An examination of the !kun children’s material in the Bleek and Lloyd Collection (1879 – 1881)

MAFA thesis by Marlene Winberg.

From the abstract: “The Bleek and Lloyd Collection is an archive of interviews and stories, drawings, paintings and photographs of and by |xam and !kun individuals, collected by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd between 1870 and 1881 in Cape Town.
My dissertation focuses on the !kun children’s material in the archive, created by Lucy Lloyd and the four !kun boys, !nanni, Tamme, |uma and Da, who lived in her home in Cape Town between 1879 and 1881. Until very recently, their collection of 17 notebooks and more than 570 paintings and drawings had been largely ignored and remained a silent partner to the larger, |xam, part of the collection. Indeed, in a major publication it was declared that nothing was known about the boys and stated that “there is no information on their families of origin, the conditions they had previously lived under, or the reasons why they ended up in custody” (Szalay 2002: 21).”

“This study places the children centre stage and explores their stories from a number of perspectives. I set out to assess to what extent the four !kun children laid down an account of their personal and historical experiences, through their texts, paintings and drawings in the Bleek and Lloyd project to record Bushmen languages and literature.

In order to do this, I have investigated the historical and socio-economic conditions in the territory now known as Namibia during the period of their childhoods, as well as the circumstances under which the children were conveyed to Cape Town and eventually joined the Bleek- Lloyd household. I have looked at Lucy Lloyd’s personal history and examined the ways in which she shaped the making of the collection in her home. I suggest that a consideration of the loss and trauma experienced by Lloyd may have predisposed her to recognition and engagement of, or at least, accommodation of, the trauma experienced by the !kun boys.

I have reconstructed the conditions of production of the textual and visual material in Lloyd’s home in Mowbray. More specifically, the dissertation highlights differences in the recording strategies which Lloyd employed in her work with the !kun children and |xam adults. These differences, manifest in the marked integration of images and text in the case of the !kun boys, are themselves suggestive of Lloyd’s sensitivity to the children’s trauma and their inability to articulate themselves verbally.

I have made a close reading of several of the more complex images and of the textual material. I have used these materials in conjunction with secondary sources to reconstruct the children’s family lives and broader environment in north-east Namibia. My methodology reveals that what appears at first to be the arbitrary phrases and words of Lucy Lloyd’s language-learning exercise contain elements of the boys’ own personal and historical stories. It became apparent that the fragmented material contained much substance when read against the paintings and drawings. My research of other, germane material included 19th century archival documents that provided further clues and information about the children’s backgrounds and how they came to Cape Town and Lucy Lloyd’s home. I have presented my reading of the children’s losses as embodied in these visual and textual documents, losses made resonant by the abundance of memory and knowledge of home that appears in the archive.”