"Oh hurry to the river"!: uMamlambo in the eastern Cape, South Africa

OUTPUT TYPE: Conference or seminar papers
TITLE AUTHOR(S): S.Morrow, N.Vokwana
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 2617
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/8013

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at researchoutputs@hsrc.ac.za.


This paper stems from a wider study of clay modelling at Hogsback and e-Hala in the eastern Cape. Amongst the models are images the modellers refer to as uMamlambo, or "mermaids". The authors discuss clay, dongwe, the raw material for these models and the significance of beliefs concerning this material and the rivers with which it is often associated. They argue that the modellers derive these particular images from two elements in Xhosa cosmography. Firstly, they are based on a mutable and sinister familiar, or snake, which often takes form of an irresistibly attractive, but extremely dangerous women. On the other hand the images may derive from an old female ancestor-figure, one of the abantu bamlambo, river people, who must be treated with great respect, but who is not malicious. The authors contextualise their theme in terms of phenomena such as labour migration and changes in rural and urban society. They argue that culture is fluid and that the boys and men, essentially bricoleurs, who make these models, are combining whatever images are to hand and especially the inheritance of Xhosa religious beliefs and ritual practices, to create these beguiling figures.