Nxele, Ntsikana and the origins of the Xhosa religious reaction

Peires, J.B. (1979) Nxele, Ntsikana and the origins of the Xhosa religious reaction. Journal of African History, 20 . pp. 51-61. ISSN 0021-8537



Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021853700016716


The sudden expulsion of the Xhosa across the Fish River in 1811–12 created a practical and conceptual crisis which the traditional political authorities were unable to resolve. Two commoners, Nxele and Ntsikana, emerged in this vacuum, each proposing his own solution to the problems posed by the white irruption. Although these responses were religious responses, they were neither irrational nor incomprehensible. Xhosa religion had long functioned as an instrument for the control of the material world. By incorporating selected Christian concepts with the Xhosa world-view, Nxele and Ntsikana were able to provide the Xhosa with acceptable explanations of past events and prescriptions for future action. Nxele urged resistance and Ntsikana preached submission, but an examination of their personal histories shows that these final conclusions were more the product of exterior pressure than interior revelation. It may be suggested that the future reputations of the two men, like their past actions, will be determined more by the popular mood than by anything they themselves did or said.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Jeff Peires lectured in History at Rhodes University from 1977 to 1988
Uncontrolled Keywords:Hundred Years War; Frontier Wars; Cape of Good Hope; Cape Colony; colonists; African beliefs; African culture; pacifists; Christian beliefs; Christianity; prophets; Boers; Great Fish River; Bushmans River; Eastern Cape; Grahamstown; South Africa
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > History
ID Code:1316
Deposited On:01 Apr 2009
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:20
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