Title page for ETD etd-10212011-201508

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Mathibe, Mokgoshi Albert
URN etd-10212011-201508
Document Title Sengwalo ke seipone sa mabaka (Sepedi)
Degree DLitt
Department African Languages
Advisor Name Title
Prof P S Groenewald Co-Supervisor
Prof M J Mojalefa Supervisor
  • head wife
  • tribal cattle
  • conflict
  • aunt
  • irony
  • culture
  • maternal uncle
  • imagination
  • fairytale
  • experience
  • hoofvrou
  • stambeeste
  • twis/stryd
  • tante
  • kultuur
  • oom aan ma se kant
  • ironie
  • verbeelding
  • sprokie
  • ervaring
Date 2011-09-09
Availability unrestricted
The first stories written in Sepedi deal almost exclusively with the problem of urbanisation, and its ensuing atrocities. Then, halfway through the previous century, Matsepe distinguished himself by diverting from his predecessors’ subject matter completely. In the nine novellas that he authored, Matsepe writes about the traditional way of life, and only refers to white people twice, and the references are made to the Voortrekkers in both instances. The descriptions of the traditional way of life are so well-rounded and complete that the question arises of whether he focused his depictions to give an accurate reflection of the reality of the way of life of the people in his writing.

This, then, becomes the subject matter of this research. The researcher is himself one of those people Matsepe writes about, although of a different generation. This leads him to consult external primary and secondary sources about the traditional way of life, in order to familiarise himself with traditional realities. Other than textual sources, including Mönnig’s comprehensive monograph about the Bapedi, the researcher also consulted with tribe elders, including chiefs, traditional healers (among whom the women are considered to be the most reliable informants in practice) and members of the village council. This is the first study of its kind to be undertaken in Sepedi. The theoretical pitfall of this study is that even the largest body of literature portrays the reality in a calculated manner, much like a work of fiction. The depiction of reality is inherently tied to the worldview of the author, and to that of his/her audience. This uncertain reality makes for delicate research, and it presupposes that the researcher has to familiarise himself with Matsepe’s biographical history: the circumstances he grew up in, his status in the community, his worldview, his achievements and failures, to name but a few.

This study does not focus of Matsepe’s entire body of work, but rather on Megokgo ya Bjoko specifically, as it is (a) seen as the most interesting and satisfying in his oeuvre, and (b) comprehensive and realistic in its representation of the traditional way of life of the North Sotho people. It is clear, though, in his entire body of work that Matsepe had intimate knowledge of the political system of the tribe, as well as the legal practices and social customs; and that he depicted them accurately. The primary subject matter in his stories problematises the tribal legal practices to the extent of bordering on the absurd.

The reality described in his stories encompasses characters or persons, events, place and space, time, and the cultural objects that are of interest. Bearing these categories in mind, the distinction has to be made between what is (a) real, (b) fictitious, but true to life, and (c) purely fantasy. This distinction is vital, as there is the possibility that some of the characters, such as king, may have existed in reality, and that certain events may have taken place in their lifetimes, thus rendering them historically factual.

Matsepe’s characters all appear to be fictitious. What is real, however, is his depiction of the hierarchy and social order among various chiefs, as well as that between the king and his council. The various categories of witchdoctors, traditional healers and witches are also truthfully depicted in terms of their respective professions. The kings chief wife is also of importance in the depictions, as she is the bearer of the heir to the throne, and is married though the tribe. Other important figures include the malome and the rakgadi.

The events depicted are also mostly fictitious. That which happens in the chief’s village is naturally of great importance, and Matsepe spends a lot of time on the representation of court cases. The king and his council play a vital role in these legal proceedings. The king is the leading character in the depiction of battles, as he leads his army in war. If the king is to be taken prisoner, he is charged and tried, as he would have lost the battle, but his blood would not be spilt. Prior to battle, the king would also negotiate with surrounding chiefs to ensure that they remain neutral during the battle, and that they are to provide shelter for some of his followers if the need were to arise.

After the death of a king, there are prescribed rites, rituals and ceremonies that have to be performed. The same is expected if the senior prince were to die, but the surrounding chiefs would not necessarily act in accordance with the prescriptions. This radical behaviour leads to derision, conflict, and to eventual war, in Megokgo ya Bjoko.

