Book retells history of African Indians

The national book tour of The Indian Africans was hosted by Harry’s Printer’s in East London in December.

Co-author Kiru Naidoo, who has been travelling across the country as part of the well-received book’s national tour, spoke at the launch in East London.

The 374-page book was co-authored by Paul David, Ranjith Choonilall, Kiru Naidoo and Selvan Naidoo and published by Anivesh Singh.

Crafted over five years, it chronicles the history of Indian migration in SA.

The book explores Indian African history in various spheres such as sport, activism, education, indenture and agriculture.

It seeks to undermine revisionist and nationalistic interpretations of Indian migration and argues that the history of Indians in SA is entrenched in the larger narrative of dispossession of people of colour.

The introduction reads: “We identify the community of Indian-origin as being Indian Africans. We are born of the soil. That is an incontrovertible fact. This description counters the apartheid four-nation thesis and challenges cock-eyed nationalisms that covet both overt and covert racist fantasies to advance their political and financial interests.”

The book includes never- before-seen images of Indian indentured labourers aboard ships travelling to SA.

Indentured labourers were turned into chattel, with the system of employment demonstrating parallels to slavery, and the impacts thereof are explored by the authors.

Included as well are images and accounts of women and children exploited for labour on plantations such as the Robinson family’s Cato Manor plantation – guilty of multiple offences of ill-treatment of workers.

The book traces the efforts Indian Africans have made towards advancing non-racialism and democracy in SA and pays tribute to hero’s such as Paul David who were pioneers in the development of united resistance across colour lines against the apartheid state.

Naidoo said: “The real challenge we find now is that young people have little interest in what went before.

“We hope that we fire their imagination with this book and get them to see that nobody exists out of nowhere and that everyone has a story. We privileged the Indian working class history that other researchers and writers may be missing because there will always be someone telling the stories of the great figures, but our intention was to write this story from the ground up.

“There are lots of holes in our [sic] history, the voices of the people who worked in plantations, in mines and so forth are missing from our construction of history and it is important that we capture their stories and document them in print.

”The theme of the book is that there is more that unites us then divides us.

“There is good case to be made for reparations from the British regarding past crimes of slavery and indenture but these reparations shouldn’t pass to descendants in monetary form.

“In KZN, we have been arguing that sugar barons should make their land available to the state to build houses for the poor instead of converting those lands into expensive real estate” Naidoo said.

The Indian Africans is available for purchase at Harry’s Printers.

CHILD LABOUR: A photo from the ISS Singh Collection of indentured labourers on a plantation in KwaZulu-Natal, included in ‘The Indian Africans’.


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