El “negre de Banyoles” vist des de la University of Botswana

Arran de la polèmica sobre el “negre de Banyoles” el professor de la Universitat de Botswana Neil Parsons va fer uns informes sobre el periple africà de la “mòmia” i sobre els pobles dels quals aquesta podia ser originària. Aquests informes, junt amb una llarga explicació sobre com va entrar en contacte amb el tema, es poden consultar en la web antiga de la Universitat esmentada.

Sobre les peripècies dels germans Verraux per Àfrica, escriu Parsons:

Jules Verraux was a French resident of the Cape of Good Hope in the 1820s. He accompanied, and presumably arrived with, the naturalist Pierre Antoine Delalande who made three excursions in search of flora (uprooted) and fauna (shot) from Cape Town as far as the Keiskamma river on the eastern frontier in 1820. (Delalande wrote a 50 page report, ‘Precis d’un voyage au Cap du Bonne-Esperance’ for the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, in 1821, a copy of which is in the Mendelssohn collection of the South African Public Library in Cape Town.). Jules Verraux then worked as a taxidermist for the naturalist Dr. Andrew Smith in Cape Town, at the South African Museum founded in 1825. In 1829 he was joined by his brother Edouard, with whom he made collecting trips to the northern Cape frontier. (He also befriended a British official called Franklin.)

The Paris newspaper Le Constitutionel in 1831 tells us of an exhibition of taxidermia by the Verraux brothers from Austral Africa at the stores (shops?) of ‘le baron Benjamin Delessert’ (# 3 Rue de Saint-Fiacre), including the body of a ‘Betjouana’ with a spear and antelope fur dress.

In Paris, Jules Verraux was connected with the famous French anatomists (Baron) Georges Cuvier – the dissector of Sara Baartman the “Hottentot Venus’ – who had verified the collection of Delalande in 1821 in their capacity as ‘Professeurs Administrateurs du Jardin du Roi, et de l’Academie Royale des Sciences’. They were also ‘seminal figures in the development of 19th century ‘scientific racism’.

Jules Verraux wrote a report titled ‘Ethnographie du Cape: Recuil des dessins maniscrits rehausss d’aquarelles’, which was on the card index of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris but has since been marked ‘introuvable‘ (unfindable). Apparently it is narrated some of his travels and listed his specimens of natural history with their prices. He and his brother Edouard also published articles in the Revue Zoologique as well as ‘a huge book’ on their travels to ‘Cochinchine et Notasie’. (It may be recalled that the first substantial published account of the Tswana was an appendix to a book titled A Voyage to Cochinchina, i.e. to the South-East Asian peninsular.) There are no works by Verraux, however, in the on-line catalogues of either the South African Public Library or the Library of Congress. (The Bibliotheque Nationale on-line catalogue in Paris won’t log-in without a password.)

I sobre els pobles africans de la riba del riu Orange, al sud de l’Àfrica:

Look at the pictures of ‘El Negro’ (…). He could be ‘Bushman’/ San/ Sarwa. But he could perfectly equally well be Tswana/Motswana/’Bechuana’. (We refer to stature and skull, not to the obvious blacking of the skin.) Biology is never enough for ethnic classification; most of us do not conform to any single ‘type’. All other sources now point to ‘El Negro’ being not a ‘Bushman’ from Bechuanaland, but a ‘Bechuana’ from Bushmanland. (…)

There were small groups of BaTlhaping (the mostly southerly Tswana or ‘Bechuana’) living on the lower Vaal near its junction with the Orange around 1830. This was the area where the BaTlhaping had got their name as fish-eaters in the previous century, but it was now under the general sovereignty of the Griqua republic which lay to the north of the Cape Colony frontier along the Orange river. Independent BaTlhaping and BaRolong kingdoms lay to the north of the Griqua republic.

The main roads for ox-wagon traffic from the Cape Colony to the Griqua settlements of Campbell and Griquatown ran through the area of the Orange-Vaal junction. Local people such as made a living servicing and assisting ox-wagons crossing the rivers. A famous sketch by Thomas Baines portrays the young chief of such ‘Bechuana’ as were living on the Vaal around the 1850s, surrounded by his mates and elders, all frantically sewing karosses (animal skins) while they conversed in the kgotla courtyard.

William Burchell, who came through the area in 1812, identified a young MoTlhaping called Adam who had been previously captured and enslaved by Dutch Boer farmers in the Bokkeveld and Roggeveld of the Western Cape. Adam was now free but decided to settle on the Orange river, because he had forgotten his SeTswana and people (Griqua, Kora, San, BaTlhaping) on the Orange spoke Dutch. But Adam could not have been ‘El Betchuanas’ if the latter was only 27 in 1830.

The Kimberley Museum has identified the remains of an old Tswana town called Kgatlane on the Vaal near the Orange confluence. The people of Kgatlane can still be identified today, having been the victims of removal to the Schimidtsdrift reserve further north on the Vaal in the later 19th century, and then again the victims of apartheid removal to faraway ‘Bophuthatswana’ little more than twenty years ago, in 1978. Subject to correction, the people of Kgatlane appear to have been of the Sehunelo lineage of BaTlhaping. Their chief around 1830 would appear to have been Makane or his son Samuel Makane (born c.1800), but Samuel appears to have lived on into the century and could not be ‘El Betchuanas’ of Banyoles.

There is of course no reason to take the Verraux’ assertion that ‘El Betchuanas’ was a chief as a given. He was, after all, rather young if he was only 27. Of ‘warrior’ age certainly. As for dying of lung disease, that was probably not (yet) consumption or TB (if it was, it implies he had been working for Boer farmers in crowded living conditions). Pneumonia was, after all, together with gastric complications, the most common cause of death among the BaTswana until recently. (Winter nights can be extremely frosty, and a chill is easily caught if clothes are wet after exertion during the hot day.) The fur kaross with which ‘El Betchuanas’ was buried would have been absolutely necessary winter wear. As the best furs and pelts were hunted in winter, it is also likely that the Verraux brothers came to the Orange-Vaal area in winter.


Un gravat idealitzat del segle XIX


Una fotografia de la segona meitat del segle XX (ambdues procedents de la pàgina web del Museu Darder)

Cal recordar que Botswana

 is an electoral democracy (…). A free and vigorous press thrives in cities and towns, with several independent newspapers and magazines published in the capital. The private Gaborone Broadcasting Corporation television system and two private radio stations have limited reach, though Botswana easily receives broadcasts from neighboring South Africa. State-owned outlets dominate the local broadcast media, which reach far more residents than the print media, and provide inadequate access to the opposition and government critics. In addition, the government sometimes censors or otherwise restricts news sources or stories that it finds undesirable. (…) The government does not restrict internet access, though such access is rare outside cities (…) Freedom of religion is guaranteed (…) Academic freedom is generally respected. While free and private discussion is largely protected, all prepaid mobile-telephone SIM cards must be registered, at risk of disconnection. However, only 15 percent of such cards were registered by the December 2009 deadline; the government announced its intention to disconnect unregistered numbers throughout 2010 (freedomhouse.org)

Quant a gbarnosell

Historiador; professor d'institut, col·laborador de l'Institut de Recerca Històrica de la Universitat de Girona i de L'Avenç
Aquesta entrada s'ha publicat en Bloc i etiquetada amb . Afegiu a les adreces d'interès l'enllaç permanent.

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