1 KwaMuhle Museum, Durban
1.2 A Socio-cultural Museum
1.3 Displays and Exhibitions
KwaMuhle Museum, Durban
KwaMuhle Museum is housed in the former premises of Durban’s notorious Native Affairs Department. The Municipal Native Affairs Department was established in 1916, with John Sydney Marwick as its first manager. Marwick was given the name ‘uMuhle’ because he successfully repatriated about seven thousand Zulus back to Zululand prior to the onset of the South African War (1899-1902). In 1922 he resigned from the municipal Native Affairs Department but continued to play a prominent role in the lives of indigenous South Africans.
The Municipal Native Affairs Department played a central role in the lives of Africans in Durban. Medical examinations, passbooks, the paying of fines and rickshaw licences, and the provision of housing and accommodation were all conducted from this department.
A Socio-cultural Museum
In the mid 1990’s the building was converted into a museum. The rooms in the newly established museum have names closely associated with the history of the Native Affairs Department. The Bourquin Boardroom is located next to the Mafukuzela Library. Mafukuzela was the nickname given to John Langalibalele Dube, first President of the South African National Congress, while SB Bourquin was, for two decades, the Director of the Department of Bantu Administration. KwaMuhle Museum today
Displays and Exhibitions
The KwaMuhle Museum hosts a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions, including an exhibition titled ‘The Durban System’. The display provides a fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking glimpse into the city’s apartheid history highlighting the Durban System, which became the blueprint for apartheid in later years. The exhibition comprises carefully researched texts, black-and-white photographs and dioramas, sketching life for Africans in Durban under conditions of strict influx control and portraying the misery and indignities caused by laws that rendered the majority of the population second-class citizens in the country of their birth. One display in this exhibition illuminates how the Municipality managed to get the system to pay for itself through a Municipal monopoly of brewing and selling sorghum beer. Another interesting permanent exhibition depicts the history of Cato Manor, an area which once experienced traumatic forced removals.
Ironically, because all Africans seeking work in Durban first had to pass through the corridors of the Department of Native Affairs, KwaMuhle became a social hub for Africans at the time.