College of Humanities

Launch of Book on 162 Years of Indian Indentureship in SA

The 1860 Indentured Labourers Foundation Verulam in partnership with UKZN’s Alternation journal has launched a book titled: Indians in South Africa: Perspectives from 1860 to the 21st Century.

The book marks the 162 years since Indian Indenture and is part of the Journal’s African Scholarship Book Series, Volume 11.

The editor is Professor Shanta Balgobind Singh and Editor-in-Chief is Professor Johannes Smit – both academics at UKZN’s College of Humanities.

Authors include Dr Ela Gandhi, Professor Brij Maharaj, Dr Gerelene Jagganath, Professor Sultan Khan, Mr Satish Balgobind, Mr Jay Singh, Dr Jay Govender, Dr Kogie Archary, Mr Anand Jayrajh, Mr Roy Raghubir, Mr Naran Rajbansi, Professor Johannes Smit, Professor Pragna Rugunanan and Dr Devi Rajab.

The book details the role Indians have played in South Africa since the beginning of indenture in 1860 to the present day, drawing on a series of themes that have impacted on the socio-economic, political and cultural wellbeing of Indentured Indians.

The book documents a sample of narratives of people of Indian origin, their experiences, challenges and successes in South Africa. The main themes are historical issues on Indian Indenture; women during/post Indenture; the contemporary period; untold and personal stories; and the 1860 Indentured Labourers Foundation Verulam.

Said Balgobind Singh: ‘In as much as the 1860 Indentured Labourers Foundation Verulam is involved in the preservation and commemoration of the history and heritage of the indentured labourers, the organisation and its members collectively pledge loyalty to South Africa as the land of their birth right. Present day descendants of the indentured labourers may look to India as the source of cultural and religious inspiration and take immense pride in the historical heritage bequeathed to them by their ancestors, but as South Africans they owe national allegiance first and foremost to South Africa.’

She noted that ‘the humble 1860 indentured labourers struggled against incredible odds and overcame many obstacles to deliver to their descendants a legacy of which they can justly be proud. The question arises:

Why study Indians in South Africa and the history of generations past? Indians in South Africa played an integral part in the development and liberation of the country from colonial and apartheid rule and continue to contribute substantially to the life of its people in certain geopolitical areas. History is the story of who we are, where we come from, what we have contributed to South Africa and how it potentially reveals where we are headed.’

Balgobind Singh believes that studying history helps provide an understanding of how events in the past made things the way they are today. ‘With lessons from the past, we not only learn about ourselves and how we came to be, but also develop the ability to avoid mistakes and map better paths and create more significant ways and means for our societies.’

She argued the importance of this knowledge being collated, written down, shared with the general public and preserved. ‘Our roots and early struggles are not forgotten and are understood as an integral part of the history of South Africa. We must record the perseverance and resilience of our forefathers and foremothers against the adversities they faced for future generations to reflect and appreciate years from now.’