The 1860 Heritage Centre in Derby Street opened in May 2017. Picture: Jolene Marriah - Maharaj.
The 1860 Heritage Centre in Derby Street opened in May 2017. Picture: Jolene Marriah - Maharaj.
I am African artwork, culminates with the suicide list. About 300 people perished between the period of 1880 -1911. Picture: Jolene Marriah - Maharaj
I am African artwork, culminates with the suicide list. About 300 people perished between the period of 1880 -1911. Picture: Jolene Marriah - Maharaj
Despite the hardships many women still wore a smile. This lady was known as Coolie Mary.
Despite the hardships many women still wore a smile. This lady was known as Coolie Mary.
A cell bearing a resemblance to Nelson Mandela's prison cell on Robben Island, Cape Town.
A cell bearing a resemblance to Nelson Mandela's prison cell on Robben Island, Cape Town.
Artwork Apartheid Assassins by South African artist Judith Mason, who stitched a dress with a blue packet, to pay tribute to women who were stripped of their dignity during in their fight for freedom.
Artwork Apartheid Assassins by South African artist Judith Mason, who stitched a dress with a blue packet, to pay tribute to women who were stripped of their dignity during in their fight for freedom.

Durban - The 1860 Heritage Centre in Derby Street, Durban is a collective South African experience that breaks traditional boundaries. 

Officially opened in May 2017, the centre not only focuses on Indian indentured history but offers a multicultural experience that pays tribute to all those who participated in the fight for freedom in South Africa. 

"It is a collective South African experience and it is a museum that breaks traditional boundaries," said curator Selvan Naidoo. 

Apart from the rich history, the centre hosts different programmes. One of them was the Group Areas Act In Conversation. 

"People who were affected by the group areas act attended. It is important that we have a dialogue on issues that are topical," said Naidoo. 

In November last year, the centre hosted its first academic symposium, which celebrated 100 years since the abolition of indenture in India. 

"We had speakers and relevant authority talking to these issues." 

One of the recent exhibitions which Naidoo said would become a travelling exhibition is the tribute paid to golf legend Papwa Sewgolum. 

"Papwa is an unsung hero. His role in SA has not been acknowledged. 

"We have put together the first photographic exhibition of his life, and these exhibitions will be travelling to the different cities so that we keep in line with celebrating heroes of our fractured past."

The centre also has a MGL (Mandela, Gandhi, Luthuli) centre, which captures the lives of three very influential people in South Africa. 

It looks at the role of Mahatma Gandhi's role in South Africa, and his close link in working together to fight for freedom in other countries. 

There is also a story of Indenture 1860 - 1911. 


One of the more interesting parts about the museum is the detail. 

One of the exhibitions called Apartheid Assassinations pays tribute to women killed in the struggle. 

Phila Portia Ndwandle, a dental therapy student and mother of one, was kidnapped by the Apartheid police from Swaziland while in exile 

She made a pair of panties for herself using a blue packet. 

They tried to torture her into becoming an informer and stripped her naked. 

In the blue dress by Judith Mason, a dress made of blue plastic is aimed at restoring the dignity of women like Portia. 

The centre also boasts the "only exhibition in the country to highlight the role of Women in the Freedom Struggle".

For those who cannot travel to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela spent his time, his cell has been recreated. 

A suicide list of more than 300 people who killed themselves is also listed at the museum. 

"It also captures the happiness. It's not all doom and gloom. We have pictures of the smiles of our forefathers who toiled the land."

Naidoo encouraged people to visit the centre and bring their children along. 

The centre's Facebook page is: 1860 Heritage Centre (https://www.facebook.com/1860heritagecentre/?ref=br_rs).

Tripadvisor reviews: 

'It took me many years before I actually found myself at this gem - and what a beautiful space to acknowledge the history of the Indian community in Durban. For me, the curated works were incredibly special and thoughtfully put together. Plan to spend at least an hour here reading through the many displays.'

'Fantastic museum in Durban which provides amazing insights into the plight and hardships of the early Indian indentured laborers into the South Africa country and economy.Well worth the two hour trip and I can recommend the guided tour, will provide new perspective to South Africa - a must see for tourist to SA.'

'This museum shows the pride and tenacity of Indian people in South Africa from 1860.
A well laid-out series of rooms, with progressive details. Very interesting with many unknown facts about the contributions made by Indian people to the history of South Africa. Starts with arrival of Indentured labourers from India in 1860, and moves on from there. Covers politics, urban development, occupations, trials and tribulations, education, family unity, determination and commitment. It gave a fair account of contributions (definitely not one-sided or biased). A celebration of life, continuity, and pride. As a South African, I have learnt a great deal today about things I never knew or was never taught.'

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