As previously stated, the traditional healers, witchdoctors and witches play an important role in Matsepe’s writing. Detailed depictions of their practices, beliefs, instruments and followers, areas of specialisation and status within the community are given. The most important practitioners among them are almost exclusively in service to the king’s court, and may only administer to the general public with the king’s permission.

Other important figures are the malome and rakgadi, who perform the rites and rituals of weddings and funerals. In Matsepe’s stories, the various and multitudinous rituals and duties that have to be performed tend to lead to conflict and violence. The importance of cattle also plays a role in terms of ceremonies and rituals.

The roles and status of women are also described. Matsepe highlights the woman’s subordination to her husband, an example of which is depicted in the Leilane family where the wife will not share a meal with her husband. The work ethic of the women is also mentioned in (a) Morara’s conversation with an old friend, and (b) in Morara’s homecoming after visiting his close friend.

Social occasions, such as beer parties, competitions and feasts to celebrate a boy’s accomplishments in tribal school are also accurately described; and the beer pot and ladling calabash are important instruments for such occasions.

The space and place of Matsepe’s fictional world could be anywhere in Sekhukhuneland. The timeframe, however, is precise, inasmuch as every event occurs on the eve of the Voortrekkers’ arrival. This is not significant in and of itself, but because it occurs simultaneously with the appearance of the Halley’s comet, the timeframe’s specificity gains importance. In Megokgo ya Bjoko there are two events that are directly associated with the occurrence of Halley’s comet; namely the crow episodes that are related to the witchdoctors’ throwing of the bones. Halley’s comet, the arrival of the Voortrekkers, the many rituals and ceremonies, the cultural objects such as the ladling calabash, the picking of berries for the weaving of sleeping mats, etc are the only elements in Matsepe’s writing that are depicted as they are in reality. The role of the crows could be either pure fantasy, or ascribed to the superstitions of the people, as magic and divination were realities of the time, and can thus also be said to be a depiction of reality.

Matsepe’s imaginary world is a fictitious reality that is true to life. It is so true to life, in fact, that the question arises whether he wanted to preserve the traditional way of life through writing his stories, for future generations; or whether he merely wanted to tell an interesting story against the backdrop of tradition. In writing Magokgo ya Bjoko, his choice is apparently the latter. For this purpose he utilises a nameless, unreliable narrator, who perpetually exposes the reader to his worldview, who loses his train of thought occasionally and asks for assistance, and who describes war and bloodlust in the enduring time of peace. He admits, though, that the ancestors are required to intervene and to reprimand those who do not fulfil the obligations of their duties; leading to the statement, respectfully made, by Groenewald in Die Feesbundel to Prof. E.B. van Wyk: “... his narrator is more than just a point of contact; he becomes a leading character and a symbol, and it is through him that the satire comes to life”.

AFRIKAANS: In die eerste geskrewe verhale in Sepedi, behandel die skrywer uitsluitlik die probleem van verstedeliking en al die aaklighede wat daaruit voortspruit. Teen die helfde van die vorige eeu tree Matsepe na vore, en sien van die praktyk van sy voorgangers volkome af. In sy nege novelles/romans beskryf hy die tradisionele leefwyse van sy mense, en in slegs twee van sy werke word daar na blankes verwys, wat in beide gevalle die Voortrekkers is. So volledig word die tradisionele opset beskryf dat die vraag onwillekeurig onstaan of sy beskrywing nie hierop toegespits was om slegs ‘n getroue weergawe van daardie werklikheid te gee nie.

Dit word dan die onderwerp van hierdie navorsing. Die navorser is uiteraard self een van daardie mense, hoewel nie deel van daardie tydsgewrig nie. Daarom bedien hy hom ook van ander bronne om hom van die tradisionele werklikheid te vergewis. Behalwe geskrewe werke, soos o.a. Mönnig se lywige monografie oor die Bapedi; word ook van die oudstes in die stam geraadpleeg: opperhoofde, verskeie kruie dokters wat o.a. vroue (in die praktyk as die betroubaarste informante bewys) insluit en raadsmanne. ‘n Sodanige studie is nog nie vantevore in Sepedi onderneem nie.

