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A Living Man from Africa

A Living Man from Africa: Jan Tzatzoe, Xhosa Chief and Missionary, and the Making of Nineteenth-Century South Africa

Roger S. Levine
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    A Living Man from Africa
    Book Description:

    Born into a Xhosa royal family around 1792 in South Africa, Jan Tzatzoe was destined to live in an era of profound change-one that witnessed the arrival and entrenchment of European colonialism. As a missionary, chief, and cultural intermediary on the eastern Cape frontier and in Cape Town and a traveler in Great Britain, Tzatzoe helped foster the merging of African and European worlds into a new South African reality. Yet, by the 1860s, despite his determined resistance, he was an oppressed subject of harsh British colonial rule. In this innovative, richly researched, and splendidly written biography, Roger S. Levine reclaims Tzatzoe's lost story and analyzes his contributions to, and experiences with, the turbulent colonial world to argue for the crucial role of Africans as agents of cultural and intellectual change.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16859-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Born around 1792 in the eastern Cape region of South Africa, Jan Tzatzoe was an African leader and intermediary who flourished in the European world of the missionary, Reverend Read, who helped raise him from boyhood, and the African world of his father, Kote Tzatzoe, chief of the amaNtinde lineage of the Xhosa state, to whose people he eventually returned.¹ In South Africa and during a two-year trip to Great Britain, Tzatzoe interacted with both worlds, and with an emerging South African colonial world as an evangelist, diplomat, chief, and ambassador on the local, metropolitan, and imperial stage.²

    Tzatzoe experienced,...

  7. Kelso, Scotland 1837
    (pp. 7-8)

    In Scotland, Jan Tzatzoe feels more at home than at any other time during his eighteen-month-long journey to Great Britain. Thewildandroughmountains with theirfine treestransport him backto his native mountains and valleys. Back to his family; to his father, Kote Tzatzoe, chief of the amaNtinde; to the people themselves; to the leaders of the Xhosa state; to the missionaries and colonial officials with whom and for whom he has worked, and even fought. All await his return to the Cape Colony, to Xhosaland, to South Africa.¹

    Shortly after six thirty p.m. on Friday, 4...

  8. Part I

    • Xhosaland His Longing Desire to Return to Our Place 1810
      (pp. 11-20)

      In the early days of 1810 the Reverend James Read is about to cross the Cape Colony’s eastern border at the Sundays River when his horse slips on a muddy slope and fallson all fours, trapping itself between two small trees. Read runs his hands over his body to reassure himself that all of its parts remain unbroken. Raindrops shatter beneath his feet, so unlike the drizzle of his English childhood that gently dripped off his hat brim. The wet red clay of the road coats the flanks of his horse and streaks his pants.¹

      Along with seven men...

    • Bethelsdorp Oh Free Grace! 1811–1815
      (pp. 21-33)

      In 1811, a year after James Read’s journey into Xhosaland to retrieve Jan Tzatzoe, Read’s wife, Elizabeth, gives birth to the couple’s fourth child and first son: James Read Junior. Read had married Elizabeth at Bethelsdorp, in June 1803, immediately after the missionaries established the station on an abandoned farm set on burning, windswept flats a few miles inland from the majestic reach of Algoa Bay. To Read’s fellow missionary, Johannes van der Kemp, Elizabeth, on the day of her marriage, was ayoung Hottentot girl, the inventory of whose earthly possessions are two sheep-skins and a string of beads...

    • Makana’s Kraal A Door to that Numerous Race is Opened 1816
      (pp. 34-48)

      In February 1816, less than a week after receiving Jan Tzatzoe’s letter, the British Colonial Secretary in Cape Town, Colonel Bird, writes directly to James Read (the letter bypasses Cuyler while still relying on that official’s positive recommendation);trusting that success will attend the attempt, permission is granted for Joseph Williams, Jan Tzatzoe, and a few Khoisan assistants to enter Xhosaland. A delighted Read writes withunspeakable pleasureto the Directors of the London Missionary Society:a door to that numerous race is opened

      The British are having a difficult time administering the European settlement zone whose boundary they have...

