Ursula Trüper: Die Hottentottin – Das kurze Leben der Zara Schmelen (ca. 1793–1831) [PDF]


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Missionsgehilfin und Sprachpionierin in Südafrika

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195 pp.
1 map, 30 b/w photos, index of personal and place names

Text language: German

In this book, the author presents the life story of Zara Schmelen, an indigenous missionary assistant in 19th century South Africa, who had married the London Mission Society missionary Johann Hinrich Schmelen. Little is known about her life, except for that which her husband wrote about her in his diaries and letters. She was born in Steinkopf, in the northwest of South Africa, in a region known as ‘Klein-Namaland’. It is assumed that her mother was a ‘Klein-Nama’, or Khoikhoi, woman.

Zara married her missionary husband in 1814, bore four children, and lived with her family at the Bethanian and Komaggian missions until her death. The exact dates of her birth and her death are unknown. Johann Hinrich Schmelen is considered to this day to be the first language pioneer to translate parts of the New Testament into the Nama-language (Khoikhoi). However, some of Schmelen’s contemporaries questioned the validity of his authorship, attesting that Schmelen was at best a poor speaker of Khoikhoi. Closer examination of these doubts indicate clearly that the biblical translations were actually done by Zara Schmelen, an achievement which until now has received little praise.

Under apartheid in South Africa, Zara Schmelens central role in the translation of the New Testament into the Nama-language was not only played down, but her entire existence was denied. In this book the author analyzes letters and other historical materials collected by the Rhenish Mission Society to do justice to the considerable contribution Zara Schmelen made to her husband’s pioneering accomplishment. In this way the author is able to vividly depict Zara Schmelen’s personal history in the larger context of the history of the Christian missions in South Africa and political developments at the beginning of the 19th century.

Under this link you will find a paper collection featuring the role of women in the cultural globalization:

K. Städtler / U. Trüper (eds.): Afrikanische Frauen und kulturelle Globalisierung / African Women and Cultural Globalization / Femmes africaines et globalisation culturelle [PDF]

Under these links you will find further (auto)biographical publications and studies of the history and work of Christian missions in Africa and Asia:

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