Cultural and social experiences and legacies of Esop Suliman and contemporaries in Wellington, South Africa, 1900-19381

Cleophas, Francois J. (2020-07)

The original publication is available from https://journals.co.za/journal/culture

CITATION: Cleophas, F.J. 2020. Cultural and social experiences and legacies of Esop Suliman and contemporaries in Wellington, South Africa, 1900-19381. South African Journal of Cultural History, 34(1):97-115.

Article

This study attempts to investigate socio-cultural experiences of Esop Suliman, an immigrant from India, in the rural parts of the Cape Colony, South Africa, roundabout the turn of the 20th century until 1938 in the Cape Province. Special emphasis is placed on the town of Wellington. The study differs from previous work on Indian history in South Africa that tended to focus on leadership. It focuses on an individual, Esop Suliman, his family and contemporaries through archival searches, interviews and the author’s own recollections. The study commences with a cursory literature review of Indian immigration to South Africa, followed by a historical overview of Indian presence in Wellington prior to the Second World War. Historical narratives, in particular regarding Esop Suliman, were collected from archives and personal interviews in order to answer the research question: How did Esop Suliman and other immigrants from India negotiate the Cape Colony’s segregationist practices and other restrictions to which they were subjected by the local authorities? The biographies of Esop Suliman, his family and contemporaries relied on previous research findings that drew conclusions about matters related to travel, business, marriage and family life, assimilation and identity consciousness. A conclusion was drawn that the individuals in this study had mapped pathways for themselves by having possessed the ability to establish social networks across cultural divides, showing what it meant to be human. This humanity left a legacy for their descendants to expand on.

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