Gender and Behaviour

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Re-inventing the Battle of Ncome/ Blood River: reflection on its contested historical consciousness and commemorative events

Dalifa Ngobese, Theophilus Mukhuba


The one-sided commemoration of the confrontation leaves much to be desired. It may stir up deep rooted emotions and reinforce ‘wrong’ or ‘politically incorrect’ perceptions. To merely ignore or bypass negative aspect of the past will serve as injustice to the historical consciousness of present society. This is the case with the Battle of Ncome/ Blood River of 1838. In recent years, the prevailing controversies concerning the existence of the heritage sites shattered envisaged objectives as the symbol of unity, peace and reconciliation. Despite this mushrooming expectation, the resisting and contested historical consciousness at the site spear an unbearable mark after twenty-four years of non- racial, democratic South Africa. The emphasis of these museums, Ncome and Blood River museums, as ‘contested terrain’ has become increasingly salient over the past decade. This paper will explore ethnographically how enduring notions of contestation may give rise to disputes and intolerances. Historical interpretations and interactions of racial groups in both historical sites especially December 16 commemorative events will be closely examined. Historical arguments represented by scholars and visitors depicted what is prevailing at the Ncome/Blood River heritage site became a foci of the debates. Unrequited questions emanated from the above do pose threat to the nation agenda in relation to nation- building and reconciliation. This paper suggests number of mitigating factors that dichotomizing racial thinking of the historical narration and striving to build a new nation.

Keywords: Historical space/ site, consciousness, contestation, museums, commemoration, interpretation, Blood River/ Ncome, 1838 battle, nation building and reconciliation

AJOL African Journals Online