664pp., paperback, Reprint, Johannesburg, (1996) 2019
Winner of the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for Nonfiction and the African Studies Association Herskovitz Award.
Charles van Onselen spent over 15 years doing the research for this social history, interviewing Kas Maine and his neighbours, employers, friends, and family. Kas Maine was born in 1894, lived as a traditional black patriarch and sharecropper on the Highveld, and died at the age of 91 in a racially segregated rural slum.
"The seed is mine. The ploughshares are mine. The span of oxen is mine. Everything is mine. Only the land is theirs." Kas Maine
"Historian Charles van Onselen's biography of Kas Maine, The Seed is Mine, is a truly great work of devotion, to a man's life and to the discipline of history ... Van Onselen evokes the relentless, seasonal rhythms of Kas Maine's life like a Homer relating the wanderings of a black Odysseus. The book reveals a hero, but it does not spare us the ironies and cruelties of the patriarchal culture that defines this hero." Paul Trachtman, Smithsonian Magazine
"If ever one wondered whether the life of a single man could illuminate a century, [this] brilliant biography . . . proves the point." Carmel Schrire, The Boston Globe
"[Van Onselen] teases out the subtleties of the paternalistic relationships between rural whites and blacks which gave rise to real friendships but also to much betrayal, anger, and humiliation ... It is a monumental masterpiece of research, and a poetic evocation of the human spirit to survive " Linda Ensor, Business Day (South Africa)
Charles van Onselen's books include The Night Trains, moving Mozambican miners to and from South Africa, circa 1902-1955, Showdown at the Red Lion, the life and times of Jack McLoughlin, 1859-1910 and The Small Matter of a Horse, the life of "Nongoloza" Mathebula, 1867-1948. He has been elected to visiting fellowships at Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford and Yale Universities and has been Research Professor in the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship (CAS) at the University of Pretoria for the past two decades.