The Seed Is Mine

By Charles Van Onselen,

Book cover of The Seed Is Mine: The Life of Kas Maine, A South African Sharecropper

Book description

A bold and innovative social history, The Seed is Mine concerns disenfranchised black people who did so much to shape the destiny of South Africa. After years of interviews with Kas Maine and his neighbours, employers, friends, and family - a rare triumph of collaborative courage and dedication - Charles…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Seed Is Mine as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

"The seed is mine. The ploughshares are mine. The span of oxen is mine. Only the land is theirs."

Not a novel, but a biography of an illiterate sharecropper, invisible to history except in this book, who lived for almost 100 years farming land that was always owned by others. 

As a child, I passed many farm labourers without much thought about their lives, their history, their identities. This dense social history was a revelation and a corrective to my ignorance.

Kas Maine’s story is a potent reminder of the need for justice, kindness, and respect toward every human being.

Kas Maine was also a real person: a barely literate South African peasant who lived through the Anglo–Boer war and the creation of the Union, through two world wars and almost four decades of the apartheid era. Van Onselen has managed to reconstruct not only this peasant’s chores, but his world, his thinking, and modus operandi in a fast-changing surrounding. This was the professional feat that elevated the author to the highest rank among those who have ever written about South Africa. Negotiating hostile circumstances far beyond his knowledge and understanding Kas Maine archives success – only to be crushed…

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