Cato Manor Writers' Trail

2008-11-25 00:00

KZN Literary Tourism will launch its latest writer’s trail — The Cato Manor Writers’ Trail — at its year-end function on November 28 at Phansi Museum in Glenwood, Durban. There will also be a launch for Stephen Coan’s book of poems, Chant of the Doves.

The Cato Manor Writers’ Trail is the latest in a series of trails compiled by the organisation. Developed in conjunction with the Cato Manor ABM (eThekwini Municipality), this trail has a strong responsible-tourism component with community guides from Cato Manor being trained to take tourists around the area.

The writers who feature on the trail are Ronnie Govender, Lewis Nkosi, Gladman Ngubo, Kessie Govender, Mi S’dumo Hlatshwayo and Kenneth Bhengu. Other famous residents include musician Sipho Gumede, Jacob Zuma, activist Florence Mkhize, journalist Nat Nakasa and trade unionist George W. Champion. Alan Paton also set his play Umkhumbane in the area.

Ronnie Govender, who was born in Cato Manor in 1934, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for his collection, At the Edge and Other Cato Manor Stories. He is a pioneer of indigenous theatre and in 2006, his novel Song of the Atman, set in Cato Manor, was published. Nkosi’s literary career began in journalism in Durban and he became a novelist and academic, now resident in Switzerland.

Ngubo, also known as Mvukuzane, has published a number of Zulu-language novels and first found his voice as a praise poet at trade union rallies in Durban, while Hlatshwayo comes from a similar background, writing his best-known poem, A Black Mamba Rises, in praise of striking Dunlop workers in 1984.

Bhengu, “the sage of Ndwendwe”, is another Zulu-language writer who has set three of his novels in Cato Manor while Kessie Govender, cousin of Ronnie who introduced him to the theatre, was also a playwright, his best-known work being Working Class Hero.

Cato Manor is about 10 kilometres from the centre of Durban. The first residents were Indian market gardeners, who later leased land to African families who were not allowed to own land themselves. A vibrant Afro-Indian culture grew up, but it was not without its tensions which burst out in 1949 in the race riots which saw well over 100 people killed.

In 1959, Cato Manor was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act and the community was destroyed. Currently, the city of Durban is involved in an urban development project in the area.

The trail takes in the Cato Manor Heritage Centre which focuses on the history of the area, temples, and other places that appear in the literature.

For more information on the Cato Manor Writers’ Trail and its launch, contact KZN Literary Tourism at

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