Monday, 24 March 2014

Pioneers of recording Bushmen folklore: Wilhelm Bleek
File:Bleek and Lloyd pictures 008.jpg
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Wilhelm Bleek must certainly be the pioneer in recording the folklore of the Bushmen. But before he could be able to do that he had to intensively study a very complex language, and record it in a way that could make sense to the normal ear. He was ideally suited for this purpose. He gained a doctorate in linguistics at the age of 24, specialized in Hebrew at first and then became one of the world’s foremost experts on African languages. Wilhelm's, his wife and later his daughter, persistent efforts in studying and recording the language of the Bushmen in the then Cape Colony, led to the publication of several historic manuscripts. One of these manuscripts Bleek and Lloyd's Specimens of Bushman Folklore published in 1911, is available online. 
This manuscript is a collection of stories told by Bushmen most probably in their native tong and then translated into English by Bleek and Loyd. We have made a selection of these stories that we we will share in future posts. This manuscript gives a rare insight into the Bushmen's close relationship with nature, its love for poetry and stories. The Bushmen's poetic ability was only discovered once these manuscript become available. The Bushmen also had a reverence for the supernatural and many of the stories are strongly influenced by it.

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