Wits Press book on Sol Plaatje and the land issue wins the Non-fiction Edited Volume category at the 2018 HSS awards

Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present  (Wits University Press 2016) has won the Non-fiction Edited Volume category at the annual National Institute of Humanities & Social Sciences (NIHSS) Awards ceremony. The prize was awarded at a sparkling event at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg on Thursday, 15 March. It won the award jointly with Hanging on a Wire, a book on the photography of Sophie Klaase (Fourthwall).

The HSS Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding, innovative and socially responsive works in the humanities and social sciences that enhance and advance post-apartheid and post-colonial forms of scholarship through creative and digital productions. The awards are open to all academics, curators and artists who are based at participating South African universities.

The judges’ citation on the winning book was as follows: “This collection focusses on a substantive and uniquely South African text. The essays and creative contributions are well written and illuminating and their significance is enhanced by the innovative use of photographs, poems in different languages, a travel diary and other creative components”.

Also from the judges’ comments: “This is innovation at its best. This collection couldn’t have come at a better time, touching on issues of student protests, decolonization of the curriculum, the radical economic transformation, to mention a few.”

On receiving the award Bhekizizwe Peterson, one of the book’s editors, gave a moving vote of thanks, referencing the continuing relevance of Plaatje’s contribution on the land issue, and dedicated the award to Plaatje.

This multi-authored book, edited by Janet Remmington, Brian Willan and Bheki Peterson, is a collection of poems, provocations, photos, stories and academic essays that aim to shed new light on how and why Plaatje’s Native Life came into being at a critical historical juncture, and reflects on how it can be read in relation to South Africa’s heightened challenges today.

First published in 1916, Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa was written by one of 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.

Commenting on the book winning this prestigious award, Wits University Press publisher, Veronica Klipp, said that the award recognises the continued relevance of Plaatje’s work on the land debate as well as the careful conceptualization of the volume by the books’ editors.   She thanked the NIHSS for their ongoing support and promotion of publishing in the humanities and social sciences.

Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present is available from Wits University Press, www.witspress.co.za and from all good bookshops.

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