Actress and presenter Carishma Basday plays the lead in I,Coolie. Picture: SUPPLIED

Durban - A documentary that explores the role of women who came to Durban as indentured labourers will begin filming in the city from Monday. 

Titled I, Coolie and produced by Arnica Miakista, a former Durbanite now living in the UK, the short documentary film highlights the story of Indian female indentured labourers who came to South Africa from 1864 on 384 vessels, among them the SS Truro. 

"I began living in the UK about three years ago and people would often question where I came from. They were very confused about how Indians from India ended up in Durban," Miakista said.

"I then decided that there was a story to tell and that's when the idea came about. I began researching different stories, focussing on Indian women and the struggles they had to endure on their journey. Many were promised better lives but they were actually treated horrendously and these stories are often untold. It's going to be a really powerful movie," she said. 

She adds that while focussing on the stories, it was heartwarming to see how far Indian women had come in all spheres of society. 

"It really is a celebration. Women were mere slaves, hence the title Coolie which is a Tamil word for menial labour. Over the years it has become an ethnic or racial slur, but in this movie, we look at the word Coolie as a powerful word. 

"In this movie, it gives women the power to ultimately see where they started and how far we have come. We are reclaiming our history. 

The all-women crew is led by Mela presenter and actress Carishma Basday who plays the lead role.

Basday plays a young modern Indian South African woman in search of her history. 

Some of the places that would feature include Victoria Street Market, the Durban beachfront, a sugar cane farm in Isenembe on the North Coast and places in Tongaat. 

The documentary I,Coolie will be available online to watch.  

Daily News