Tourism expert sad to only find images of older Gandhi

2014-02-24 00:00

DR Ajit Singh Sikand from the University of Frankfurt in Germany came to South Africa in search of Gandhi and did not find him.

At least, he did not find the young Mohandas Gandhi who lived in South Africa for more than 20 years. Singh Sikand, a tourism expert and president of Germany’s HBC Tourism Consulting, said he was disappointed to find statues and images of an older Gandhi — the Mahatma.

“In South Africa, you should be telling the story to tourists of Mohandas Gandhi who lived here, who he was and the South African experience that shaped his destiny to becoming the Mahatma,” he said.

Singh Sikand, who specialises in Gandhi legacy tourism, was the guest of the Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism Association.

He addressed a gathering at the city’s new tourism hub on Friday evening and had guests riveted as he spoke of tourism involving art, song and theatre. He could envisage mobile drama where aspects of Gandhi’s life could be enacted in the streets and at the Pietermaritzburg Station. Most of all he wanted to see images and art of the younger Gandhi. According to Singh Sikand, if tourists wanted to find the Mahatma, they could go to India, but they will come to South Africa to learn about the young Gandhi. He added that there was a rich history here and by not paying attention to this, an injustice was being done to the South Africans who interacted with Gandhi and the role played by his wife Kasturba, who was arrested during the 1913 Great March and held at the Pietermaritzburg prison. Singh Sikand emphasised that tourism was not static but interactive.

“My question is where are your arts schools, schools of dance, drama and literature in enhancing tourism products in South Africa?” he asked.

The tourism expert said this was his first visit to South Africa and he had been planning this trip for six years. There has been some disappointment regarding his expectations of finding the younger Gandhi, but he has been overwhelmed by the beauty of the country and the warmth of its citizens. He said there was a lot of untapped tourism potential in South Africa.

Director of Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism, Dumisani Mhlongo, said that Singh Sikand’s visit was exciting and offered a different perspective on understanding and portraying Gandhi’s South African legacy.

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