Whoosh! Issue 35 - August 1999

Disparate Cultures:
Shock Of the Other, Collision, Apartness, and Resolution

Lands, Famines, Wars, Migrations, And Peoples

Xena: The first time my army went west, we ran into the Horde.

Ringing out from our blue heavens,
from our deep seas breaking round;
Over everlasting mountains where
the echoing crags resound;
From our plains where creaking wagon cut
their trails into the earth
Calls the spirit of our Country,
of the land that gave us birth.

At thy call we shall not falter,
firm and steadfast we shall stand,
At thy will to live or perish,
O South Africa, dear land.

  --"Dies Stem Van Suid-Afrika" ('The Call Of South Africa') by C.J. Langenhoven (Afrikaner poet, 1918), South Africa National Anthem

"You think you can rule over this land, but I see already the 'swallows' (white people) arrive. You will not rule when I am dead because the white people are already here."
  -- Shaka Zulu to his half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, 1822

[40] Competition for land lay at the root of the Greek-Pomira conflict. Although the Pomira and the Greeks have different ideas about land, they are subject to the same pressures. The poor natural resources of Greece force the Greeks to expand across the Aegean Sea, and on to Italy and Sicily. One focus of Greek colonial activity is the forests of the Pomira. Meanwhile, the Pomira refuse to allow the Greek colonists to alter the forest lands to support larger populations.

[41] During the timeframe of XWP, war, invasions, and droughts emptied the Greek cities. Little is known about this period. Perhaps by reviewing the Mfecane/Difaqane of southern Africa, one can understand the Greek Dark Ages.

..The Mfecane/Difaqane of Southern Africa

"My masters, you see that the world is collapsing. We shall be eaten up one by one. Our fathers taught us 'khotso ke nala' ('peace means prosperity'), but today there is no peace, no prosperity. Let us march ... to find some land where we can live in peace!"
  -- Sebetwane (Leader of the Patsa-Fokeng, 1790-1851) 1822

"From Natal to Tegela, there is not a single inhabitant. Yet 15 years ago this country densely populated; its inhabitants have been completely destroyed by Shaka [Zulu]. We see the ruins of several kraals; the people who accompanied us told us that if it not for the long grass we would see the ground strewn with human bones..."
  -- L. Grout (American Missionary in southern Africa) 1836

[42] Tragedy on a vast scale struck southern Africa in the early 1800's. This event was named the "Mfecane" ('the crushing of people') by the Nguni, and the "Difaqane" ('the scattering of tribes') by the Sotho and Tswana. The Afrikaners and the British called the catastrophe "the Wars of Calamity". By 1825, two and half million starving, homeless people wandered about southern Africa looking for respite.

[43] The causes of the Mfecane were many. Introduced from the Americas, corn (maize) flourished in the mild seasons of southern Africa. Not carefully managed, corn depleted the soil of nutrients. As the local population increased, they competed for more land to cultivate corn and to graze livestock. Starting in 1800, a long drought then made southern Africa inhospitable. Peoples moved in search of food, and fought for meager supplies. The Mfengu called the drought, "madlatule" ('eat what you can and say nothing').

[44] The Mfecane produced the Difaqane. The Basotho were pushed into the mountains where they were harassed by cannibals. Forced off their lands, Nguni and Tswana peoples collided with the Voortrekkers moving north. The Xhosa expanded into Khoikhoi lands. Some Khoikhoi retreated into the Kalahari Desert. Others were killed or enslaved by the Voortrekkers. Meanwhile, refugees from various Nguni and Sotho groups formed a new tribe, the Mfengu, whose name means 'beggar' in iziXhosa.

[45] Then, Shaka Zulu started his campaign to conquer Natal. Refugee groups, escaping Shaka's anger, invaded the lands of the Tswana in present-day Botswana. Sobhuza of the Swazi moved his people north from the Pongola River to present-day Swaziland, and conquered the peoples living there. The marauding Hlubi and Ngwane created chaos as they tramped westward. The Tlokoa left a path of destruction when they marched from Natal to Botswana. They attacked the Pasta-Fokeng, and forced these people west. Leading the Pasta-Fokeng north to the Zambezi River, Sebetwane, their new leader, raided destitute refugees. Setting towns on fire, the Ndebele swept ahead of the Zulu impi to settle in Zimbabwe. By the time of Shaka's murder in 1828, no group of people were living on their original lands. The upheaval and chaos of the Mfecane/Difaqane took years to recover from.

