Activist’s book brings Durban to life

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Copy of ashwin desai INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Durban-born social activist Ashwin Desai releases his book, The Archi-texture of Durban, on Saturday, coinciding with the International Union of Architects World Congress which starts on Sunday. Picture by: Sibonelo Ngcobo

Durban is not just the sandy beaches and tourist spots touted in brochures around the world – the city has textures of life and sounds, and this is what Durban-born social activist and academic Ashwin Desai brings to life in his new book.

Desai will be launching his book, titled The Archi-texture of Durban, on Saturday at Ike’s Bookshop in Florida Road, coinciding with the 25th International Union of Architects World Congress (UIA) which starts on Sunday and ends on August 7.

“Rudyard Kipling wrote that ‘East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet’. He was wrong. Right here before our eyes, they met on African soil and out of this an incredible city, Durban was born,” said Desai.

In his book, Desai said many people might say they knew Durban. “This book throws a challenge to this by seeking to unearth new ways of looking at our history by following EH Carr’s refrain of ‘studying the historian before you begin to study the facts’.”

The book is not only filled with words and photographs – Desai incorporated the landscape paintings of Jenny Parsons.

The images are by photographer Jo Rushby. “I wanted to capture Durban in way that went beyond the tourist brochures and syrupy supplements. I wanted people not only to see traditional tourist spots in new ways but also to venture out into alleyways of the old Casbah, the streets of Cato Manor and to choke on the fumes of the famous toxic tour of the South Basin. To worship at St Emmanuel’s Cathedral, fire-walk at Second River Temple, to get baptised in the Indian Ocean with the Shembe, to listen to the muezzin hurry the faithful to prayer and then retire to taste the delicacies of the bovine head-cookers or get your hands dirty by digging into a bunny chow,” Desai said.

* The public is invited to the launch at Ike’s Bookshop in Florida Road at 4pm on Saturday. Bring your favourite Durban story or picture along.

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