News & Media

Production and destruction of historical knowledge

The inaugural lecture of Prof Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu, School of Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Studies, took place on 18 May 2017, titled The production and destruction of historical knowledge: Still searching for Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe.

Ndlovu focused on the role of powerful and authoritative African women who participated in mainstream networks of power and politics in the area now referred to as the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

They exercised their power during two distinct periods, namely, pre-conquest and colonial times. But they had to contend with male cultural brokers, intellectuals  and ideologues who controlled the production of knowledge. Rival monarchies did not need military strategies and sophisticated weapons of the day to destroy each other. They also employed cultural brokers and ideologues to achieve their aims and objectives.

The resulting battles of the minds meant that the word, and later the pen, was mightier than the assegai and shield. To prove this point, Ndlovu paid particular attention to Queen Mother Ntombazi of the Ndwandwe. “In his book Emperor Shaka the Great : A Zulu epic, Mazisi Kunene says  Queen Mother Ntombazi, was ‘one of the politically most influential women of the pre-Shakan and Shakan eras’.”

Technology: Friend or foe?

I have a split personality; technology is both friend and foe. In terms of writing, I prefer cursive handwriting rather than using a computer or laptop. I really do miss using a ballpoint pen as long as it is not RED; you do know why.

Are you a spender or a saver? Why?

I am not a saver for I do not have money to save. The only things I am good at saving are archival documents or whatever document I deem is of historical importance. For example, I have managed to save most of my PhD thesis draft chapters, particularly comments from my supervisor, Professor Phil Bonner. I study these documents because they signify how my thought patterns evolved from the draft document to the final manuscript. Luckily, this thesis will be published as a book by Palgrave Macmillan in August this year. But the depressing news is that the book will only be available in the USA. Also, the book will be too expensive if sold here. I have checked the pre-order forms exhibited on my publisher’s website—the price boggles my mind.

What book are you currently reading?

Ingqolobane Yesizwe, a book which I never completed reading whilst a student at secondary school. This was because of the Soweto Uprisings. It is really isiZulu A, what the English normally refer to as the Queen’s English. You will not be able to read it if you are into ‘Fanakalo’.

What drives you to achieve great results in your department and how do you get it right?

Work and no play is what drives me to achieve great results.

What is the best part about being a professor? And the worst?

The best part of being a research professor is also the worst part—signing the performance agreement forms with your boss watching gleefully.

*Compiled by Sharon Farrell