Our Story

A series collects and retells the story of the ancestors of all South Africans.

Ancestral Voices

A recently discovered collection of writing of South African culture and history.

891 Ancestral Writings in Indigenous Languages discovered by Heritage Publishers
This heritage campaign, in partnership with the Special Collections Unit of the Department of Library Services, University of Pretoria, and with unwavering support from City Press, is of such importance in recording the history and culture South Africa’s people that a decision has been taken to release regular media updates reporting on progress made, new information gleaned from these writings and repeated appeals for support to our media to publicise these works and assist in finding the descendants of these works.

1. Finding Bertie Ncaphayi White


South African High Commission to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Pledges Support.

A writing by DJ Mapekula in 1939 on the amaBhaca, an extract of which was published in City Press on 13th September 2020, tells of the remarkable story of Bertie Ncapayi White. Under instructions of King Makawula, two men walked from Mount Frere to Rini (Grahamstown) to secure the services of a priest. Rev. White was installed at Tshungwane (Osborn).

Noticing that Rev. White had no children, the King gave his first-born son Bertie Ncaphayi to the priest. When Rev White returned to England, Bertie went with him. The author tells us he married a white English lady. He died in 1938, leaving two daughters, and is buried somewhere in England. We are working to find his resting place.


The full text of the High Commissions Statement reads as follows:

I have just received a go-ahead from High Commissioner Tambo regarding the publication.

As such this serves to confirm that the High Commission will provide the necessary support for the publication of material about the shared heritage between South Africa and the UK.

Regarding the article about the history of amaBhaca (Finding Ncaphayi) please feel free to insert the following at the bottom of the publication:

The South African High Commission in the UK would like to acknowledge the efforts by the SA Heritage Publishers on the initiative of “Finding Ncaphayi”.

We further express our sincere willingness to assist in getting more information about Bertie ‘White’ Ncaphayi from the British Archives in the United Kingdom.

2. Ongoing Search for Author’s Descendants

Grateful thanks go to Umhlobo Wenene for playing an important role in identifying the family of Menziwa Balfour, author of the History and Customs of the amaGcaleka. Heritage was able to contact his daughter and one of his great grandsons.

We request all media houses to publicise this initiative in the hope we can find more relatives. Click here to see a list of authors and their last known addresses

Click here to see a list of all titles by language and author

Interesting Facts Discovered in the Writings

1. Nkosi Shaka sent ambassadors to Government in Cape Town. The names of those sent are given.
2. A dreadful famine, referred to in a number of writings across KwaZulu, Free State and Limpopo, led to several reports of cannibalism. Indeed, Nkosi Shaka sent the iziNyosi and iziMpangele regiments, under the leadership of Matshane Sithole, to neutralize them.
3. The VhaVenda planted the first bananas in the land of the Balobedu. These were a token of thanks for providing protection to them following an attack by ‘Sewawa’ – Jiwawa or Joao Albersini.
4. An interesting piece on traditional wood carving among the VaTsonga.
5. There is another piece on divinatory bone throwing, the interpreting of the bones and what bones should be included.
6. An account of the Bankuna dealing with their breaking away from Soshangaan, while on their way towards present day Zimbabwe, and their arrival in the Tzaneen area as well as a first meeting between them and the Balobedu.


Finding the Authors’ Relatives

The only information provided on all the authors is their initials and surnames. Thankfully, a number of them wrote their first names and addresses on the handwritten manuscripts. We have pored through over 450 manuscripts to identify and list these details on those works scanned thus far. These are listed on an excel spreadsheet you can access on:

Please pass this information on to anyone you know that shares an author’s surname. If you, or they, are related to the author please ask that they contact us on

List of Writings by Language

To see a list of the writings by titles arranged by language and author, click on this link:
The titles highlighted in yellow have been scanned.