    • Kat River How is this, Major Fraser? 1816–1818
      (pp. 49-65)

      The European missionary is red-faced from the molten disdain of an alien sun. His exposed flesh has gained a jagged topographic profile, craggy with the welts of insect bites and the scratches of thorns. He crosses the frontier between white civilization and native barbarity, taking a long-suffering but nobly accommodating female companion along with him, to establish an outpost in the wilderness. In his grass hut, surrounded by swarming swarthy hordes and skulking carnivores, he dreams of a whitewashed stone chapel with glass windows that will allow his converts to peer out on the imperfect world from which his walls...

    • Fish River Valley To Enter and Proclaim Upon their Mountains 1822
      (pp. 66-73)

      After leaving the Kat River in 1818, Tzatzoe spends the next few years at the Bethelsdorp and Theopolis mission stations. He likely works as a carpenter and wheelwright and evangelizes as an itinerant preacher in the surrounding countryside. The missionaries at the station do not register his presence or actions. Some of the Christian adherents of the abandoned Kat River mission scatter; others gather under Ntsikana’s leadership. Collectively, they will seed the many missionary institutions that will be established in Xhosaland in the 1820s and 1830s. By 1822 Jan Tzatzoe is crossing, once again, from the colony into Xhosaland.¹


    • iQonce He has always longed to return 1825–1832
      (pp. 74-92)

      Scythed by precipitous overgrown ravines, the Amathole mountains soar two thousand feet above the Chumie River valley. As they peak their ridges merge into a series of ascending buttes that resemble a school of dolphins departing for the interior of South Africa. The Chumie valley is one of the richest in Xhosaland. Anabundanceof timber is near at hand. Together with the Kat River valley that lies in the first drainage to the west and the highlands that feed both streams, the region is the economic and spiritual heartland of the Xhosa chiefs who support Ngqika, and, thereby, distinguish...

    • Buffalo River A Blessing to His Tribe 1833–1835
      (pp. 93-105)

      During the maturing years of the nineteenth century, life in the eastern Cape is much like life at sea: the deck below is seldom, if ever, at rest. In 1833, after a relative calm, Jan Tzatzoe will see ripples racing toward him on the unworried waters that surround him, will see them right before he feels the gust on his cheek. He must ask himself whether these winds will blow through as capriciously as a summer squall, or whether they are the leading edge of a frontal assault.¹

      After six years of residence at the Buffalo River, John Brownlee finally...

    • Queen Adelaide Province Becoming His Majesty’s subjects 1835–1836
      (pp. 106-120)

      Following the frontier war of 1835 Governor D’Urban extends the colonial boundary past the Fish and Keiskamma Rivers, eastward to the Kei. D’Urban blames the historic insecurity of the border region on thetangled jungles, impervious woody ravinesof these river valleys,made by nature for the preparatory lurking place of the savage, before he springs upon his prey, and for the retreat and concealment when he has secured.¹ Access to these hideouts has led toconstantly recurring evils, with thehostile inroads of the most barbarous and desolating kinds, penetrating into the very vitals of the unprepared countryalternating...

  9. Part II

    • Charles Darwin In Cape Town November, 2000
      (pp. 123-124)

      On a blustery afternoon in Sea Point, Cape Town’s oldest coastal suburb, I walked southward toward Cape Point alongside a concrete seawall that separated one of the main roads heading in and out of the city from the effusive expanse of Table Bay. Through a miasma of sea spray, Lion’s Head soared above the sun-bleached beachfront properties. A childish, albeit superhuman, hand appeared to have clawed several small basins, now half full of crumbly white beach sand, out of the charcoal black igneous rock upon which the seawall is built. In order to circumvent a parking lot—where rusting jalopies...

