A Long Way Home

Migrant Worker Worlds 1800 – 2014
Editor(s): , ,
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Dimensions and Pages: 210 x 254mm, 320 pp
  • Paperback EAN: 987-1-86814-767-0
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 490.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 49.94

As a young man growing up in the township of KwaMashu, some twenty kilometres north of Durban, I participated in the boyish game of stealing sugar cane from the fenced-in fields in the neighbourhood. There were dangers, real and imagined, attached to this pastime; one of which was to avoid capture by the amaMpondo labourers who, it was said, would do unnameable things to a boy. They came from somewhere unknown and were to be found doing the most menial of tasks performed by migrant workers, in the mines, cutting cane or carting night soil … Mining the archives, A Long Way Home tracks this shameful history and goes a long way towards furthering our understanding of the migrant labour system.

— Mandla Langa, author of Lost Colours of the Chameleon

The build-up to the Marikana massacre (together with the dismaying incidents of xenophobia) has brought the perils of migrancy squarely into contemporary post-apartheid South Africa. This book displays a thoughtful and knowledgeable understanding of the roots of the migrant labour system; it is sorely needed.

Luli Callinicos, author of A People’s History of South Africa: Gold and Workers and Who Built Jozi?

This rich and visually appealing collection brings together some of the most compelling scholarship on the history of labour migrancy in South Africa, and does so across the boundaries of time, space and academic disciplines.

— Saul Dubow, Professor of African History, Queen Mary, University of London

In no other society in the world have urbanisation and industrialization been as comprehensively based on migrant labour as in South Africa. Rather than focusing on the well-documented narrative of displacement and oppression, A Long Way Home captures the humanity, agency and creative modes of self-expression of the millions of workers who helped to build and shape modern South Africa.

The book spans a three-hundred-year history beginning with the exportation of slave labour from Mozambique in the eighteenth century and ending with the strikes and tensions on the platinum belt in recent years. It shows not only the age-old mobility of African migrants across the continent but also, with the growing demand for labour in the mining industry, the importation of Chinese indentured migrant workers.

Contributions include 18 essays and over 90 artworks and photographs that traverse homesteads, chiefdoms and mining hostels, taking readers into the materiality of migrant life and its customs and traditions, including the rituals practiced by migrants in an effort to preserve connections to “home” and create a sense of “belonging”. The essays and visual materials provide multiple perspectives on the lived experience of migrant labourers and celebrate their extraordinary journeys.

A Long Way Home was conceived during the planning of an art exhibition entitled ‘Ngezinyawo: Migrant Journeys’ at Wits Art Museum. The interdisciplinary nature of the contributions and the extraordinary collection of images selected to complement and expand on the text make this a unique collection.

 

Introduction Peter Delius and Laura Phillips

Chapter 1 Ngezinyawo: Migrant Journeys Fiona Rankin-Smith

Chapter 2 Slavery, Indenture and Migrant Labour: Maritime Immigration from Mozambique to the Cape, c.1780–1880 Patrick Harries

Chapter 3 Walking 2 000 Kilometres to Work and Back: The Wandering Bassuto Carl Richter and Peter Delius

Chapter 4 A Century of Migrancy from Mpondoland William Beinart

Chapter 5 The Migrant Kings of Zululand Benedict Carton

Chapter 6 The Art of Those Left Behind: Women, Beadwork and Bodies Anitra Nettleton

Chapter 7 The Illusion of Safety: Migrant Labour and Occupational Disease on South Africa’s Gold Mines Jock McCulloch

Chapter 8 ‘The Chinese Experiment’: Images from the Expansion of South Africa’s ‘Labour Empire’ Fiona Rankin Smith, Peter Delius and Laura Phillips

Chapter 9 ‘Stray Boys’: The Kruger National Park and Migrant Labour Jacob Dlamini

Chapter 10 Surviving Drought: Migrancy and the Homestead Economy Michelle Hay

Chapter 11 Migrants from Zebediela and Shifting Identities on the Rand, 1930s–1970s Sekibakiba Peter Lekgoathi

Chapter 12 Verwoerd’s Oxen: Performing Labour Migrancy in Southern Africa David B Coplan

Chapter 13 ‘Give My Regards to Everyone at Home Including Those I No Longer Remember’: The Journey of Tito Zungu’s Envelopes Julia Charlton

Chapter 14 Sophie and the City: Womanhood, Labour and Migrancy Laura Phillips

Chapter 15 Bungityala Jonny Steinberg

Chapter 16 Migrants: Vanguards of the Worker’s Struggles? Noor Nieftagodien

Chapter 17 Debt or Savings? Of Migrants, Mines and Money Deborah James and Dinah Rajak

Chapter 18 Post-Apartheid Migrancy and the Life of a Pondo Mineworker Micah Reddy

 

Peter Delius is professor of History at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He has published a number of books, including A Lion Amongst the Cattle and Mpumalanga: An Illustrated History.

Laura Phillips is a researcher at the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) based at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Fiona Rankin-Smith is special projects curator at the Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg. She is the editor of Figuring Faith: Images of Belief in Africa and Halakasha!

Book Review: A long way home, Migrant Histories  1800-2014 by Camalita Naicker, published online 26 November 2014 in the  Journal of Asian and African Studies – http://jas.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/11/26/0021909614558781.full.pdf+html

 

“A long way home is a successful attempt to reinvigorate studies on Migrant labour, particularly
in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre. The book offers a valuable contribution to creating a
space in the academy to explore subaltern histories of experience in a thoughtful and nuanced way.
What is left unexplored in this volume, something that Beinart gestures towards, and that
Nieftagodien is perhaps mistakenly rooting in trade unionism alone, is the way in which migrant
labourers organised themselves politically outside of both nationalist and trade unionist struggles.
While Lekgoathi describes the rise of Ndebele Ethnicity in chapter 11, and the evolution of resistance
to bantu authorities and betterment schemes, there remains a gap in the understanding of the
kinds of organisation and resistance that were happening within certain groups of people in
Southern Africa that form part of a subaltern sphere of politics that cannot be fully captured by
using the narrow and, therefore, inadequate category of “worker struggles”. However, this book is
perhaps the beginning of what could become a sustained attempt to write alternative accounts, not
only of histories of resistance that privilege subaltern agency, but also the way in which the political
is inscribed within these.”

As a young man growing up in the township of KwaMashu, some twenty kilometres north of Durban, I participated in the boyish game of stealing sugar cane from the fenced-in fields in the neighbourhood. There were dangers, real and imagined, attached to this pastime; one of which was to avoid capture by the amaMpondo labourers who, it was said, would do unnameable things to a boy. They came from somewhere unknown and were to be found doing the most menial of tasks performed by migrant workers, in the mines, cutting cane or carting night soil … Mining the archives, A Long Way Home tracks this shameful history and goes a long way towards furthering our understanding of the migrant labour system.

— Mandla Langa, author of Lost Colours of the Chameleon

The build-up to the Marikana massacre (together with the dismaying incidents of xenophobia) has brought the perils of migrancy squarely into contemporary post-apartheid South Africa. This book displays a thoughtful and knowledgeable understanding of the roots of the migrant labour system; it is sorely needed.

Luli Callinicos, author of A People’s History of South Africa: Gold and Workers and Who Built Jozi?

This rich and visually appealing collection brings together some of the most compelling scholarship on the history of labour migrancy in South Africa, and does so across the boundaries of time, space and academic disciplines.

— Saul Dubow, Professor of African History, Queen Mary, University of London

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