These Potatoes Look Like Humans critiques the narrow materialist and legalistic arguments about the land question to recognise that, for most Black South Africans, the meanings of land and dispossession are linked with spirituality and being.
These Potatoes Look Like Humans
These Potatoes Look Like Humans offers a unique understanding of the intersection between land, labour, dispossession and violence experienced by Black South Africans from the apartheid period to the present. Mbuso Nkosi criticises the historical framing of this debate within narrow materialist and legalistic arguments. His assertion is that, for most Black South Africans, the meaning of land cannot be separated from one’s spiritual and ancestral connection to it, and this results in him seeing the dispossession of land in South Africa with a perspective not yet explored.
Nkosi takes as his starting point the historic 1959 potato boycott in South Africa, which came about as a result of startling rumours that potatoes dug out of the soil from the farms in the Bethal district of Mpumalanga were in fact human heads. Journalists such as Ruth First and Henry Nxumalo went to Bethal to uncover these stories and revealed horrific accounts of abuse and routine killings of farmworkers by white Afrikaners. The workers were disenfranchised Black people who were forced to work on these farms for alleged ‘crimes’ against National Party state laws, such as the failure to carry passbooks.