Social power through self-imaging in participatory video amongst the Khwe bushmen community of Platfontein.
Voices of Our Forefathers (2008) is a participatory video that was made with a group of Khwe Bushmen in Platfontein in the Northern Cape. It is unique not only for its inclusion of the Khwe subjects in the production process, but also for its unique representation of them. It portrays them from historical as well as modern perspectives. This research explores how a group of Khwe youth – the research participants – engaged and negotiated their encounter with the Voices of Our Forefathers (2008). It does this within the context of participatory communication for development and participatory video. It draws on theories of empowerment, reception and representation. A qualitative methodology was employed with in-depth interviews comprising the main data collection method, and thematic analysis and semiotics being the main data analysis methods. Thematic analysis was aided through the use of a software programme, Nvivo 8. The research explores research participants’ responses to Voices of Our Forefathers and critically examines articulations of empowerment. Most of the research participants felt empowered because VOOF (2008) incorporated the Khwe in the production process, particularly in terms of how they wanted to be represented. The Khwe Bushmen’s participation in their representation resulted in a range of nuanced interpretations and responses to VOOF (2008), which included discussions on rethinking their identities, learning new skills, fostering a sense of ownership of the film and the use of their language (Khwedam) in The Voices of Our Forefathers. It is argued, however, that although the research participants may have expressed that they are empowered, this needs to be understood and critically examined with respect to the larger contexts within which Bushmen, in general, live, which may or may not affect their senses of and the realities of their empowerment. Finally, it is argued that VOOF (2008) needs to be understood as a part of an on-going process in participatory communication for development. It might not have provided research participants with the necessary resources to completely transform their lives; it did, however, contribute to changing how they perceive themselves, which, according to Freirean theory, is a necessary step in empowering oneself.