the heart of that "house-hold management" from which the Greek root-word stems, is brought into light - together with a host of new needs themselves. If under capitalist domination these genuinely economic needs, expectations and desires are theoretically ignored or at best marginalised into the ghetto of 'psychological needs' (which are considered secondary and, in any case, generally impossible to fulfill) and practically suppressed; it is a necessary corollary to the dominance of false needs which are opposed to them: the need for work, obedience, role-playing, etc. 

Since the global demise of social movements whose practice was based on an understanding that “the emancipation of the working class must be the task of the working class itself”; the task of realizing the wants and needs of people has been relegated to the commodity economy and its specialist agents (whether they be leftists, fascists, liberal technocrats, etc). No significant rebellion - no significant social practice at all - begins from any theory. People are moved to act by objectionable conditions which they hope to change; the most likely changes are the most superficial ones and these are precisely those that are at first aimed for. If in the course of struggle more general, deeper change is attempted; it is also determined by the 'objective' contingencies of the moment - however much these objective conditions may themselves be determined by 'subjective' factors.

Somehow, in the course of struggle, the 'subjective' factor must overtake the 'objective' one as the force determining the shape of social change: through a revolutionary reversal of perspective, subjectivity must consciously overthrow its own colonisation by the unconscious forces of objectification.

On the Persistence of Prehistory 

The following are extracts from the poetry booklet Offer My Death (2009), the juvenilia of Siddiq Khan.


It’s been claimed that some Portuguese guy who used Table Mountain as the setting for a Greek myth when he wrote a poem in the 1500’s is our country’s first poet. The songs of the /Xam, as poems, are better in every way that matters than anything Camoes wrote – and they’ve lived in this land for at least 3000 years. This is of course unfair. They are quite simply better than anything that today we would call poems, since the solution from which they precipitate is of an incomparably more propitious kind. ‘…art only is art,’ said Christopher Caudwell, ‘and recognisable as such, in so far as it plays a social function. What is of importance to art…and society is the question: What social function is art playing? This in turn depends on the type of society in which it is secreted.’

Art is not artefact; it is light. Mirrors focus light, as in telescopes; the mirrors in certain solar power stations focus light to a point powerful enough for its beam to sublimate the thickest arctic permafrost with little trouble. Art, in a collectivity such as the one we live in, is light refracted through the artist and diffused into the void. In a community, the light – once it has entered and passed through the medium of the artist – is reflected by every member and so focuses to a fine point, the intensity of which far surpasses anything a lone artist could ever hope. This moment acts as a focal point of sharply defined value around which all life is directed; the order of the stars and the turning of the seasons, the shifting of the winds and hours and the cycles of life and death are all reflected in this moment of significance, whose light everyone bathes in and together realises.

‘…art is not in any case a relation to a thing,’ wrote Caudwell in D.H. Lawrence -- the same essay quoted above -- ‘it is a relation between men, between artist and audience, and the art work is only a machine which they must both grasp as part of the process.’ The problem arises when, as in our lives today, all life has atrophied into a network of property-relations: it’s not possible to have real relations between real persons when those relations are dominated by the cash nexus since ‘Money is the external, universal means and power… to change representation into reality and reality into mere representation.’ So art becomes one more representation of a real-live relationship in an existence dominated by such lifeless spectacles.

The above descriptions of how ‘pre-art’ worked may appear wistful romanticising of an exotic past but I assure you I’m no Rousseau, and sentimental fantasies about noble savages dancing round a fire don’t get my blood pumping. ‘The traditional cultures are in any case doomed,’ – one among many sane points made by Gary Snyder in his essay Buddhist Anarchism – ‘and rather than cling to their good aspects hopelessly it should be remembered that whatever is or ever was in any other culture can be reconstructed… In fact, it is my own view that the coming revolution will close the circle and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our archaic past.’ 

During the birth pains of 'the revolution of modern art and the modern art of revolution' the best minds of their generation were distinguished by their refusal to conform to the old demand to write sonnets on daffodils or paint pretty pictures of naked goddesses. The unfolding of history has seen a growing awareness regarding the facts of life among the most sensitive creators of society – the artists. Long ago it came to dominate, and in many cases consume, the consciousness of such individuals. Before someone claims that this is an ‘infantile’ disorder unique to déclassé Europeans: let me tell you what various workers, teachers, bureaucrats, peasants, bourgeois etc in German South-West Africa, whose people were the original inhabitants of Namibia, said in 1931 when asked to record something to posterity. 

