n Missionalia : Southern African Journal of Mission Studies - A letter from 'the other side of silence' : Dludlushe Sondzaba and the Trappist mission in East Griqualand




This paper relates to my study of the transformation of Mariannhill Monastery from a house of the Trappist Order into the Congregation of Mariannhill Missions. It is a close reading of a letter written in 1908 by one Dludlushe Sondzaba to Donald Strachan in Umzimkulu, complaining about the encroachment of the Trappist mission of Lourdes in East Griqualand upon his land. In it, I analyse the historical and metaphorical terms of his complaint, going into a detailed account of the material circumstances of the time and how Dludlushe Sondzaba represented these in terms of prevalent tropes concerning missions. I concentrate in particular on the material production of the letter, especially its translation and transcription by another hand; many clues as to what is at stake in the letter are related to my attempts at identifying who the actual writer of the letter was. Amongst the themes engaged are those of Dludlushe's son's alliance with the Catholics (against his own Methodist affiliations), the national (British versus German) allegiances he invokes, and, particularly, his complaint about the way the sound of the mission's bells offended him. I used this last point, which led to the contested place of bells in Trappist practices, as a way into the tensions surrounding Mariannhill's interpretation of the Trappist Statutes (particularly the strict observance of silence) in relation to their ever-increasing missionary interests (forbidden by the Trappist Statutes).


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