Date

5-4-2020

Description

When historical records are scarce, communities rely on oral histories to pass on stories of previous members from one generation to the next. How these stories are told, however, is often more a reflection on the values and beliefs of the community itself rather than of the narrative's subjects. This becomes especially evident when individuals come to represent complex, sensitive topics such as race, servitude, and cultural identity. In this presentation, I will explore oral narratives related to Dumboy and Kokolas, two black South-Africans who journeyed with white, Afrikaans-speaking Boers to Argentina following the end of the Anglo-Boer war in 1902. Dumboy and Kokolas have achieved near mythical status within the Boer community today, and their impact in the Boers' collective memory is undeniable. In 2018, researchers from a University of Michigan collaborative endeavor collected 25 sociocultural interviews with members of the community in Patagonia. Of these, 21 speakers mentioned the two men. As part of the Michigan-based team, I listened to their stories, from which emerged several motifs involving Dumboy and Kokolas. I found that Dumboy and Kokolas were largely interchangeable on a narrative level. However, their murky status as itinerant workers in post-slavery Argentina, stories in which they are comic relief, and their inconsistent integration into the Boer community remained consistent. Thus, I will show how stories about Dumboy and Kokolas became a vehicle by which the Patagonian Boers defined their own racial and cultural views, both in the past and in the present.

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May 4th, 12:00 AM

The Legend of Dumboy and Kokolas: Racial Narratives and the Legacy of Two Black Men in a White Afrikaans Community in Patagonia, Argentina

When historical records are scarce, communities rely on oral histories to pass on stories of previous members from one generation to the next. How these stories are told, however, is often more a reflection on the values and beliefs of the community itself rather than of the narrative's subjects. This becomes especially evident when individuals come to represent complex, sensitive topics such as race, servitude, and cultural identity. In this presentation, I will explore oral narratives related to Dumboy and Kokolas, two black South-Africans who journeyed with white, Afrikaans-speaking Boers to Argentina following the end of the Anglo-Boer war in 1902. Dumboy and Kokolas have achieved near mythical status within the Boer community today, and their impact in the Boers' collective memory is undeniable. In 2018, researchers from a University of Michigan collaborative endeavor collected 25 sociocultural interviews with members of the community in Patagonia. Of these, 21 speakers mentioned the two men. As part of the Michigan-based team, I listened to their stories, from which emerged several motifs involving Dumboy and Kokolas. I found that Dumboy and Kokolas were largely interchangeable on a narrative level. However, their murky status as itinerant workers in post-slavery Argentina, stories in which they are comic relief, and their inconsistent integration into the Boer community remained consistent. Thus, I will show how stories about Dumboy and Kokolas became a vehicle by which the Patagonian Boers defined their own racial and cultural views, both in the past and in the present.