- Exploring Decolonising Themes in SA Sport History: Issues and Challenges ed. by François Johannes Cleophas
In both its title and its preliminary “Reflections” chapter, Exploring Decolonising Themes in SA Sport History clearly and directly identifies its primary objectives. Seeking to narrate South African sport from an Indigenous perspective, this volume intends to contribute to the nearly invisible history of black and nonracialized sport in the nation. As the opening chapter notes, however, the paucity of material on the topic is a consequence not only of a lack of secondary scholarly sources but also of primary documents, due to the concerted, conscious effort of the apartheid state to deny the existence of nonwhite recreational activities. This, according to the author of the opening statement, necessitates “a full-scale re-imagining and rewriting of the history of sport” (2) in the country, rather than offering mere fragmentary examples of sport outside the colonial hegemony or of how it functioned as a shadow of this master narrative.
In the book’s introduction, therefore, editor François Cleophas outlines an explicit objective: to challenge the notion of a white male tradition being the sole narrative in South African sport. To do so, as suggested by the “Reflections” chapter, scholarship must examine how “[o]ppressed voices are articulated in a manner that does not necessarily dovetail with Western epistemology” (9). In other words, Cleophas indicates that the focus is not so much to advance particular arguments or overarching themes across chapters as it is to establish the foundations of a new, decolonized paradigm. As such, although this book is divided into two sections that correspond roughly to secondary and first hand accounts of South African sporting history, the volume as a whole is geared more toward establishing questions and sources for future research, rather than outlining thoroughly developed conclusions.
Following a final introductory note that offers suggestions on how to best recenter the hegemonic narrative, part one begins with a chapter by Hendrik Snyders, whose goal is “to assign historical significance, in a decolonised manner, to . . . Gasant Ederoos Behardian” (24). To accomplish this, the author goes beyond the stereotype of his subject as a one-dimensional character to examine the complex nature of his achievements that have been ignored and, therefore, reduced his historical agency. The following chapter by Cleophas, meanwhile, was written not so much to advance a particular argument as to suggest that a decolonized history of sport in Cape Town could be written, by demonstrating that non-white sport, though ignored, did exist prior to 1920. Nuraan Davids, meanwhile, looks at sport from the perspective of Muslim women, arguing that, to understand the relationship between the hijab and sport, one must go beyond the Western notion of this garment as a simple symbol of oppression and deconstruct the complexities that for many such women enter into the decision of wearing the garment.
Next, Gustav Venter looks into the nonracial football movement of the late 1970s and outlines clearly how practical concerns played as important a role as ideological ones for teams seeking to join nonracial leagues. Farieda Khan, meanwhile, provides a detailed history of the Cape Province Mountain Club, which evolved alongside the country’s more [End Page 83] famous white clubs. Finally, to close out this first section, Hendrik Snyders returns to examine how baseball, as a segregated sport, was both a tool for colonization and a locus for decolonization.
The volume’s second part begins with William Pick discussing the production of his book One for the Chuck, which delves into cricket’s trajectory from a colonizer’s “gentleman’s game” into a site of progressive resistance. Next, Sigi Howes looks into the ways in which child diarist Iris Vaughan’s life intersected with South Africa sport history, highlighting the need for researchers to engage unconventional sources when attempting to uncover the topic’s buried history. Chares Beukes follows this theme by suggesting that social media can be an important tool for researching sport...