|Land from the Ancestors: Popular Religious Pilgrimage along the South Africa-Lesotho Border
|Coplan, David B.
|Journal of Southern African Studies
|Between 1843 and 1869 the Basotho monarchy lost the better part of its cultivable land to the white settlers of the Orange Free State. While various political appeals for the return of this ‘Conquered Territory’ by the successor State of Lesotho since 1965 have proved unavailing, recent years have seen a rapid re-occupation of certain highland caves and their environs by pilgrims who identify them as ‘sacred to the ancestors’. Pilgrims to the sacred caves practise every form of African religion from pre-Christian Basotho ritual and medicine to independent Apostolic to established mission church Christianity. Attempts by the local white landowners to expel the pilgrims have proved fruitless in South Africa’s ‘new frontier’ districts bordering Lesotho, as the State is no longer willing to place the sanctity of private property above popular rights of access to religious and heritage sites. This article applies the conceptual apparatus of ritual agency and interpretation to the study of this inchoate movement for the re-appropriation of ‘ancestral’ lands by spiritual strategies. Grounded in the postapartheid context of racialized contestation over the land, the study points to the emergence of a new set of conflicting ideological discourses operating parallel to cooperative forms of practical coexistence between black and white on the Free State-Lesotho border. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]
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