What an amazing resource we have in our public museums and heritage centres! Spaces that we seldom visit outside of school outings when we’re children, these institutions provide wonderful insight into the history of Durban, its people, and beyond. The Phansi Museum in Glenwood carries the most wonderful permanent collection of African art and crafts, as well as hosting around five temporary exhibitions annually. Just looking at some of the photos of the museum is exciting enough – everything from Zulu beer pots and headrests to a collection of life-size marionettes!
The KwaMuhle Museum in Durban’s CBD was once the headquarters of the City’s Native Administration Department, the centre of Durban’s infamous system of labour control. Medical examinations, the issuing of passbooks, the paying of fines and rickshaw licenses, the provision of housing and accommodation were all conducted from these offices, which today house collections of photos reflecting township life, and offer an accurate depiction of the history of black political trade unions and local cultural organisations, correcting many of the historical inaccuracies of apartheid records. The museum also has a muthi garden, a nod to local indigenous knowledge systems, where plants such as iboza, agapanthus and wild dagga can be found.
The Cato Manor Heritage Centre, situated in Intuthuko Junction, vividly depicts the stark realities of evictions, rebellion and riots that the area is so well known for. The interactive museum is a tribute to the spirit of defiance against the Durban System, which led to evictions and subsequent dissent in the Cato Manor area for decades. The museum’s collection of photographs, artworks and other media document the area’s turbulent history.
Just a few of the museums that form part of the stable of Durban Local History Museums. At once educational, inspirational and emotional, these institutions provide vital information about the history of Durban, and the history of us, its people.