..The Mantatisi Horde

[46] During the Mfecane, stories were told of a Horde led by Mantatisi, a terrifying one-eyed woman who suckled her troops at her breast. Marching west from Natal to Lesotho, this mob of 50,000 people left a path of destruction. As the Horde swept through southern Africa, they set towns on fire. After Mantatisi died, her son Sikonyela led the Horde in pillaging for another twenty years. Because of Mantatisi's notoriety, all Tswana-Sotho raiders were called 'boo-Mma-Ntatisi' by their neighbors or 'Mantatee Horde' by the English.

[47] Mma-Ntatisi (Mantatisi) was responsible for some of the worst depredations of the Mfecane. Following the Hlubi attack on her people, Mma-Ntatisi led the Tlokoa west across the Drakensberg Mountains. Regent for her son Sikonyela, she fought to keep the Tlokoa intact. Still harassed by the Hlubi, she attacked the Basotho for their cattle. Then Mma-Ntatisi marched her people to the Orange River, which was in flood stage. Unable to cross, the Tlokoa went north to besiege the Basotho at Butha-Buthe. Finally, Mma-Ntatisi settled her people on Marabeng Mountain.

[48] After Sikonyela became king, his mother, known as 'the Destroyer of Nations', lived a lonely, drunken life. Xena's early life paralleled Mma-Ntatisi's life. Like Mma-Ntatisi, Xena was too zealous in protecting her people, in her aspirations to conquer territories, and her love for her son.

..Moshoeshoe and the Basotho

"It belongs not to me, as you know yourself very well that every country in the world does not belong to the people which dwells in it. If I remove the Basutos, I have nowhere else where I can establish them."
  -- Moshoeshoe

[49] Mma-Ntatisi drove Moshoeshoe from his fortress near the Caledon River to safety on Thaba Bosiu (in Lesotho). While Moshoeshoe lead his people to their new home, cannibals among Mma-Ntatisi's army ate some of the lagging Basotho. To keep the Tlokoa at bay, Moshoeshoe convinced the Zulu to attack Sikonyela's army. While the Zulu and Tlokoa fought, Moshoeshoe increased his territory. Afterwards, Moshoeshoe persuaded the British to establish his kingdom as a Crown Colony, to deter encroachment from other Europeans and Afrikaners.

[50] Moshoeshoe could teach Gabrielle how to use power constructively. One way to gather strength is by promoting peace. By welcoming refugees, he raised the Basotho from a small clan to a nation. Calling 'Peace' his sister, Moshoeshoe pardoned the cannibals who ate his grandfather. The cannibals reformed their ways and joined the Basotho. Moshoeshoe formed a friendship with Eugene Casalis, a French missionary, who provided a means for the survival of his people. Casalis enabled him to convince Queen Victoria to make Basutoland a Crown Colony. To keep the Basotho intact, Moshoeshoe required all men attend court debates to discuss government policies. Like Gabrielle, he highly valued the art of persuasive argument. His efforts for his people were rewarded in 1966 when Basutoland became independent Lesotho.

..The Greek Dark Ages

"In the time of ancient gods, warlords and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle. The power. The passion. The danger. Her courage will change the world."
  -- Introduction to XWP

[51] The ancient Greeks experienced their own Mfecane. About 1200 BCE, disaster engulfed the eastern Mediterranean throwing the area into turmoil. Various historians believe that widespread drought, invasion of the Dorians from the north, the long Trojan War, and predications of the Sea Peoples combined to create the ensuing chaos. Large city states collapsed when Greeks abandoned them. In place of the cities were tiny villages of twenty people, usually shepherds and subsistence farmers. The XWP episode, HERE SHE COMES...MISS AMPHIPOLIS (35/211) delves into the miseries of the ordinary Greek during these Dark Ages: famine, dispossession, and war.

[52] The introduction of XWP show the Greek Difaqane. Marauding armies of warlords roam the countryside wrecking havoc. Constant warfare made Xena, a warlord and threatened Gabrielle with slavery. However, the Greece of XWP is changing from the rule of warlords to the rise of new city states. During their travels, Xena and Gabrielle encounter bandit gangs and well-governed towns. One of their friends, King Gregor protects his people from warlords [CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)].

