P017 – Borders as Sites of Memory
10 July, 14:00-15:30

Zeller Wolfgang / University of Edinburgh


This panel invites papers investigating how borders in Africa feature as sites of memory – in official as well as unofficial and possibly politically contested ways. We are interested in contributions on how both the memories of what preceded the border and of border-making itself are embedded in the landscape and in practices of memorialisation, e.g. through cross-border festivals, opening ceremonies of new border infrastructure, works of art, music, film and literature.
This panel is proposed by the African Borderlands Research Network. ABORNE was founded in 2007 and became an AEGIS Collaborative Research Group (CRG) in June 2014. The network currently has close to 300 individual and institutional members across Africa, Europe and North America.


Paper 1

Nugent Paul / University of Edinburgh

Sites of Memory in the Senegambia and the Trans-Volta: Borders as Memonics

Although colonial maps tend not to be at the disposal of border communities, the pillars are readily found. People can often provide a narrative that accounts for their being there and tends to emphasize European agency. However, borders also aid thinking about larger histories in ways which ostensibly have little to do with the border per se.
In this paper, I compare how 2 cross-border festivals have become central to thinking about histories of social proximity. The first is associated with the Narang forest on the border between the Casamance and the Gambia. A Mauritanian marabout, Cheikh Mahfdoudz, established one of his bases at Darsilami in the early 20th century. Mahfoudz is central to an internal debate about jihad of the heart rather than by the sword. His tomb has become an annual focus for pilgrimage by Jolas from the two sides of the border. The second case is the Agbamevoza kente-weaving festival. It takes place each year in the Ghanaian town of Kpetoe and is intended to attract Agotimes from the two sides of the line. In this case, the border stands as a symbol of the diminished standing of the Agotimes within the trans-Volta. The festival is carefully choreographed to play up the military feats of the Agotimes in the past and to celebrate a shared culture today.
Actors in both settings embed their history within a physical landscape whose features were central to the construction of the border and simultaneously transcend and re-inscribe it.

Paper 2

Leonardi Cherry / University of Durham

“We Know the border”: Contested Memories of the South Sudan-Uganda Border in Kajokeji and Moyo

The border between Kajokeji County of South Sudan and Moyo and Yumbe Districts of Uganda has never been finally agreed or demarcated since its provisional (and inaccurate) delineation in 1914. It appears to represent a classic case of an artificial colonial boundary: despite acknowledging the close relations between the Kuku of Kajokeji and the Madi of Moyo, British colonial officials sought to make the border a tribal dividing line, but constantly struggled to prevent settlement and movement across it. These borderlands later became the site of repeated refugee migrations and rebel military camps, making cross-border relations a vital means of survival for their inhabitants. Yet however artificial its origin a century ago, this border has become a significant marker of both national and ethnic identities and a focus of local struggles over power and resources, the latest episode of which pitted Kuku and Madi in violent conflict against each other as South Sudanese and Ugandans.
This paper explores the contested histories of this border in local memories and in the archival record, to show the significance of local historical narratives in memorialising particular events to make this border meaningful and contested. The paper thus juxtaposes the limited interest of national governments in resolving the borderline with the ways in which local actors are now using memories of a shifting border to attempt to define fixed lines of territorial sovereignty and citizenship.

Paper 3

Shiweda Napandulwe / University of Namibia

Omhedi and Oihole in the Namibia-Zambia Borderland: Mandume ya Ndemufayo’s Cross-Border Sites of Memory

In post-war Angola, an impressive monument was built to honour the Kwanyama king Mandume ya Ndemufayo on his grave at Oihole in southern Angola. His grave has become a site of public and national mobilization as the official commemoration takes place annually on the 6th of February since 2002.
This paper traces the emergence, the development and the post-war commemorations, focusing on the revival of the Kwanyama kingship and the annual ‘Mandume Day’ commemoration across the border at Omhedi in northern Namibia, almost 89 years after it was abolished. The Kwanyama kingdom was one of the most important Ovambo kingdoms, cut in half by the colonial border between northern Namibia and southern Angola.
This paper examines the trans-border aspects of memory politics regarding king Mandume ya Ndemufayo in Angola and Namibia, and analyses the role of the ongoing cross-border commemorations in (re)establishing the link between the Ovakwanyama people living on both sides of the border.

Paper 4

Hennlich Andrew J. / Western Michigan University

Space Invaders on the Zimbabwe-South Africa Border: Border Crossing in Daniel Halter’s Heartland Exhibition

Daniel Halter’s 2013 exhibition Heartland examines the Zimbabwe-South Africa border. Heartland is comprised of woven paper images representing the border, the arrival of migrants, and the threat of border crossing and legal documents including: a South African passport, Constitution, and the Rhodesian Declaration of Independence.
Heartland constructs borders in tension between their natural structure and social functions, between exodus and emplacement. I build from the formal structures of Halter’s work, reading Heartland as a reflection on the 2008 South African migrancy crisis through Edward Casey’s reading of the border as undone by its lived functions. The representation of borders in Heartland becomes what Ranjana Khanna terms an unbelonging. Heartland, metaphorized through weaving’s material structures, the migrant’s bag, and springstone sculpture historicize the precarious conditions of living and social relations within South Africa for citizen and migrant. Khanna’s theorization of unbelonging undermines dwelling’s metaphorization; thinking the border through Derrida’s work on hospitality, unbelonging challenges ideas of identity, emplacement and identification. For Halter it undoes the boundary’s force seen in both international borders and the gated community.
Heartland thus documents the undoing of rights purportedly guaranteed in the documents Halter weaves in South Africa’s neo-liberal terrain.

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