Claim to the Country
The Archive of Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd

By Pippa Skotnes

2009 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title  • A Library Journal “Editor’s Pick”

“At $65, this remarkable book and accompanying DVD is a treasure well worth its surprisingly modest price. Highly recommended.”


“It is quite possible, while turning page after wonderful page of this amazing book, to begin, almost trancelike, to feel as if one is actually holding in one's hands the original notebooks, illustrations, drawings, photos, essays, letters and other materials that make up the Lucy Lloyd and Wilhelm Bleek |Xam and !Kun (Cape San, or Bushmen) archive.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

“To say that this book of text and images has a highly tactile quality would be a gross understatement. Better would be that it is a visual hymn to tactility itself…Its gorgeously reproduced paper fragments…testify not only to the disappearance of the /Xam San people of South Africa and their cognitive universe, but to nearly 150 pre-digital years of attempts to honour and communicate that universe by scholarly ‘faithful workers’.”

Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa

“A remarkable achievement.... This book is truly a major scholarly contribution.... The overall graphic design and presentation of this volume is a work of art in itself.... The essays by the contributors are uniformly outstanding....”

Journal of Archival Organization

In the 1870s, facing cultural extinction and the death of their language, several San men and women told their stories to two pioneering colonial scholars in Cape Town, Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd. The narratives of these San—or Bushmen—were of the land, the rain, the history of the first people, and the origin of the moon and stars. These narratives were faithfully recorded and translated by Bleek and Lloyd, creating an archive of more than 13,000 pages including drawings, notebooks, maps, and photographs. Now residing in three main institutions—the University of Cape Town, the South African Museum, and the National Library of South Africa—this archive has recently been entered into UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

Lavishly illustrated, Claim to the Country: The Archive of Lucy Lloyd and Wilhelm Bleek, created, compiled, and introduced by Pippa Skotnes, presents in book form and on an accompanying DVD all the notebook pages and drawings that comprise this remarkable archive. Contextualizing essays by well-known scholars, such as Nigel Penn, Eustacia Riley, and Anthony Traill, and a searchable index for all the narratives and contributors are included.

Through this remarkable collection, we can better understand what it means that the people who lived in southern Africa long before any new arrivals settled the country no longer survive through their language or culture of intellectual traditions, but only as text on a page. The Bleek-Lloyd archive is the San's surviving claim to the country.

Pippa Skotnes is professor of fine art and director of the Lucy Lloyd Archive, Resource and Exhibition Centre (LLAREC). She has published essays on the rock art of the San and is the author and editor of several books, including Sound from the Thinking Strings, Miscast: Negotiating the Presence of the Bushmen, and Heaven's Things.

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Related Subjects

Anthropology · Southern Africa · South Africa · 19th century · Victorian Era · Khoisan · Monograph · History · African Studies · African History · Art · Africa