A richly-textured potpourri to celebrate a century of (relative) freedom
The 100-Year Commemoration Symposium of the formal abolition of indenture will take place on Saturday at the 1860 Heritage Centre, Derby Street, Durban. Below is a list of abstracts of some of the papers that will be presented
Professor Pratap Kumar (Emeritus Professor at University of KwaZulu-Natal).
Grey Street Casbah: Origins of Durban’s Marketplace
In this paper, I wish to explore life in the mid-19th century to mid20th century in the Durban-based Indian Casbah and its enduring legacy. In exploring the Casbah life in Durban, I wish to pay special attention to the narratives of the people who either were associated with it and had living memories of it, or remember the many stories passed on to them by their families. The central question that I ask in analysing these narratives is: Does Casbah in the diaspora enable the diasporic community to relive their Indian origins, or does it orient them away from the romantic attachment to the places of their origin in India?
Professor Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie (Senior Professor in the Department of History and the Deputy Dean, Research and Postgraduate Studies, of the Arts Faculty, University of the Western Cape).
Fault Lines in Narratives of India and South Africa Relations: 1860s to 1990s
The central focus of this talk is to examine narratives of India-South Africa relations. India became implicated in the South African story from the inception of the system of indenture, and one of the characteristics of South African Indian politics from the 1880s onwards was to appeal to India (to the British government of India and to liberals and nationalists). Independent India became embroiled in a broader support for the liberation Struggle of all South Africa’s blacks. This paper calls for a critical rather than a romantic assessment of what consequences the intervention of India had. It focuses on revisiting, in particular, the intervention of India during the Gandhian period of Struggle, the interventions of India post-1946 to 1990 and the more neglected in-between period from the 1920s to the 1940s. It seeks to disrupt heroic narratives of India-South Africa relations by focusing on what I call the “fault lines” – the silences in the narratives about this in-between period.
Dr Sheetal Bhoola (University of KwaZulu-Natal).
Indian Women and the Question of their Identity in Contemporary South Africa: A Case Study of Six Hindu Women in Durban
Central to this study is the issue of gender-assigned roles in contemporary South Africa and how they contribute towards the identity of an Indian woman in the South African diaspora. Data has revealed that most Indian women in contemporary society bear the responsibility to participate and sustain Hindu family rituals and religious rituals. This paper aims to explore the identities of these women who live lives that are both modern and traditional. Modernity and traditional ideologies of the “Indian” woman are discussed, which contributes towards understanding the “Indian” women in the diaspora today. The challenges of retaining their “Indian” Identity in a diverse and cosmopolitan city like Durban is documented and explained in detail.
Kiru Naidoo (Advisory Board of the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre, University of KwaZulu-Natal).
The Preservation of Personal and Political Memory in Selected Letters of Phyllis Naidoo
In the record of the Struggle for South African freedom spanning the period of empire, colonial conquest, indenture and apartheid, women’s voices found limited expression. Phyllis Naidoo (1928-2013) was an activist in the SACP and the ANC from the 1950s until her death in 2013. Her collected letters and papers are an unrivalled source of personal and political commentary on South African politics spanning almost five decades. The Phyllis Naidoo Collection held by the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal contains, among others, rare copies of letters to prisoners on Robben Island, which were censored before they reached the recipients. The existence of copies of the original, preserved in spite of assassination attempts, bannings and exile, is priceless in understanding textured layers of the personal and the political at critical moments in the evolution of the Struggle.
Brij Maharaj KwaZulu-Natal).
Hamba khaya! Hamba uye eBombay! (Go home! Go to Bombay!)
In South Africa, Indians constitute a vulnerable ethnic minority and have been sandwiched between the economically dominant whites and the African majority. Historically, there have been tensions between Indians and Africans because the former enjoyed a relatively privileged position compared with the majority, primarily because of community survival strategies, and their religious and cultural heritage. The aim is to analyse some of the challenges facing South African Indians in the post-apartheid era, which will reveal significant continuities with the apartheid era.
Professor Kiren Thathiah (Research Associate: University of Johannesburg), with Sodhie Naicker, Rajesh Jayrajh and Sajen Thathiah.
Beyond Indenture: A Place in Time
Like the commemoration of the arrival of the indentured Indians in South Africa, the end of indenture not only provides another opportunity to look back through the annals of history, it also provides the opportunity to look more closely at the point from which we look back: essentially, this place in time. With this in mind, we embarked on a project to produce a musical album that celebrates and commemorates the places that have come to hold some significance in the communal experience and memory of the Indian community in South Africa. These places, such Phoenix, Chatsworth, Canelands and Currie’s Fountain, are not silent witnesses to history, but living locations where history continues to be made, and therefore worthy of being celebrated both individually and collectively.
For more information on the symposium, contact :
Kalpana Hiralal at Hiralalk@ukzn.ac.za.
Betty Govinden at herbyg@ telkomsa.net.
Selvan Naidoo at snaidoo@ nwood.co.za.