Forming The Template

"People become impatient of diversity and differences. They long for what gives them a sense of security and that is usually sought and perhaps found in what is the well-known, what is familiar, what is the same. And hence the desire for homogeneity, sameness, and the abhorrence of what is different culturally, ethnically, religiously, in points of view."
  -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "Freedom and Tolerance", speech, Cape Town Press Club, June 6, 1995

[53] Various criteria form the template for interacting with strangers. Some of the usual criteria are how other people sound and look. Their beliefs brand them as aliens. Where people live make them unworthy of our attention.


Gabrielle: The Horde will never hurt you again.
Vanessa/Pilee: Not Horde, Pomira. We Pomira.

"As a Mosotho and a Southern African, I wholeheartedly welcome the insightful Basotho book and this Southern African series."   -- T.T. Thahane, Deputy Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, 1994 [NOTE 07]

[54] Which is it: Afrikaner or Boer, Khoikhoi or Hottentot, !Kung or Bushman, Pomira or Horde? Which are the names that these peoples call themselves, and which are the names that others gave them? Many peoples are often known only by what strangers call them. These names often bear little relation to the peoples themselves.

[55] How people refer to themselves can be complex. For example, the Basotho speak the Sesotho language (siSotho), and live in Lesotho. A person is a "Mosotho". When a Mosotho returns to Lesotho, they say, "I am coming to Moshoeshoe".


[56] The Dutch called the cattle-herding nomads, "Hottentots". The name came from dispossessed Khoikhoi begging for food. Before giving them food scraps, Dutch sailors commanded them to dance on one foot chanting "Hotantot". The hunter-gathers of the region were called "Bushmen". Both peoples resented those names. The proper name for the nomads is "Khoikhoi" ('men of men'), and for the hunter-gatherers, "San", a Khoikhoi word meaning 'men'.

[57] The British called the BakaNgwane, "Swazi", which was a mispronunciation of "Mswati", their king's name. Mswati's father, Sobhuza had conquered the peoples living in present-day Swaziland. The Swazi called these peoples "Emakhandzambili" ('those found ahead'). The peoples who Mswati conquered were called "Emafikamura" ('those who arrived after'). Mswati created the Swazi nation by uniting these various peoples.


[58] The Tswana called Europeans "maKgowa" after Coenrad de Buys. They called him "Kgowa" meaning 'the peeled one', since his sunburn flaked his skin off. During the Graaft-Reinet Boer Rising of 1799, this trekboer fled to Xhosa territory. After marrying the mother of a Xhosa leader, de Buys went north to Tswana lands.


[59] The name "Afrikaner" is the Afrikaans word for 'African'. Before the 19th Century, all people born in southern Africa were called 'Afrikaner'. Eventually, the name came to be applied to two groups of people -- the trekboers and the Orlam (a mixed group of Khoikhoi and escaped Asian slaves).

[60] Once an acceptable name, "Boer" comes from the Dutch for 'farmer'. Today calling someone a 'Boer' is derogatory unless of course that person is a farmer. Until the 1880's, Boers called themselves by where they lived -- Cape Boers, Transvaalers. Stephanus du Toit promoted the name "Afrikaner" to replace 'Boer'.

[61] The most famous of the Orlam (Malay for 'wise guys') was Jager Afrikaner, an escaped Khoisan farm worker. His group called themselves "Afrikaners" after him. When they migrated to central Namiba, the Afrikaners stole sheep from the Nama. In retaliation, the Nama called them "Gu-nu", 'sheep stealers'.

[62] Although Jager became a reformed trader, his son Jonker remained a bandit. The Nama who employed Jonker's men as mercenaries called them "Aich-ai", 'the warlike people'.


[63] The Greeks prefer to be called "Hellenes". According to their myths, the gods destroyed mankind in a flood. Only Deucalion and Pyrrha survived. Their son, Hellen, became the legendary founder of Hellas. The Romans were the first to refer to the Hellenes as "Greeks". Among the colonists who settled in Naples, were the Graii, an Hellene tribe. The Romans applied the name of the local colonists to all Hellenes.