Vereers het die ondersoeker hom van die teoretiese grondslag van sy navorsing vergewis, wat van belang is. Hieruit blyk dit dat selfs die grootste verdigsel, soos ‘n sprokie, nie anders kan as om die werklikheid tog op ‘n bepaalde manier op te roep nie. Dit hou uiteraard met die ervaringswêreld van die outeur, maar ook van sy leser, verband. En juis dít maak so ‘n onderneming soos wat hierdie in die vooruitsig stel, ‘n uiters delikate studie. Dit veronderstel o.a. dat die navorser hom op die hoogte moet stel van die lewensgeskiedenis van Matsepe: die lewesomstandighede waaronder hy groot geword het, die status wat hy in die gemeentskap geniet het, sy lewensbeskouing, sy prestasies en mislukkings, ens.

Ofskoon Matsepe se prosawerke in die geheel te neem, by hierdie ondersoek in aanmerking geneem word, word die fokus op sy Megokgo ya Bjoko toegespits. Die redes hiervoor is dat: (a) dit literêr beoordeel, die interessantste asook bevredegindste van sy oeuvre is, en (b) sy werke inhoudelik, m.a.w. t.o.v. die tradisionele lewe van die Noord Sotho, ruimskoots ooreenstem. Dit kom duidelik in al sy werke na vore dat hy met die politieke stelsel van die stam intiem vertroud was, die regstelsel op die punte van sy vingers gehad het, en die sosiale en kulturele patrone en gebruike getrou kon weergee het. Vir die probleemstelling in al sy verhale lê hy die vinger op skuiwergate in die regstelsel en bou hy dit uit totdat dit aan die absurde grens.

Die beskrywing van die verhaalwerklikheid raak die volgende sake: die karakters of persone, die gebeure, die plek, die tyd, asook die kulturele voorwerpe van belang. Met die oog hierop word daar onderskei tussen dit wat (a) werklik is, (b) denkbeeldig maar lewensgetrou is, en (c) pure fantasie is. Die onderskeid tussen werklikheid en lewensgetrouheid is in verhale van dié aard noodsaaklik omdat sekere persone/karakters, soos konings, werklik kon bestaan het. Daar mag dan selfs gebeurtenisse wees wat tydens hulle leeftyd waarlik plaasgevind het.

Wat die Matsepekarakters betref, is hulle klaarblyklik almal denkbeeldig. Wat wel deel van die werklikheid uitmaak, is die seniortydsorde tussen die verskillende opperhoofde asook dié tussen die koning se raadmanne. So ook kom die verskillende kategorië van kruiedokters, toordokters en hekse, én wat hulle onderskeie professies is, ter sprake. So ook is die koning se hoofvrou belangrik omdat die troonopvolger uit haar gebore word en sy deur die stam getrou is. Ander belangrike figure is die malome en die rakgadi.

Die gebeure of handeling is hoofsaaklik denkbeeldig. Dit wat in die hoofstat plaasvind, is uiteraard baie belangrik. Matsepe staan ‘n aansienlike deel van sy vertelling aan hofsake af. Hierin speel die koning en sy raadsmanne ‘n belangrike rol en eweneens in die prosedure hiertydens ter sake. En tydens veldslae is die koning die vernaamste figuur. Hy ly sy leërs in die oorlog en word aan sy mondering uitgeken. Word hy gevange geneem, het hy die veldslag verloor en word tereggestel, maar sy bloed mag nie vergiet word nie, want hy is nie ‘n hond nie. Maar vooraf onderhandel hy met omliggende opperhoofde dat hulle neutraal in die stryd moet staan en ook sommige van sy volgelinge tydens die oorlog moet herberg.

Na die afsterwe van ‘n koning word bepaalde rituele en seremonies nagekom. As hy ‘n senior vors is, hoort ook die omliggende opperhoofde hulle aan die voorskrifte te hou. Dié is ingrypend van aard en lei in Megokgo ya Bjoko juis tot kwaaivriendskap en latere oorlog.

