Native Life In South Africa

Sol Plaatje

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01 April 2007

Native Life in South Africa is one of the country’s great political books. First published in 1916, it was foremost a response to the Natives Land Act of 1913 and was written by one of the most gifted and influential writers and journalists of his generation. Native Life in South Africa provides an account of the origins of this important piece of legislation and a devastating description of its immediate effects.

Plaatje spent many weeks travelling in the countryside and the most moving chapters in the book tell us what he saw. Native Life in South Africa explores the wider political and historical context that produced policies of the kind embodied in the Land Act, and documents meticulously the steps taken by South Africa’s rulers to exclude black South Africans from the exercise of political power.

One hundred years have passed since Native Life in South Africa was first published, but it resonates with ideas that have relevance to our political and cultural life and that should inspire us today.