Report from Mantsi Teboho Pitso, Master in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø
The primary purpose of my study is to determine Sotho people’s understanding and interpretations of their “stories of origin” taking into consideration factors such as age, gender, social status, education level, occupation and so forth. Fieldwork was conducted in the town of Qwaqwa in the Free State province of South Africa. Many, but not all, people living in Qwaqwa are South Sotho. This subject was of particular interest to me because our oral history is very important to the survival of the Sotho culture, of which I am a member.
I arrived in South Africa at the beginning of May and spent some time with my family while preparing for fieldwork. I also conducted some preliminary interviews with people who had done research or had some authority in the Sotho community in Qwaqwa. I went about finding such individuals using my network of friends and family who live or lived. I also made use of other opportunities such as conducting informal interviews with people I had just met. Often these individuals pointed me to other individuals. My research schedule in my project proposal changed due to the availability of informants at request.
I was interested to find out how much people know about their past or ‘distant past’ and how the interpret and understand what they know. I anticipated that some individuals would not know much of their oral history, but was surprised to find that many did not. Other informants said they could not remember much of these “stories of origin”. The possible reasons for this will be dealt with in the thesis.
The funds provided by the Centre for Sámi Studies were a great help during the fieldwork period. I found accommodation in the neighbouring town of Harrismith because the local bed and breakfast in Qwaqwa was fully booked. I traveled to Qwaqwa using my car when I had interviews scheduled or to make appointments with various informants. I met a lot of interesting people during this period, some of whom participated as informants. Some people were reluctant to participate for various reasons. This has been a wonderful experience on both a personal and academic level. Many thanks to the Sámi Centre!!
Master of Indigenous Studies, 2007