Children tour Durban’s 1860 Heritage Centre

Published Jul 2, 2024


This week, children were taken on a learning tour through the 1860 Heritage Centre where they explored the many exhibitions and learnt about South Africa's history and the story of Indian indenture.

The 1860 Heritage Centre, in Derby Street, is a South African heritage museum that showcases the diversity of South Africa's rich heritage.

This week the centre hosted children from the age of seven to 18 and took them on a tour of the centre.

Among the exhibitions that they visited were the Story of Indenture and the history of the three giants of South African history, Mandela, Gandhi, and Luthuli, which are showcased in two rooms. Other exhibits were about the Natal Indian Congress, the Role of Women in the Freedom Struggle exhibition, the Curries Exhibition and the Indian in Drum Magazine exhibition.

Selvan Naidoo, director of the centre, said many children have not been exposed to the unsung heroes and heroines whose names are not listed in the textbooks they learn from.

"We exposed them to a wide range of history from slavery in South Africa to the system of indenture and the involvement of people like Ruth First, Victoria Mxenge, Dr Kersavel Goonum, Fatima Meer, and countless others, in the freedom struggle," said Naidoo.

After the tour, the children participated in a sgraffito painting workshop where they did an oil painting of indenture. They ended their day at the museum with a traditional meal of rice, dhal and potato curry.

"We specifically chose a menu that reminded children of the food that was had on the ships transporting indentured workers to colonial Natal. The meal of dhal and rice formed part of the rations stipulated in the 5- to 10-year contract of the labourers while indentured to the sugar cane plantation owners. This heritage meal continued to be a favourite of families through generations and is still enjoyed today. The children that joined us for the day at the museum thoroughly enjoyed the meals and expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the ancestral meal," said Naidoo.

Asma Subrathie, 11, from Overport, said she found the tour very informative.

"I got to learn about how Indians came to South Africa and about slavery. It was very interesting," she said.

Asma's mother, Fatima, said the centre, which is in a safe and secure environment, had a wealth of information.

"I was very happy that I brought my daughter and niece for the tour. They got to learn so much about South Africa's history, especially the arrival of Indians to the country. It is sad that they are not taught much about this in school. It is so important that they understand where their ancestors came from and their struggles," said Fatima.

Riteyin Govender, a Grade 10 learner at Kharwastan Secondary in Chatsworth, said he found the tour and exhibitions very interesting.

"This was my second time to the museum, and I still found it very interesting and learnt new things. It was a good experience and there was tasty food. There were some aspects that I had also learnt in class. When I saw the exhibition on Indian indenture, I understood what I learnt at school. I would like to trace which village my ancestors came from in India," said Riteyin.

Saara Hoosen, 13, who is on holiday in Durban from Pretoria, said she got to learn about the arrival of Indians in South Africa, racism and how people were treated differently.

Saara Hoosen shows off her painting during the scroffito painting workshop at the 1860 Heritage Museum. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/Independent Newspapers
Some of the collections housed at the museum. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya
Asma Subrathie and her cousin, Amani Subrathie, said their tour of the centre was very informative. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya
Selvan Naidoo explains to a group of young people about the history of South Africa and the different exhibitions at the museum. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya