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About the Author: Wilhelm Heinrich Immanuel Bleek

Wilhelm Heinrich Immanuel Bleek was born in Berlin on 8 March 1827. He was the eldest son of Friedrich Bleek, Professor of Theology at Berlin University and then at the University of Bonn, and Augusta Charlotte Marianne Henriette Sethe. He graduated from the University of Bonn in 1851 with a doctorate in linguistics, after a period in Berlin where he went to study Hebrew and where he first became interested in African languages. Bleek's thesis featured an attempt to link North African and Khoikhoi (or what were then called Hottentot) languages – the thinking at the time being that all African languages were connected. After graduating in Bonn, Bleek returned to Berlin and worked with a zoologist, Dr Wilhelm K H Peters, editing vocabularies of East African languages. His interest in African languages was further developed during 1852 and 1853 by learning Egyptian from Professor Karl Richard Lepsius, whom he met in Berlin in 1852.

Bleek was appointed official linguist to Dr William Balfour Baikie's Niger Tshadda Expedition in 1854. Ill-health (a tropical fever) forced his return to England where he met George Grey and John William Colenso, the Anglican Bishop of Natal, who invited Bleek to join him in Natal in 1855 to help compile a Zulu grammar. After completing Colenso's project, Bleek travelled to Cape Town in 1856 to become Sir George Grey's official interpreter as well as to catalogue his private library. Grey had philological interests and was Bleek's patron during his time as Governor of the Cape. The two had a good professional and personal relationship based on an admiration that appears to have been mutual. Bleek was widely respected as a philologist, particularly in the Cape. While working for Grey he continued with his philological research and contributed to various publications during the late 1850s. Bleek requested examples of African literature from missionaries and travellers, such as the Revd W Kronlein who provided Bleek with Namaqua texts in 1861.

In 1859 Bleek briefly returned to Europe in an effort to improve his poor health but returned to the Cape and his research soon after. In 1861 Bleek met his future wife, Jemima Lloyd, at the boarding house where he lived in Cape Town (run by a Mrs Roesch), while she was waiting for a passage to England, and they developed a relationship through correspondence. She returned to Cape Town from England the following year.

Bleek married Jemima Lloyd on 22 November 1862. The Bleeks first lived at The Hill in Mowbray but moved in 1875 to Charlton House. Jemima's sister, Lucy Lloyd, joined the household after the couple's wedding in 1862.

When Grey was appointed Governor of New Zealand, he presented his collection to the South African Public Library on condition that Bleek be its curator, a position he occupied from 1862 until his death in 1875. In addition to this work, Bleek supported himself and his family by writing regularly for Het Volksblad throughout the 1860s and publishing the first part of his A Comparative Grammar of South African Languages in London in 1862. The second part was also published in London in 1869 with the first chapter appearing in manuscript form in Cape Town in 1865. Unfortunately, much of Bleek's working life in the Cape, like that of Lucy Lloyd after him, was characterised by extreme financial hardship which made his research even more difficult to continue with.

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Presentimiento y Metamorfosis Entre los Bosquimanos by

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Paperback, Published in Nov 2009 by Sexto Piso Editorial

ISBN10: 8496867447 | ISBN13: 9788496867444

Page count: 112

With a style reminiscent of oral tradition, the Bushmen share their legends about their principal deity, the Mantis, their relationship with their environment and its animals, and some aspects of their traditions and everyday lives.


En un estilo que refleja la tradición oral a la que corresponden sus historias, los bosquimanos narran sus leyendas relativas a su deidad principal, el Mantis, a su relación con el entorno y los animales, y a algunos rasgos de la convivencia al interior de sus sociedades.

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