Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa

Past and Present
Editor(s): , ,
  • Publication Date: October 2016
  • Dimensions and Pages: 216 x 140mm; 300 pp; Soft cover; B&W illustrations
  • Paperback EAN: 978 1 86814 981 0
  • eBook EAN: 978 1 86814 983 4 (North and South America, China); 978 1 86814 984 1 (Rest of world)
  • PDF EAN: 978 1 86814 982 7
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 380.00

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.
Originally 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 W E B 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.

List of Illustrations
Foreword – Njabulo Ndebele
Reproduction of Bessie Head’s Foreword to Ravan Edition (1982)
Poetic Tributes
‘Lefatshe, nkometse’ – SeTswana Poem with English translation ‘Earth, Swallow Me’ (Sabata-mpho Mokae)
‘What is in a Name? In Memory of Sol T. Plaatje’ (Violet Plaatje, 1933)
‘Segopoco Sa Moshui Sol T. Plaatje’ (James M. Malebaloa, 1933) with English translation from SeTswana (Nhlanhla Maake)
Introduction (Editors)
Chapter 1 Native Life in South Africa: Writing, Publication, Reception (Brian Willan)
Chapter 2 Modernist At Large: The Aesthetics of Native Life in South Africa (Bhekizizwe Peterson)
Chapter 3 The Print World of the Press and Native Life in South Africa (Peter Limb)
Chapter 4 Going Places – Native Life in South Africa and the Politics of Mobility (Janet Remmington)
Chapter 5 Native Life in South Africa and the World at War (Albert Grundlingh)
Chapter 6 African Intellectual History, Black Cosmopolitanism and Native Life in South Africa (Khwezi Mkhize)
Chapter 7 ‘Native Lives’ behind Native Life: Intellectual and Political Influences on the Early ANC and Democracy in South Africa (André Odendaal)
Chapter 8 Whose Past? Native Life in South Africa and Historical Writing (Christopher Saunders)
Chapter 9 Women and Society in Native Life in South Africa: Roles and Ruptures (Heather Hughes)
Chapter 10 African Progressivism, Land, and Law: Rereading Native Life in South Africa (Keith Breckenridge)
Chapter 11 Land Questions: On the Tomb ya ga Solomon Plaatje (Jacob Dlamini)
Chapter 12 Revisiting the Landscapes of Native Life in South Africa: A Photo Essay (Sean O’Toole)
A Contemporary Reimagining ‘Ask Those You Meet along the Way’ – A Short Story (Sabata-mpho Mokae)
Notes on Contributors
Plaatje Resources and Archives

Janet Remmington is a publisher, researcher, and writer now based at the University of York. She contributed chapters on Plaatje to Sea Narratives: Cultural Responses to the Sea, 1600–Present (Palgrave, 2016) and Fighting Words: Fourteen Books that Shaped the Postcolonial World (Peter Lang, 2017).
Brian Willan is an honorary research fellow at Rhodes University. He edited and introduced the Ravan Press edition of Native Life in South Africa in 1982. This was followed by a biography of Plaatje (Heinemann: 1984) and a collection of Plaatje’s writings (Wits University Press: 1997).
Bhekizizwe Peterson is professor of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand. His books include Monarchs, Missionaries and African Intellectuals: African Theatre and the Unmaking of Colonial Marginality (Wits University Press; 2000), and Zulu Love Letter: A Screenplay (Wits University Press:2009).

This suite of essays focuses on a remarkable individual – but is about so much more than just one man. This is a superb collection of poems, provocations, photos, stories and academic essays – some of which are delightfully at odds with one another.
Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University

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