TOPIC: The depiction of Tswane home spaces in rock engravings
SPEAKER: Simon Hall

A dominant motif in the rock engraving of southern African Bantu-speaking farmers is the depiction of household and homestead space. In this presentation Simon Hall will focus on rock engravings made by ancestral Southern Tswana-speaking cattle and cereal farmers in the Northern Cape that date to the last 300 years.

“Using ethnographic sources I outline the spatial layout of the Tswana house that is represented in these engravings. As all houses do, the Tswana house provided the physical setting within which domestic work, activity and production took place. This architecture was also the arena of social reproduction, and the Tswana house layout can be ‘read’ as a ‘map’ of activity areas that underpinned the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives.
It is against this background that I discuss the question as to why people engraved plans of Tswana households. I suggest that the act of representing their houses took place in the context of female initiation and their transformation into the responsibilities of adulthood.
Additionally, and most important to the question of what motivated people to explicitly depict the Tswana house, is the 18th and 19th century historical context that increasingly placed pressure on the social relationships that underpinned the stability of Tswana households”.

Simon Hall is an Emeritus Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology at UCT. His research focus is in the sub-field of Historical Archaeology, a multi-disciplinary area that combines material culture, text and oral evidence. He works on the recent history of Sotho-Tswana-speakers and on the interface between the Colonial and indigenous worlds through the 18th and 19th centuries, with a growing focus on change and continuity in Khoe, San and coloniser identity on the Northern Cape frontier.