A Long Way Home Cover

A Long Way Home

Migrant Worker Worlds 1800-2014

288 pages

July, 2014

ISBN: 9781868147670



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William Beinart is a historian and was Rhodes Professor of Race Relations at the African Studies Centre, at Oxford University from 1997 to 2015.

Laura Phillips is a Visiting Research Associate in the Society Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Fiona Rankin-Smith is Special Projects Curator at Wits Art Museum (WAM) in Johannesburg.

A look at the humanity and creativity of the migrant laborers of South Africa.
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.