Fascinating look at sad, but rich, history

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IF you want to learn about the rich, diverse history of Durban in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s your last chance to view the fascinating exhibition titled Dirty Linen – Durban’s inner-city forced removals at the DUT Art Gallery. The photographic exhibition runs until tomorrow at the Steve Biko Campus.

“Dirty Linen” refers to the secrets and silences of the then-government and the Durban City Council around the question of forced removals that occurred in the 1960s and ’70s, an “open secret” that they wish could be forgotten. This exhibition focuses on the city council’s policy of forced removals which hounded established non-white communities out of areas designated for whites and relocated them in townships on the outskirts of the city.

According to the curator of the exhibition, Leonard Glenn Rosenberg, the exhibition is part of their ROCS (Research of Curries and Surrounds) research project which saw a book launched on Curries Fountain and the Warwick Junction precinct.

Explaining the essence of the exhibition and what it stands for, Rosenberg said: “We called the exhibition Dirty Linen because it’s a different approach. And for people of that time, it was a collusion to move them off the land. For those people it was very dramatic because it was an area that they lived in. And the photos depict a lot. We’ve asked people for their photos and to share their memories of that time.

“Some people still have a lot of sad feelings because they were moved out in a sneaky way.”

The photographs taken in the ’70s at (what is now known as) the Steve Biko Campus are a reminder of the urban decay that set in after more than a decade of neglect by the Durban City Council because of the area’s “frozen” status once it was declared a white Group Area in 1963.

In contrast the photographs of the Wills and Warwick Avenue area, taken in a different time period and by different people for different purposes, provide a glimpse into what the area “felt” like for some residents.

In terms of the ROCS project, Rosenberg said the book was launched at the exhibition and the response had been fantastic.

“Curries Fountain also invokes all sorts of emotions. We used Curries as the face of the project to tell the story. So the book covers the history of areas in Beatrice to Greys Street and Warwick. The first three chapters talk about all the laws and regulations because there were different sets of laws. Then there are chapters on religion, commerce, health and welfare, education, politics, transport and entertain- ment. The two books are very much inter-related.”

Shedding light on his hopes for the exhibition, Rosenberg said: “Our project entails interacting with members of the public. We acknowledge the fact that those people were forcibly removed and we thought we should dedicate some research on that. Essentially, for some people that know the areas well, it will bring back some nostalgia and hurt.

“And for the younger generation it’s a part of our local history, so it will be educational for them.

“It will give Durbanites a history perspective of the city, and people will be able to see the destruction of what forced removals did.”


• The exhibition runs until tomorrow at The DUT Art Gallery on the Steve Biko Campus. Call 031 373 2207.

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