Against a backdrop of drought, the rinderpest pandemic, the South African War, the burgeoning gold-mining industry and the complex birth of the exploitative system of recruiting migrant labour, Shades explores the growing tensions between cultures in South Africa at the turn of the twentieth century and the deepening awareness of the black mission-educated elite, empowered by the printing press, of the need to articulate their political and spiritual beliefs.
Set within the microcosm of an isolated Eastern Cape mission, Shades is not only a love story and the chronicle of a family but a sensitive and perceptive insight into the country's wider conflicts. It explores the slow but inexorable destruction of the fabric of a community, the assault on its traditions and the struggle to reconcile two faiths: the Christian and the traditional beliefs of the amaXhosa in their ancestral shades. It is the story of those far-sighted enough to seek convergence and those destined to undermine its wisdom.
Primarily, Shades is an intimate tale of love, friendship, acceptance and profound loss: of life, of faith and of belonging.