The Comaroffs have argued that missionaries understood their homes as exemplary spaces, examples of “Godly domesticity open to all eyes” (1997) from which they could project an ideal of properly ordered and gendered family space. Central to their argument was the assertion that Kuruman ‘was the model Nonconformist station in the interior, the most celebrated token of its type’. Nevertheless, from its establishment in 1824, Kuruman was also a home to traders, who lived alongside the missionary houses flanking the church. By the time that the Kuruman Moffat Mission was established as a South African heritage site in the twentieth century, however, the trading compound had been demolished, and was excluded from its scope.
Drawing on research undertaken in archives and the field since 2017, as part of the interdisciplinary research project Re-collecting the missionary road, including through a field school with colleagues and students from Sol Plaatje University and the McGregor Museum, Kimberley in 2018, this paper will explore the tensions between missionary, commercial, colonial and racial forces at the site, and the ways these manifested in the (re)organisation of space. It will be argued that Kuruman can nevertheless be regarded as exemplary of the cultural and racial dynamics of South Africa’s interior, as long as the commercial interests of resident traders are recognised alongside the religious ambitions of their godly neighbours.
Chris Wingfield is Senior Lecturer in the Arts of Africa at the Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia
All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking is required.