Seeds of Democracy — The Inanda Heritage Route, Durban, South Africa (part 1)

Inanda region, 15 miles inland from Durban, South Africa

Inanda Valley, 15 miles inland from Durban, South Africa

During our visit to Durban, South Africa, we were very fortunate that one of our ship’s concierges is from Durban and knows well Greg Garson, proprietor of Garsons Expeditions, who was available to give us a behind-the-scenes tour of the Inanda Heritage Route on a Sunday, when most historical attractions and monuments are closed.  Greg has a long history as a guide in the area and is world renowned as an expert on Gandhi’s early career (during which time he lived in the Durban area) — in fact, whenever any member of Gandhi’s family visits Durban, he is usually their personal guide.

Traditional Zulu homes in foreground, Inanda region, near Durban, South Africa

Traditional Zulu homes in foreground, Inanda region, near Durban, South Africa

eNanda is part of the eThekwini municipality and only 15 miles away from the bustling city center of Durban, but due to its semi-rural character, much traditional Zulu culture is still practiced there. eNanda has always been a place where different cultures co-exist and merge; the unique spirit of the place has evolved through cross-cultural fertilization. Today, eNanda’s culture and heritage consists of a rich diversity of cultural heritage practices that range from traditional Zulu rituals to contemporary South African township culture. The eNanda web site goes on to give the following introduction: “The Inanda Heritage Route takes in some of the most important, albeit little-known, historical sites of Durban. Winding its way through the Inanda Valley, it provides a snapshot of critical South African history as well as, perhaps surprisingly, India’s past. Inanda’s recent history dates back to the early 1800s, when KwaZulu Natal was a Boer Republic. It was a farm then, which passed hands several times as the Boers left and the British arrived, and then when African and Indian farmers came here to farm sugar cane.

“But it was the events that unfolded at the turn of the century that shaped its future. First Mahatma Gandhi, then a lawyer, arrived in the region to represent an Indian client. After being thrown off a train for sitting in a “whites only” section, Gandhi stayed on here and started his passive resistance movement.

“Then, in the 1960s, Inanda became home to the thousands of people displaced from urban areas under apartheid laws. It quickly grew into a shanty town and then, as segregation laws took further hold, a dense informal settlement that was later the site of intense political violence.

“In 1994, Inanda’s outlook changed as democracy was born in South Africa. To mark the occasion, Nelson Mandela cast his vote in this historic election at Inanda’s Ohlange Institute, fitting given that the first-ever president of the African National Congress (ANC), Dr. John L. Dube, established this school in 1901.”

Bust of Mohandas K. Gandhi at the Phoenex Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Bust of Mohandas K. Gandhi at the Phoenex Settlement, Durban, South Africa

The bust, above, of Mohandas Gandhi was unveiled on the launch of the centenary celebrations of the Phoenix Settlement (see history, below) on the 28th April, 2004.

“It was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now.” — Mohandas K. Gandhi

International Printing Press founded by Gandhi in 1903 in the Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

International Printing Press founded by Gandhi in 1903 in the Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Phoenix Settlement (where Gandhi lived and worked) was founded by Gandhi in 1904 after he visited the Trappist community at Mariannhill and read John Ruskin’s “To This Last”.  Phoenix represented a belief in the equality of all labor, the value of manual work and a simple communal lifestyle.  The newspaper “Indian Opinion” was printed at Phoenix (see above photo of the press building) until its closure in 1961.  Throughout its long history, Phoenix Settlement has always been at the forefront of the struggle for justice, peace and equality.  It was an important site of resistance during Aprartheid.  Activists from all over South Africa came to the Phoenix Settlement for political education and training programs.  During the “1985 Inanda Riots” much of the settlement was burnt to the ground, but after 1994 (post-Apartheid) it was carefully reconstructed.  Gandhi’s house, Sarvodaya, the printing press building (today a community clinic), and the Phoenix Interpretation Center all form a part of the Phoenix Settlement.

Gandhi family home (built 1904) at the Phoenex Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Gandhi family home (built 1904) at the Phoenex Settlement, Durban, South Africa

“That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all.” — Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gandhi’s home, named Sarvodaya — “Well Being for All” — was built in 1904 when the Phoenix Settlement was established.  It was was quite an adjustment from the city for Gandhi’s wife and sons to adjust to a communal life with no running water and no electricity, miles from the city of Durban.  The original Sarvodaya was a corrugated iron house, rebuilt in 1950 when it became a prayer hall, and now serves to tell the history of Gandhi in South Africa.

Gandhi home\museum, Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Gandhi home\museum, Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

“I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith”.  — Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gandhi formulated and first practiced SATYAGRAHA in South Africa in the early 20th C

Gandhi formulated and first practiced SATYAGRAHA in South Africa in the early 20th C

The term SATYAGRAHA was created and developed by Mohandas Gandhi in South Africa from “satya” (truth) and “agraha” (insistence), meaning “insistence on truth”.  It is today commonly referred to as nonviolent resistance.

Parting thoughts at the M. Gandhi Museum, Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Parting thoughts at the M. Gandhi Museum, Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

“Even though it was impossible at that time to predict the profound influence Gandhi, Dube and Shembe (see our blog on the Inanda Heritage Route, part 2) would have on the religious, social and political landscape in South Africa, THE SEEDS OF DEMOCRACY WERE SCATTERED HERE, to slowly take root and spread.  eNanda was a place that held the promise of a different kind of society; one where diversity is celebrated rather than feared, and where all people are free, equal and empowered to reach their full potential”. — quoted from the Gandhi museum at the Phoenix Settlement.

5 thoughts on “Seeds of Democracy — The Inanda Heritage Route, Durban, South Africa (part 1)

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  2. Thank you Rich for reminding us of a difficult but much better path. We will miss the OMCA opening of Pacific Worlds for graduation of grandson Rourke from Occidental. Degree in Diplomacy, Thesis: Interviews in Swahili/ East Africa (Tanzania). He was a Fulbright finalist. Katherine

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  3. Rich, thank you for sharing. I admire Gandhi’s work, and all that he was able to do. I was thrilled to be able to see his home and read about him. It was a difficult time.
    Linda

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