'Colonial' experts, local interlocutors, informants and the making of an archive on the Transvaal Ndebele'
The perspectives of African informants and researchers profoundly shaped the writings of government ethnologist Dr. Nicholas Jacobus van Warmelo who not only collected information from local African informants but also relied on African researchers who wrote manuscripts in the vernacular that would constitute part of his archive. This study explores the process of producing knowledge on the ?Transvaal Ndebele?, and provides an analysis of Van Warmelo's texts and of his researchers' manuscripts. By looking at the role of local interlocutors, I make a case for African agency in shaping the ?colonial? expert's conceptions of Ndebele identity. This article provides an account of the co-production of cultural knowledge. Van Warmelo was employed by the South African Native Affairs Department to identify and fix ?tribes?, a highly political enterprise, and in the process generated an archive. His work was as much appropriated by the apartheid state for social engineering as by Ndebele interlocutors involved in contemporary struggles over chieftainship.