‘I, a child of Namaland, am speaking to you today… I am still alive, even though there are struggles – these problems are beyond me, because I came into this world and all these problems were there. Thus far, I appreciate talking to you and I greet you.’

[Jakobus Vliermuis; Cylinder 33]

‘Ja, guten Tag, guten Tag! I have problems, but I greet you. I say good day but… please spare me. I have problems but I am grateful that I am still alive, even though I have problems. So tell them I say thank you, that’s all.’

[Hans Frederik; Cylinder 33]

‘I am very oppressed by the struggles of this world. I am wandering between the mountains and the earth; all my relatives have passed away, and the world’s struggles are oppressing me. The world’s struggles are oppressing me very much, and I am wandering on this earth.’

[Griet Fass; Cylinder 34]

‘I am very grateful for our meeting and I further wish that it was as good with me as it is with you. We are really suffering; this is all I can talk about. So may it be well with me as it is with you, because I am really suffering. This is all I should say and should end here.’ 

[Frederika Fraugott; Cylinder 34] 

‘I have no husband and I am dying of hunger by myself. I have no child and no husband. That is how it is with me.’ 

[Margarita Swartbooi; Cylinder 34]

‘We can only voice the same words – those of our difficulties. Some of us are dealing with difficult activities, that of: children, schools and suchlike difficulties, and are busy solving them with the help of God. Here we stand as three teachers. We are managing school work and training with the kids. But if we have to speak of circumstances of the world, since these are significant – and difficult, therefore we can talk about these difficulties very much – we must speak in whole truths.’

[Daniel Goliath; Cylinder 42]

‘I am not content with anything: what will I do with all these things? That is one point… We Namas are speaking – and about what? I probably do not have a good life, but I am alive in this world. Because of that, this is all I have to say. All these things are like that; I do not know what it is, but I am standing here on this suitcase. How are they going to treat us I do not know… I am being oppressed by all bad things; that is how it is with me.’

[Hendrik Ludwig; Cylinder 33]

‘I am a very sick person today and I don’t know how far my life will go. In my own judgement it is not there. That is why I have a very empty life. I know that other lives are also with misfortunes but I am alive, by the mercy of God, and therefore I thank the fact that I am alive, by the mercy of God. This is my only speech; it is the only I can talk about. Apart from that I am without news.’ 

[Andreas Goliath]1

HIV is not confined to homosexuals.


1 All Nama quotations are from wax field recordings located in the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv, recorded by Hans Lichtenecker, transcribed by Levi Namaseb, and translated by Memory Biwa.

Anthem for the old nations

‘The dominance of the Dutch-speaking Bastards in the area is left in no doubt.'

– Anthony Traill; The rush of the storm: the linguistic death of /Xam

Part One.

Now, Muses, let us begin to sing of younger men …

Not only then, in that gap between
vanishing from sight like slow-ringing vision 
right behind the camera-flash.
Not only when, swollen

in one damp gash or another
of granite folds eroded by millennia.
Slowly, bouncing off a lonely koppie at any
moment, lapping at a wharf, whistling over a freeway 

faint, buried by the static of successive generations:
a thing that falters through the wind then sinks.

Only love is ours.
Only love is
ours. Only
love is ours.

You’ll hear it. A buffeted stone
blown to bits, that slowly showers home. 

Part Two.

And the rain did thus, the rain seemed to shine into our eyes, and the rain, as we were thinking, that the rain was going to lighten, and it seemed as if the rain closed our eyes, when the light was in our eyes. We stared shutting our eyes, while we felt that, it was as if it were darkness which kept our eyes closed. And the rain while we had not yet opened our eyes, the rain gave us things which our eyes were as if they were green, on account of them; and the rain lightened… while our eyes were as if they were green and the rain lightening went over us; and the rain… a stone which stood outside in front of our home, the rain lightening struck it, and my mother exclaimed; my father questioned my mother, as to what was the matter with her. Had the rush of the lightening reached her, that she exclaimed as if in pain? And my mother said to my father about it, that, the thing seemed as if the lightning were tearing off her skin.

– after the 19th Century /Xam of Dai!kwain’s The Thunderstorm 

Part Three.

How many times you walked up and down there,
that narrow barren strip down at the tip 
of the continent, nobody could say. 
The docks built block by block by jailed bushmen,
the fat, content, incontinent streets, shop
on shop, the flaccid pavements of which they
formed “the still centre of the turning sphere.”
You would never bother to count. Whether 
from indifference or fear of the answer
there was never a step could count for shit
except the next one, the one that would come
and finally fling you the hell out of here. 

