University of Cambridge > > Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminars >  Decolonising the Missionary Road? An Archaeology of Heritage at the Kuruman Moffat Mission, South Africa

Decolonising the Missionary Road? An Archaeology of Heritage at the Kuruman Moffat Mission, South Africa

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The London Missionary Society station established at Kuruman in 1824 became a key node in Britain’s developing engagements with the African interior, to the extent that by the last quarter of the nineteenth century Cecil John Rhodes identified ‘the Missionary Road’ as a key strategic locus of British influence. This paper will reflect on initial work with colleagues at Sol Plaatje University in South Africa to develop Re-collecting the Missionary Road as a collaborative research project, involving a joint field school supported by the Cambridge-Africa Alborada Fund in 2017. Using archaeology as a tool to explore the development of Kuruman as a heritage site has been a fruitful way of bringing together multiple perspectives to interrogate the ways in which Africa’s past, and Britain’s role within it has been framed. However, the nature of the historic encounters that unfolded in and around the Missionary Road have led to the dispersal of relevant material to archives and museums across the globe, necessitating a methodological approach that has attempted to re-collect historic artefacts so that their value as heritage can be re-assessed in alternative spaces. The paper will attempt to ask what it would mean for such a project to successfully operate in a decolonial mode, and will attempt to argue that projects of decolonisation necessarily involve an equal focus on metropole and colony, Europe and Africa, as well as the mutual construction of ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’ and their reciprocal reshaping through colonial histories, in order to begin to engage with the distinctively African precolonial past.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminars series.

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