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Dithipa: (re)collecting animals and their depictions from southern Africa's Missionary Road

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  • UserChris Wingfield (Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas)
  • ClockMonday 08 March 2021, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseZoom.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Joanne Green.

The association of ethnography and natural history collections in the museum of the London Missionary Society during the early 19th century has been interpreted as suggestive of a European vision ‘of people who lived in unity with nature’. Through a focus on southern Africa, this paper asks whether these collections can also provide an insight into the ways in which animals were understood in the contexts from which they were collected. Can we read the predominance of large mammals from southern Africa as indicative of the significance of large mammals for precolonial southern African societies, or are they simply indicative of European concerns? It will be suggested that a consideration of artefactual forms, and in particular the carved ivory handled knives, dithipa, suggest a precolonial cultural significance for wild animals that was significantly altered by the ecological transformations associated with missionary and colonial encounters.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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