Structure, Meaning and Ritual in the Narratives of the Southern San Roger Hewitt
Structure, Meaning and Ritual in the Narratives of the Southern San analyses texts drawn from the Bleek and Lloyd Archive - arguably one of the most important collections for the understanding of South African cultural heritage and in particular the traditions of the /Xam, South Africa's 'first people'. Initially appearing in a now rare 1986 edition and here re-issued for the first time, the doctoral thesis on which the book is based became the catalyst for much scholarly research.The book offers an analysis of the entire corpus of /Xam narratives found in the Bleek and Lloyd collection, focusing particularly on the cycle of narratives concerning the trickster /Kaggen (Mantis). These are examined on three levels from the 'deep structures' with resonances in other areas of /Xam culture and supernatural belief, through the recurring patterns of narrative composition apparent across the cycle, and finally touching on the observable differences in the performances by the various /Xam collaborators. The exposition of the connections between these levels is cogently argued and richly supported by detailed reference to the ethnographic record specific to the /Xam. The work also contains two supporting ethnographic appendixes relating to beliefs and practices concerning shamans and girls' puberty observances.Hewitt's text remains the only comprehensive and detailed study of /Xam narrative, and it has become itself the object of study by researchers and Ph.D candidates in South Africa, the UK, Canada and elsewhere. This new edition at last makes Hewitt's important work more widely available. It will be a welcome addition to the recently burgeoning literature on the place of the /Xam hunter-gatherers in the complex history of South African culture and society.