NEW things are still being learned from South African history, which may be helpful for racial ties in this country.
In her lecture to the Lower Albany Historical Society last week, Janet Hayward of the Rhodes University anthropology department spoke about the formation of European-Asian-African clans in 1700s South Africa, in which she is doing her PhD research.
The research is based on the writings of historian John Henderson Soga – son of Tiyo Soga, remembered as one of the first modern African intellectuals – whom Hayward regards as a “key text” in this field.
She began her lecture began by touching on the evolution of the homo-erectus – a pre-historic hominid – who is believed to have left Africa for Eurasia about 1.5-million years ago.
“We’re not sure how, but they did actually manage to get across to Eurasia, where they evolved into Neanderthals,” Hayward said.
This initial departure from Africa, Hayward mentioned, is known as “Out of Africa One”. The homo-erectus continued developing in Africa, consequently evolving into the homo-sapiens, who made the second migration to Eurasia known as “Out of Africa Two”, where they found Neanderthals.
Within 25 000 years of “Out of Africa Two”, the Neanderthals went extinct. DNA, however, links them to the modern European genealogy, “which, 500 years ago, came back to Africa,” Hayward said.
Her research shows how there are African clans in the present day with genetic, ancestral, and historical ties to Europeans and Asians who were shipwrecked along the south-eastern coastline.
Her research began with an article for the National Genographic Project, when a friend with whom she went to university approached her about writing a related anthropological feature.
“He got hold of me and asked me if I wanted to write an article about this,” Hayward said. “And when I wrote the article, everything just fell into place when I realised ‘wow, there are these clans descended from white people, it’s documented, it’s written in the document of history’ and then I thought, ‘wow, now, furthermore, there is DNA. So there are all these parallel ways, and there are all these kinds of stories speaking about these kinds of origins, these clans.
“I feel it’s the kind of story South Africa needed,” Hayward said. “Because of the way it cuts across the racial divisions that this country was built on and which it still suffers from. I mean, here we’ve got Mpondo people who will tell you with a straight face ‘I’m white’ because they mean ‘in terms of who my ancestors are’. [This research] cuts across the belief that black is black and white is white.”
Hayward’s research is very intertextual; employing research findings from the fields of genetics, anthropology and history in compiling her analyses of the formation of these clans.
The AbeLungu clan consists of members descended from mainly white European shipwreck survivors in the 1500s in pre-colonial South Africa. The Mpondo clan, amaMolo, have Eurasiatic DNA, and are probably descendants of Asian shipwreck survivors.
Other clans such as the abeLungu Horner, amaCaine, amaOgle, amaFrance, amaIrish clans, are descended from men who entered the cultures more recently out of choice.
[See full story in this week’s Talk of the Town]