[64] A good example of how a group of people receive their 'known' name is the Pomira. The Greeks of XWP call the Pomira "Horde". This word means 'a wandering troop of nomadic people migrating from place to place for the sake of plunder'. (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary). That is their perception of the Pomira.

Languages [NOTE 08]

Xena: I know they have a code of combat, and I know one word, 'kaltaka'. But do I understand them.

To learn how to speak
With the voices of the land,
To parse the speech in its rivers,
To catch in the inarticulate grunt
Stammer, call, cry, babble, tongue's knot
A sense of the stoneness of these stones
From which all words are cut...
  -- "To Learn How To Speak", Jeremy Cronin (South African poet), from Inside (1983, Ravan Press, South Africa)

[65] Language is a glimpse into the mind of a people. For example, English has only one word for 'you'. In contrast, Japanese has thirty words for 'you' depending on one's status, the status of the addressee, and the status of the person being spoken about. Contrasting the two languages, one finds that English speakers do not concern themselves with formalities, while Japanese speakers are very concerned with group relationships. English decline verbs by time: "I come, I came, I have come". Japanese decline verbs by politeness and secondarily by time. Japanese speakers are more concerned with manners, while English speakers are more attuned to the passage of time.

[66] The amaZulu prize good manners. In Zulu society, it is important to greet everyone as you arrive, and as you go. In iziZulu, there are separate goodbyes depending on whether you are the one leaving or the one staying.

[67] Compare the following:

[68] Zulu and English speakers have many sounds which have no matches. This creates 'funny accents', which many people correlate with stupidity. Although the British had soldiers who understood iziZulu, they regarded that language as sub-human. Since the Zulu mangled the pronunciation of English words, the British regarded them stupid.


[69] IziZulu is an agglutinative language that attaches prefixes and suffixes to the roots and stems of words [NOTE 09]. IziZulu has one of the most complex grammars in the world. When the Zulu began living in Khoikhoi areas, they added three Khoisan clicks to their Bantu language for use as consonants. For example, the iziZulu word for 'no', "cha", is pronounced with a click-pop.

..Notation of Clicks [NOTE 10]

[70] (from Encyclopedia Britannia, "Click")

Type Of ClickIn KhoisanIn iziZulu
*Alveolar*sharper "tsk"not-equal sign--
*Bilabial*'kiss'circle with dot inside--

[71] Afrikaans developed when Dutch settlers needed to communicate with their Malay and Khoikhoi slaves. Later, the trekboers expanded the language to reflect their experiences. For many years, Afrikaners called their language "die taal", 'the language'. In the 1870's, Stephanus du Toit, a prominent Afrikaner nationalist, promoted "Afrikaans" as the name for the language. Only in 1900, did Afrikaans have an official written form.


[72] In THE PRICE (44/233), the Athenians assumed that "kaltaka" was the Horde's god of war. By accident, Gabrielle finds out that "kaltaka" means 'water'. She gave kaltaka to the wounded Pomira. Her act provided a venue of understanding for the two groups.

[73] In DAUGHTER OF POMIRA (79/411), Gabrielle persuades Xena to rescue Vanessa from the Horde. Xena risks entering the Pomira village knowing only one word. She does not even know how to greet people! I doubt seriously that the Pomira only grunt at each other. Xena's bumbling manner alerts them to a stranger in their midst.

[74] The only written translation of Pomira is the silly disclaimer: "Lakota toti. Bonai. Soli bonai." ('People all. Good. Only good.') The disclaimer fails to reflect Pilee's translation of Cirvik's statement ("No fight. No war. Only family."). Which did he say? "People are good" is distinctly different from "no fighting". Cirvik refused to fight the villagers because he claimed kinship with Vanessa/Pilee. Cirvik may believe that "all people are good" but he needs a specific reason to stop fighting.

[75] Language is a window into human thought. One Lakota word cobbled together with several Pidgin Latin ones tells me nothing about the Pomira. For their Star Trek movies and TV shows, Paramount asked Marc Okrand, a linguist, to invent a language for their Klingon characters. Why not have a linguist develop a syntax and grammar for Pomira, since the writers of XWP did write dialogue for the Pomira?

Previous Section
Table of Contents
Next Section
Return to Top Return to Index