The culmination of a three-year research project run by the Sinomlando Centre – a research and community development centre attached to UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics – and local NGO Mpophomeni Tourism Experience (ZMTE), was one of the highlights of the pre-launch of the Zulu Mpophomeni Eco-Museum on 12 December.

The Sinomlando Centre presented two volumes of interview transcripts relating to the history of Mpophomeni which will be showcased soon at the Mpophomeni Eco-Museum in Montrose House. The project was funded by the National Lottery.

Interviews were conducted by community members trained in oral history by the Sinomlando Centre.  The two volumes of interviews represent a massive amount of information on the history of the township: 310 pages in English and 210 pages in isiZulu.

Sinomlando is isiZulu for ‘we have a history’. The mission of the Sinomlando Centre is to build capacity in oral history and memory work in people and communities.

Established in the vicinity of Howick in the late 1960s, Mpophomeni paid a heavy price as a result of the civil war between the UDF and Inkatha in the 1980s and 1990s. Hundreds of residents lost their jobs after a strike at the nearby Sarmcol factory in 1985.

A delegation from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the United States, attended a week-long oral history workshop facilitated by the Sinomlando Centre in Pietermaritzburg, was present at the launch. They gained valuable insights for an oral history project they intend to conduct with former members of the civil rights movement; mostly African American activists, in the state of Virginia. The delegation included Henry L Marsh III, a member of the American Senate and a former civil rights activist himself.

Also present at the event were representatives of the Department of Arts and Culture and the Umgeni Municipality as well as community members and foreign visitors.

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