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123 6 Intimacy and marginality in rock art recording, 1932–1940 In this manner a most primitive race of hunters, the little Bushmen of South Africa, have left their record on the rocks of the land that long was theirs, but that knows them no more...Nor is there any question as to what they are doing , even feeling, so great was the skill of the artists in portraying action in few but telling lines.1 Dorothea’s interest in rock art scholarship continued after the successful publication of the first batch of Stow’s reproductions. She was on a mission to prove that the bushmen were the original inhabitants of southern Africa, and to dispute suggestions that all of Africa’s cultural output was derived from an exotic and superior civilisation that had peopled the continent in ancient times. The presence of rock art throughout the country was proof of the earlier widespread existence of bushmen across the land and Dorothea was determined to document the painted record they had left behind. It was time to investigate the rock art in an area she felt had yet to receive the attention of researchers and copyists. In the wider world, global politics and financial woes had exerted their influence on intellectual life in cities far from the metropolitan centres of Europe and North America. As Dorothea explained to Käthe Woldmann , the depressed economic climate of the 1930s had put an end to the possibility of state money being available for research – even in Cape Town.2 But Dorothea was not deterred in her aim to document rock art located in the hitherto overlooked swathe of country stretching from Piquetberg (now Piketberg) in the west of the Cape Province, through Paarl, Ceres, Worcester, Swellendam and Riversdale, to the mountains around Oudtshoorn, George andUniondale.HerinterestextendedtotheBedford,AlbanyandGraaff Reinet Book 1.indb 123 10/12/15 10:57 AM D O R O T H E A B L E E K 124 districts. Stow and Bleek’s Rock Paintings in South Africa (1930), and Tongue and Bleek’s Bushman Paintings (1909), had covered rock art in the foothills of the Drakensberg in the eastern Cape, Basutoland (now Lesotho), the Orange Free State (now Free State) and Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). The project that Dorothea set in motion in her chosen research zone offers an opportunity to examine the social and affective networks that characterise fieldwork,to probe the gap between private and public texts, and to investigate the emotional and interactive processes that underlie the making of knowledge in the field. This chapter draws on correspondence exchanged in the space of six or seven months in 1932 that gives a textured picture of the informal ­ practices and relationships that govern the making of field-based knowledge. The­ letters give a sense of the idiosyncratic detail and spontaneity that underlie the lived reality of method in the field, and tell of the making of ‘sanitised’ official texts in which all experiential information has been written out.3 The narrative shows how the scholar and her research assistants are inscribed, or present,in their outputs in a variety of subtle ways,and how knowledge flows in both directions between them. It elaborates how methodology ­ develops in organic, pragmatic ways in reaction to the specifics of a ­ particular field site, and how the personalities and energies of research assistants contribute to and influence research results. Much of this chapter concentrates on the presence of research assistants, and on the implications of informal practices and relationships through which field-based knowledge is made.4 It aims to provide substance and texture to arguments calling for recognition of the unstable and interactive ways in which knowledge emerges from research in the field. By focusing on the personal details of the research relationship, it calls attention to the processes by which local ways of knowing become intertwined with imported ideas and are recast as empirical fact.5 Like the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, whom Jane Camerini describes as having ‘relatively low social standing and minimal institutional support’, Dorothea operated on the margins of established academia.6 Despite her institutional position as Honorary Reader in Bushman Languages at UCT, she occupied a marginal space not only institutionally in respect of research funding, but also intellectually.7 Nevertheless, like her institutionally supported (male) colleagues,she established and maintained the networks necessary to achieve her research goals. Book 1.indb 124 10/12/15 10:57 AM I N T...


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