Book Launch: Women – Indians of South African Origins

History continues to largely reflect narratives of victors.  South African post-apartheid history has not escaped the risk of distortions and omissions that come from excluding critical voices and players in our struggle for democracy.

This book steps into a critical gap in our understanding of our evolution into a society united in its diversity.  Despite the centrality of gender equality in our human rights based National Constitution, women in South Africa continue to struggle to have their voices heard and their faces seen in public affairs.  Their role in the struggle for freedom tends to be reduced to a support one despite their critical leadership in areas where men were afraid to go such as challenging the pass laws.  Indian women are even less visible and audible given their demographic minority and cultural invisibility.

The strength of this book lies in its focus on personal profiles of Indian women – giving them not only space to tell their stories, but to do so as individuals who are nested in very strong family, community and cultural networks.  Their personal narratives take the reader into the heart, home and hopes of women often ignored in public discourse.  These narratives also take us ever so gently into a rich cultural milieu – not just the rich smells of spices or the glittering jewelry – but lives textured beyond clichés of subservience and dominance.  These are also narratives of resilience of a culture that transcended the humiliation of the system of indenture to thrive in a democracy.

The social history captured in this book will add considerably to our understanding of ourselves as a society that draws its cultural heritage from so many parts of the world.  India’s rise as an economic giant and a mature democracy bears important lessons for us as a young democratic nation.  We have the links to tap into those lessons – positive and negative – to inform our own development.

Young women across all cultural groups have much to learn from the affirmation of Indian culture and its contribution to self-confidence and pride in ourselves as a people.  Too many young people are losing the cultural anchors that should support and sustain them.  Many others are focusing on fragments of threatened cultures to perpetuate conservative chauvinistic practices.  Cultures evolve to meet the needs of rapidly changing complex global imperatives.  Creative responses are essential to sustainability of our cultural heritage.

Narratives in this book should make us proud to be South Africans and to salute our Indian women fellow citizens who have contributed so much to what we are today – a democratic vibrant South Africa.

About the authors:

Devi Moodley Rajab is a psychologist and award-winning journalist for the Natal Mercury in Durban, South Africa and writes a regular column for Confluence a London based newspaper on South Asian perspectives. She was educated in South Africa and in the USA as a Fulbright Scholar and holds a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology and PhD in Social Psychology . She is a former Dean of Student Development at the University of Natal. Devi has also been a recipient of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award on four occasions, successively between 2003 and 2005 and 2008 and Turqouise Harmony Institute Media Award for outstanding journalism “2010” She is the author of Devi’s Diary and No Subject is Taboo

Ranjith Kally is an award-winning photographer whose career has spanned 4 decades. He was a principal photographer for the iconic Drum Magazine and his work has been exhibited as part of the Nobel Peace Centre’s commemoration of South Africa’s Nobel Peace laureates. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and is the author of “The Struggle 60 years in Focus” and has several publications of his photographic works.

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