Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present (2016)

Edited by Janet Remmington, Brian Willan and Bhekizizwe Peterson
Foreword by Njabulo Ndebele

First published in 1916, Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa was written by one of the South Africa’s most talented early 20th-century black leaders and journalists. Plaatje’s pioneering book arose out of an early African National Congress campaign to protest against the discriminatory 1913 Natives Land Act. Native Life vividly narrates Plaatje’s investigative journeying into South Africa’s rural heartlands to report on the effects of the Act and his involvement in the deputation to the British imperial government. At the same time it tells the bigger story of the assault on black rights and opportunities in the newly consolidated Union of South Africa – and the resistance to it.

plaatjeOriginally published in war-time London, but about South Africa and its place in the world, Native Life travelled far and wide, being distributed in the United States under the auspices of prominent African-American WEB Du Bois. South African editions were to follow only in the late apartheid period and beyond.

The aim of this multi-authored volume is to shed new light on how and why Native Life came into being at a critical historical juncture, and to reflect on how it can be read in relation to South Africa’s heightened challenges today. Crucial areas that come under the spotlight in this collection include land, race, history, mobility, belonging, war, the press, law, literature, language, gender, politics, and the state.

 

“This superb collection of essays, photos, poems, and stories – some delightfully at odds with each other – focuses on a remarkable individual, but is about so much more than one man. It opens up conversations about the core issues of our times – a critical reclaiming of the value of liberalism, the politics of belonging, the meaning of democracy, the possibilities of land reform, control by hereditary elites over communal land, the complexities of gender and nationalism, the decolonisation of the curriculum, and what constitutes ‘real’ history, citizenship, personal mobility and press freedom.”

Prof Sandra Swart,  History (Stellenbosch University) 

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Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje (1876-1932)

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On the African Intellectual Mobilities Colloquium

Rebecca Jones ‘We need new critical paradigms’: Reflections on researching a literary history of Yoruba travel writing’ © Imke van Heerden
Rebecca Jones ‘We need new critical paradigms’: Reflections on researching a literary history of Yoruba travel writing’ © Imke van Heerden

Finding Africa is delighted to have had the opportunity to co-host and participate in the recent colloquium of African Intellectual Mobilities at the University of York. Centred around a questioning and broadening of the travel writing genre and the movements of writers, the colloquium registered the significance and extent of travel writing by African and black diaspora authors and intellectuals. Such a revisiting of the genre reveals the potential for research that seeks to reposition travel and the many types of texts and voices that have been marginalised within this tradition of writing.

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Submit an Abstract & Register Online! Colloquium: African Intellectual Mobilities at the University of York


African Intellectual Mobilities: Diasporic Travel and Texts, Past and Present

Saturday 7 February 2015, 9:00am–5:30pm & wine reception

The Treehouse, Humanities Research Centre, University of York 

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Featuring a reading by and interview with Noo Saro-Wiwa, acclaimed author of Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, who is working on her second book;

A keynote by Dr Alasdair Pettinger, editor of pioneering anthology Always Elsewhere: Travels of the Black Atlantic, on the mid-19th-century travels and writings of African-American visitors to Britain and Ireland, Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown, and how they might be read in relation to other black travel accounts and articulations. Tim Youngs, editor of Studies in Travel Writing, will respond.

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