    • England The spring that moves the world 1836
      (pp. 125-141)

      In 1836 London is one of the world’s greatest and grandest cities. Like the rampantly industrializing centers of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, and Glasgow, it is growing at an astonishing pace, spreading rapidly and without restraint in every direction, creating a vast middle class and an overcrowded and appallingly impoverished laboring class, attracting unprecedented levels of capital investment.

      To its almost two million inhabitants, it is in equal parts oppressive and enthralling, its air thick with triumph and despair. With dense, choking smoke from factories and home coal fires, dense enough at times (occasions known as “pea-soupers”) to blacken...

    • Photo gallery
      (pp. None)
    • Great Britain We Can Come to England and Get Justice 1836–1838
      (pp. 142-158)

      On 25 November 1836 Dr. John Philiptogether with his interesting colleaguesare in Weymouth, a coastal town in southwestern England, which is the center of Thomas Fowell Buxton’s parliamentary district. The visitors make avery powerful impressionon the town. With his son having returned to the Cape, James Read will now serve as the primary translator for Tzatzoe, as the latter addresses his audiences in Dutch. The local chapel is crowded to excess—Buxton’s friend reports an audience of 1,500—and Jan Tzatzoe, Philip, and Read are each presented with a portrait of Buxton himself.The Chief told...

  10. Part III

    • Tzatzoe In Kuruman
      (pp. 161-162)

      I needed to find Jan Tzatzoe. Not only in microfilmed newspapers and leather-bound volumes yellowed by foxing, but in person. I needed a corporeal presence, a literal embodiment. I queried the Internet, followed leads dug up at conferences, spoke to the appropriate officials and received the requisite permissions. It took me two days to get from Johannesburg to the Kuruman mission station, stately with syringa trees. When I got there, no one seemed to know where Tzatzoe was.¹

      We looked in the old mission church, a beautiful spacious T-shaped structure, with carefully restored stone walls and thatching. In 1838 the...

    • King William’s Town The war of words is the best war 1838–1845
      (pp. 163-174)

      After landing in Cape Town in February 1838, Jan Tzatzoe meets with the newly appointed Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir George Napier, and receives ahandsome present as a mark of his esteem. He suffers with James Read and the Schreiners through an unpleasant voyage back to Algoa Bay on a small, leaky ship. Upon learning that their first choice of vessel waswreckedbefore reaching the eastern Cape, Read sees the work of anoverruling providence. News of their arrival at Algoa Bay in March 1838 travels quickly. Two of Tzatzoe’s brothers andseveral of his peopleundertake...

    • British Kaffraria Our perilous condition and our duties as subjects 1845–1868
      (pp. 175-192)

      In September 1845, more than twenty years after he helped John Brownlee establish the Chumie Mission Station, Jan Tzatzoe stands once more beneath the serrated crags that adorn the ridges of the Amathole mountains. Tzatzoe has joined the other Xhosa chiefs living in the eastern Cape border region for a meeting with Sir Peregrine Maitland, the Governor of the Cape, near Diplomatic Agent Charles Lennox Stretch’s Chumie Valley station. The abrogation in 1844 of the so-called Stockenstrom treaties has led to widespread tension. The Xhosa correctly surmise that the British settlers and their government abettors intend to capture more land...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 193-196)

    Although a bronzed plaque in the main square of King William’s Town canonizes John Brownlee as town father, there is no public mention of Jan Tzatzoe in the town he helped found. Indeed, Jan Tzatzoe’s life has left only a few vestiges.¹

    Besides the Room painting now hanging in Kuruman, there are profiles and engravings in several books published during his lifetime.A Tribute for the Negro: Being a Vindication of the Moral, Intellectual, and Religious Capabilities of the Coloured Portion of Mankind, self-published in 1848 in Manchester, England, by Wilson Armistead, a free man of African descent, displays the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 197-264)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-282)
  14. Index
    (pp. 283-391)