"The oral testimonies of the indigenous people, men and women, community leaders and ordinary people, who give a face to this country, need to be recorded if an all-inclusive history of South Africa is ever to be written"  
Mpumalanga Provincial Archives: Oral History Alive and well in Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga’s oral history practitioners have vowed to grow their community to reflect the population dynamics of the province. This emerged at the 4th Oral History Conference recently held in Ermelo. The one day gathering brought together researchers, speakers, learners, academics and members of the public under the theme ‘The cultural unity of African and Africans: Testimonies’.

The conference was held under the auspices of Oral History Association of Mpumalanga Province and Mpumalanga Archives and Records Management Services, a partnership that should be a federation made up of oral history practitioners from traditional healers, leaders, storytellers, artists, academics and intellectuals. Up to now, it has struggled to attract other stakeholders who are both custodians and practitioners of oral history. Delivering the keynote address on behalf of the MEC for Arts and Culture Mahlangu, Msukalikwa Acting mayorAdileen Juliette Bal said, “Oral history is an important part of our existence as African people. To a larger extent it is the reason we hold on to our heritage of campfire tales and valuing our Gogos who are the conduits of wisdom and folklore.”


                                                                       

That was before speaker after speaker explored South Africa’s relationship with the rest of the continent and proposing strategies to build cohesion as a way to sync the country to live up to the expectations of the late African National Congress President Oliver Reginald Tambo. Dr Peterson Dewa, a Zimbabwean academic reminded all and sundry about the eternal bonds that exist between Africans of different hues who are eternally joined to the hip by their shared oral history and lived experiences. Such experiences, for South Africans were lived both under Apartheid and in a 23-years-old democracy.

Julius Mathebula, author and researcher, profiled the role played by unsung heroes and freedom fighters in the fight against Apartheid. He exposed the deep roots of Black Sash in small Mpumalanga dorpies and how former Kangwane Prime Minister Enos Mabuza  became one of the first people to take the first step towards denouncing the homeland system. Mathebula also profiled the role played by ordinary activists such as the late James Khambule.

The conference also provided a platform for school learners from the province’s four regions to present their research papers under the Nkosi Albert Luthuli Oral History Competition. This competition will climax during the national Oral History Conference which will be held at Mthatha, Eastern Cape from October 10 to 13, 2017

The plague of xenophobia was explored by Keneilwe Mosala. Her presentation provoked heated responses from the audience as they found it easy to vent out their frustration with the country’s immigration laws. Goodenough Mashego delivered a paper about why South Africa should repay the historical debt to nations that assisted it to topple Apartheid. Dr Lenkwane Mathunyanespoke about the cultural unity of Africa and Africans. The first session was concluded by Limpho Ginindza, a former school learner presenter who took the audience into her confidence on how music has united Africa from the days of oppression to modern day Africa.

The second session evoked emotions, especially after academic researcher Harold Lekhuleni delivered his thesis which profiled the role played by former homeland leader Hudson Ntsanwisi in the development of Mhala region in Gazankulu. The audience felt Lekhuleni was praising Apartheid as a ‘functional’ policy.  Seasoned researcher Isaac Mthethwa spoke about service delivery protests in Bushbuckridge and their causes. First time presenters Keketso Mashigo and Charity Mbewe touched on research into whether oral history is dying or evolving and understanding current service delivery protests.

OHAMP intends to hold a bigger encompassing conference in 2018 and for it to happen needs more people with ideas on how to enrich the oral history agenda to join the association. It is looking into drawing the interest of traditional healers, leaders, writers, academics and the public at large. They can contact OHAMP through the Mpumalanga Archives and Records Management Services which can be contacted at +2713 766 5081

 
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