n Missionalia : Southern African Journal of Mission Studies - Space and spatiality at Gerlachshoop and Thabantsho (1860-1864) : relationships between the missionaries and the Bakopa

Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-9507



Today the localities of the Berlin mission station Gerlachshoop and the adjacent royal Bakopa village Thabantsho are archaeological sites. Surface surveys and archaeological excavations have exposed the character of a place that was the scene of contact between the African chief Boleu of the Bakopa and the missionaries of the Berlin Missionary Society between 1860 and 1864. Their contact occurred in a period of tension between the Bakopa and other African polities, such as the Bapedi, the Ndzundza-Ndebele and the Swazi. The contact also occurred against the backdrop of the formation of the Boer Republics in central southern Africa. At Thabantsho, Boleu initially welcomed the missionaries but soon made their lives extremely difficult by his actions. This vicissitude of rapprochement and animosity materialised in spatial arrangements at and around Thabantsho. When Boleu and many of his people died in battle against a combined Swazi-Boer force on 10 May 1864, the battle also signalled the end of the missionary work at Gerlachshoop for decades afterwards. Both places were deserted.

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