Janet Remmington has Plaatje article published
African Studies graduate Janet Remmington (MSc 2008-09) has had an article arising from her MSc African Studies research published in the latest edition of the Journal of Southern African Studies (Volume 39, Issue 2).
The article, entitled ‘Solomon Plaatje's Decade of Creative Mobility, 1912–1922: The Politics of Travel and Writing in and beyond South Africa’ can be viewed in full on the Taylor & Francis Online website.
This article foregrounds the hitherto relatively unexplored travel–writing nexus that characterised the extraordinarily mobile and textually productive, if personally precarious, decade (1912–1922) of Solomon T. Plaatje, founding General Secretary of the South African Native National Congress (later African National Congress) and South Africa's first black novelist in English. Drawing on cross-disciplinary work, including ‘travel writing’ and ‘travel culture’ frameworks, it argues that Plaatje's strategic travel within South Africa and to Britain and North America combined with the production, publication and circulation of his writing during the tumultuous period of landmark South African segregationist legislation and the First World War were telling symbiotic means of African political assertion, cultural nationalism, and self-inscription as a modern global citizen. In effect, Plaatje's travelling and writing put him ‘on the map’, challenging the bounds of white exclusionary politics and intellectual space in the newly consolidated racist dominion state of the Union of South Africa, while also testing the tenets of Empire. Native Life in South Africa (1916), a construct of crisis and political charge against the 1913 Natives' Land Act and associated subjugation of the black majority, is read as a personalised political travelogue for multiple publics, not least aimed at calling for intervention by metropolitan Britain to aid the native cause. Mhudi (1917–1921/1930), with its no-less-resolute but more complex, searching impetus in the context of increasing disillusionment with imperial rule and two costly if provocative deputations to London, is treated as an historicised fictional travel account of the young, black female which challenges colonial, Afrikaner, and traditional African historiographies, while probing possible futures for South Africa in the light of betrayal of black peoples by white. The works concern themselves in part with excavating African, and particularly Bechuana, cultural stores for interplay in the modern world and national asset-building; however they – especially Mhudi – also register something of a modernist search for moorings in a world in upheaval and apparent retrogression. Plaatje's decade of creative mobility, in which travel fuelled his writing and writing galvanised his travel, bore striking witness to the immovable socio-political positions of the South African state and the British imperium, registering the great distance to go in racial equality being achieved.