All researchers experience exposure to history that is peripheral to the main thrust or scope of their actual pursuit. Portraits, therefore, attempts to provide insight on characters and themes of the colonial period which have hitherto been ignored or simply glossed over. As such, it strives to be something of a mouthpiece of the dead.
Topics covered: sugar pioneers Michael Jeffels and James Arbuthnot; sketches of Umkomaas, Umzinto and Port Shepstone; the challenges of travel and transport; Natal’s Indian dilemma; exploitation and abuse of Indian labour; settler security and solidarity; Joseph Baynes and Frank Reynolds
Portraits was compiled at a time of strident anti-colonial protests and vandalism and issued to reflect the exhortation in the preamble of the South African constitution that “we recognise those who have worked to build and develop our country.”