‘n Belangrike plek word aan die rol van die verskillende toordokters, kruiedokters en hekse toegesê. Nie net hulle doen en late word beskryf nie, maar ook hulle mondering, gevolg, spesialiteit en status. Die vernaamste onder hulle is aan die koningshof verbonde en mag slegs met koningstoestemming die gewone burger bedien.

Die malome en rakgadi is vername mense. Tydens huwelike, dood en begrafnisse speel hulle ‘n belangrike rol. ‘n Veelvoud van rituele en verpligtinge moet nagekom word, en in die Matsepeverhale lei dit gewoonlik tot groot onenigheid, twis en gewelddadigheid. Die belangrikheid van die bees kom ook hiertydens ter sprake.

Die rol en status van die vrou kom ook onder die soeklig. Matsepe beskryf enertyds haar onderdanigheid aan haar man, soos in die geval van die Leilanehuishouding waar hulle ook nie saam die ete nuttig nie, en andertyds, haar daadkrag, soos beskryf word in (a) die gesprek tussen Morara en sy ou vriend, en (b) Morara se tuiskoms na sy besoek aan sy goeie vriend.

Sosiale geleenthede, soos bierpartye, prysdigwedstryde en feesgeleenthede om ‘n seun se welslae tydens die stamskool te vier, word beskryf en in hierdie navorsing aan die werklikheid gekontroleer. Van groot belang natuurlik is die bierpot en die skepkalbas; spesiaal vir sodanige geleenthede.

Ten opsigte van die wêreld of ruimte waarbinne gebeure afspeel, kan dit enige plek in Sekhukhuneland wees. Die tydstip, daarenteen, word presies bepaal, nl. dat alles plaasvind aan die vooraand van die koms van die Voortrekkers. Dit op sigself sou geen besondere betekenis gehad het nie, behalwe dat gebeurtenisse in tyd afloop. Maar hier is die betekenis hiervan dat die koms van die Voortrekkers destyds met die verskyning van die Halley-komeet saamval. Daar is twee geleenthede in Megokgo ya Bjoko wat met die Halley-komeet geassosieër word, nl. die kraaie-episodes wat met die toordokters se dolosse verbind word. Die Halley-komeet, die koms van die Voortrekkers, die talle rituele en seremonies, voorwerpe soos die skepkalbas vir die bier, die pluk van bessies vir die vleg van slaapmatte, die gras pons, ens, is die enigste sake wat aan die werklikheid toegesê kan word. Die rol wat die kraaie speel kan òf totale fantasie wees, òf kan aan bygeloof toegeskryf word: want daardie toorkuns was ‘n werklikheid vir daardie, en is dan soos die Halley-komeet nie deel van ‘n verbeeldingskug uitmaak nie.

Die wêreld wat Matsepe in sy werke optower, is wel ‘n fiktiewe werklikheid, maart word tewens so getrou geteken dat die vraag ontstaan of hy nie die tradisionele lewenswyse, deur die storie wat hy vertel, wou opteken dat nie dit iewers op skrif vir die nageslag bewaar kan bly, en of hy bloot ‘n interessante storie wou vertel waar die tradisionele as die agtergrond dien waarteen die gebeure afspeel. Hy het met die skrywe van Megokgo ya Bjoko kennelik die tweede opsie gekies. Hiervoor gebruik hy ‘n naamlose vertellerkarakter wat vertel, wat sy lewesbeskouing herhaaldelik aan die leser opdring, wat die draad van sy storie plek-plek verloor, en vra dat iemand anders moet help, wat stryd, oorlog en bloederigheid beskryf en oplaas in ewedurende vrede voorhou. Maar, erken hy terselfdetyd dat die voorvaders van tyd tot tyd moet ingryp en die karwats moet inlê om diegene wat ander afknou tot verantwoording te roep. Die laaste word in dié verband kom Groenewald toe waar hy in die feesbundel aan Prof. E.B. van Wyk gewy, verduidelik: “... sy verteller is meer as net ‘n gesigspunt; hy word hoofkarakter; ook simbool, en deur hom kry die satire sy beslag”.

© 2011 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Mathibe, MA 2011, Sengwalo ke seipone sa mabaka, DLitt thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-10212011-201508/ >


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