That night you were on the prowl for people.
Careless of the empty stretches between
clubs you wandered to the watering-hole
of the east, and then to the west. Nothing. 
Cops patrolled the roads. Taxis prayed for prey.
There were no people. The petrol station
next to the gay-bar appeared to function –
there were lights, there was noise and transaction –
but in the movement of all these objects 
and their prices there was clearly no-one
there, where world whirred into word, waned
into blurred which whirled wayward into here. 

You stood and stared at the shopping-centre. 
This building built in 1848 –
     nothing but a face,
the hair of a hundred and fifty years
     towered above it.
Empty stress trussed-up, nothing but a farce
towered above it, a head traced
with whipped-up tresses beat hard by the force
of a sedentary, elementary herd.
Rock-façade, sedimentary air-head,
glass teeth bared in smile, snarl, gnarl or grimace.

Steel brain straining towards heaven – it spoke 
of still borne progress, of opulence stone broke.

Part Four.

'I lived in those times. For a thousand years I have been dead. Not fallen, but hunted…You who live, what have you made of your luck?'

– Robert Desnos; Epitaph

Reader, so many of us have gone before. 
So many more are still to come. Paper,
clay tablet, cave wall or liquid-crystal display:
there’s little difference between the stories they tell.

The rush of the storm
seems slower than the wind from a cannonball;
the bomb-blast blares louder than the call of thunder.

Our ears pick out some order 
in the attack each noise scrapes into the air
but fail to track the duration.

The trail grows cold. The orchestration
obscure. All that remains are “the immortal
hydrocarbons of flesh and stone:

‘Here, the impressions in this fossil
indicate the movement of one
person to another.'” Because I moved,
I came to know her. Because I knew, I loved.

I'm not Buddah or Baudelaire
but I’m just as good as they are
because I will be remembered
for nothing but my love of her.


a voice I am going to send.
Hear me!
All across the universe,
a voice I am going to send.
Hear me,
I will live.
I have said it.

– after the 20th Century Teton-Sioux of Red Bird‘s Opening prayer of the Sun Dance

Description in published source: "CATHCART DISTRICT This part of the country is mountainous and well watered. The Thorn River, the Waku, and the Lower Black Kei twist and turn through the hills, and their bends are caves washed out of the banks, not a few of which have paintings. It is a fertile country with high bushes and trees, partly with grass. Now most of the land is occupied by prosperous farms; when Stow visited the place in 1867 it was native territory inhabited by the Gaikas - with a few exceptions the former Bushman inhabitants had been destroyed. In the first half of the nineteenth century a Bushman called by the Dutch ‘Windvogel’ had lived in the neighbourhood with his people. The mountains close to Carthcart preserves his name. DESCRIPTION.- This is a picture gallery that has been used over and over again; it would take hours to enumerate all one can see and weeks to copy it. Stow’s six cartoons do not account for the third of the work. The paintings have faded and large pieces of rock have fallen, but much is left. The figures copied here are not all in one part of the cave. The python is in the centre; a flake of rock has fallen with part of the snake and the hippo calf. Traces of the yellow leaping buck are just decipherable with red figures superimposed on part of it; the python is superimposed on some of these. The red and white eland should be bigger, but the superpositions of this group are correct. Of the other figures I saw in different parts of the cave the two leopards, the tall man in brick red, the men in yellow and blue shooting, and the upper black hippo calf with the man, of whom only the head is left. There are many pictures of hippos in the cave. These great beasts lived in the black Kei till exterminated in the first half of the nineteenth century by the invading Tembus and Xosas, who also killed off the Bushmen. EXPLANATION.- Stow wrote, ‘There are no less than four series of paintings in this cartoon, one over the other. 1st, the leaping buck; 2nd, the python; 3rd, the rows of dots (these are the mystery of these paintings); 4th, the Eland. In the left corner disguised Bushmen shooting a Steinbok’. The man with the speckled kaross has the protruding heels of the kafirs. The little hunter carrying his bow over his shoulder has a buck skin over his back with the animal’s head pulled over his. The garments of the men at the top of the cartoon resemble those still worn by Bushmen of the Kalahari, namely a kaross, a leather bag carrying food and small implements, and leather bands. Dimensions: 25 x 38 inches."


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