Sol Plaatje : a psychobiographical study
Welman, Crystal Alicia
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In recent years, interest in psychobiographical research has seen remarkable growth both internationally and nationally. The number of academically institutionalised psychobiographies conducted in South African universities have also increased significantly. South African psychologists may further be motivated by the country’s political history to embark on the study of significant and exceptional figures who helped shape its history. A renewed focus on anti-apartheid activists might contribute to a deeper understanding of South Africa’s troubled past by exploring these individuals’ roles in the journey towards democracy. Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje (1876-1932) was an enigmatic multilingual novelist, journalist and leading figure in South Africa’s liberation history. He is best remembered as one of the founding members of the 1912 South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the forerunner of the present-day African National Congress (ANC). Sol Plaatje lived through times of tumultuous political change, yet he consistently demonstrated tenacity and resilience, often under very trying conditions. His legacy to South African history is widely recognized and his acumen and determination ensured that he became known for his intolerance of injustice and disempowerment of the disenfranchised. Despite the wealth of information available on Sol Plaatje, none of the works provide an in depth psychological perspective on his life. Therefore, he was selected as the subject for this psychobiographical study through purposive sampling, in order to provide a psychologically driven exploration and description of aspects of his life, within his socio-historical context. This was achieved through the application of two specific psychological frameworks to the available biographical and historical data collected on Plaatje. The two frameworks employed in this study are (a) Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, and (b) the Wheel of Wellness (WoW) model for holistic wellness. Hence, the primary aim of this study was to xxv provide a psychologically-driven exploration and description of Plaatje’s psychosocial development and his holistic wellness across his lifespan, within his socio-historical context. The use of two methodological strategies in this study proved meaningful in the extraction and analysis of data. Firstly, five significant historical life periods were identified, and prominent salient themes in the collected data were extracted, organised and analysed according to Alexander’s nine indicators of psychological saliency. In addition, to assist with the wealth of information available on Plaatje, the researcher posed specific questions to the data, which enabled the extraction of units of analysis relevant to the aim of the study. Secondly, the use of two conceptual matrices facilitated the analysis, categorisation, presentation and discussion of the stages of psychosocial development and the constructs of holistic wellness within the five historical periods identified on his life. The eugraphic focus of the two frameworks utilised in this study allowed the researcher to uncover Plaatje’s life history in terms of healthy development and holistic wellness. Findings from this study suggested that Plaatje successfully navigated all the psychosocial stages of development and attained all ego qualities as proposed by Erikson. He exemplified a case where certain stages were entered before their prescribed period, or where others were revisited or prolonged, depending on his interaction with his historical setting. Findings from this study also suggested that Plaatje achieved a relatively high degree of wellness in all the dimensions of the WoW model across his lifespan. The integrative, holistic approach of both psychological frameworks highlighted the impact of his political, cultural and historical environment on his psychosocial development and holistic wellness.