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.
We have described Ancestral Voices as the largest and most important heritage project of its kind currently underway in South Africa. How can this claim be justified?
Until now most of South Africa’s history, seen from the perspective of indigenous language mother tongue speakers, has been conveyed orally to the younger generation. Many of these stories have possibly been either lost or have changed in the telling across the many generations through which they have been passed.
We now have a collection of indigenous language writings written between the 1930’s to 1950’s, covering every aspect of the history, culture and heritage of the majority of South Africa’s people. Many were written after interviewing the then elderly, whose dates of birth can, in some instances, be estimated at between 1850 and 1860. If they, in turn, learned these stories from their parents and grandparents then these writings transport us back to the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. In the southern African context, had we not seen and read a number of these works ourselves, this is nothing short of remarkable, if not unbelievable.

At the time of writing, we have transcribed into new autography and translated into English only 150 of the 910 writings. The work done has revealed some startling and compelling information. A few examples are listed below and will undoubtedly be further researched:

  • Nkosi Shaka kaSenzangakhona sent emissaries to Cape Town to negotiate with Government. The emissaries are named.
  • He sent two regiments, later to be joined by a third under a commander he selected, to deal with the scourge of cannibalism that emerged following a severe drought. The names of the regiments and their commander are revealed. This drought and its impact are also covered in writings from present day Free State and Limpopo.
  • Following Nkosi Zwide kaLanga’s defeat at the Battle of Mhlathuze River, we learn that one of his son’s stayed in KZN. He was ultimately brought before Shaka, recognised as a Prince, and served Shaka. He was to become a hero and, we are told, had a son who fought heroically at Isandlwana. Again, both Zwide’s son and grandson are named.
  • The first known writing in isiZulu by a Shezi clan-member on the Bhambatha Rebellion.
  • The first known writing in isiZulu by a Shezi clan-member on the Bhambatha Rebellion.
  • A report on the interactions between Soshangaan and Hosi Shilubana 1 as told by P Shilubana, who was either the Hosi’s son or g We are trying to establish which.
  • Similarly, interesting pieces from clans of the Batswana, Basotho – North and South – Vatsonga, amaNdebele and many others can be found in what is a small sample of these writings.

Similarly, interesting pieces from clans of the Batswana, Basotho – North and South – Vatsonga, amaNdebele and many others can be found in what is a small sample of these writings.

  • Prepare the materials for a wider audience and final publication, by transcribing them into current orthography and translating them into English, so they may be read by the majority of South Africans and preserved for future generations.
  • Prepare the materials for a wider audience and final publication, by transcribing them into current orthography and translating them into English, so they may be read by the majority of South Africans and preserved for future generations.
  • Set up a web-based low-cost read-only subscription service, and invite subscribers to assist in reviewing and checking the original handwritten manuscripts and typescripts, and comparing these with the modern typescript and English translation. This has been done and can be accessed on saheritagepublishers.co.za
  • Our translators have come across indigenous language words that are no longer understood. In partnership with the National Lexicography Units, other language specialists, and with the assistance of subscribers, we will see if we can establish what they mean, and include them in future editions of NLU dictionaries. One of the NLU mandates is the preservation of our indigenous languages.

Our translators have come across indigenous language words that are no longer understood. In partnership with the National Lexicography Units, other language specialists, and with the assistance of subscribers, we will see if we can establish what they mean, and include them in future editions of NLU dictionaries. One of the NLU mandates is the preservation of our indigenous languages.

  • A decision was taken, as a result of the importance of these works, that they be made available to a wider audience at the first opportunity. The writings on our website have not yet been finally corrected and edited. The original works will be produced word for word. We will not edit out or add to an author’s work.
  • You will be able to see and read the original manuscript, typescript, modern typescript and the English translation. In some instances, only one of the two original documents is available.
  • Illustrations, where they exist, can be viewed in the handwritten manuscript.
  • We hope to make this project semi-interactive by asking you to inform of any instances where the typescripts do not match the manuscript text. We have already picked up a few instances where this has happened in the original documents.
  • Help us to find the authors descendants, by passing information on to friends with the same surname and who originate from the same area. See our list of authors and their last known addresses on our website: www.saheritagepublishers.co.za.
We will keep you up to date on developments and as they unfold and would be pleased to hear your opinion of the value of this project.