Street festival to celebrate 1860 legacy

2010-11-10 00:00

THE launch of a time capsule and a multi-cultural street festival are some of the activities organised for next week by the uMgungundlovu District Municipality 1860 Legacy Foundation.

Tuesday, November 16, marks the day, 150 years ago, when the first shipload of indentured Indian labourers arrived in South Africa.

To mark the occasion, the District Legacy Foundation will launch a time capsule at Project Gateway, the former Pietermaritzburg Prison in Burger Street, where female passive resisters were imprisoned.

District Mayor Yusuf Bhamjee said that among the prisoners were Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba, and 16-year-old Valliamah Mudliar who died as the first child martyr 11 days after her release from the prison .

Bhamjee said the time capsule will be left open for a year, offering members of the Indian community the opportunity to deposit certified copies of authentic documents that will trace their origins and history.

On Tuesday the capsule will be sealed. It will be reopened after 50 years on November 16, 2060, marking the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the indentured Indian labourers.

On Saturday, November 20, there will be a march and a street festival in the city, and all residents of Pietermaritzburg — as well as the other municipalities in the uMgungundlovu District — are invited.

Bhamjee said the event will celebrate South Africa’s rich tapestry of diverse cultures. It is a celebration of the country’s non-racialism and will advance the principle of unity in diversity, he said.

The march will start at noon from the Gandhi statue in Church Street.

Everyone is encouraged to come along with a South African flag. If your ancestral roots are in another country, for example Mozambique or Scotland or Ireland, carry that flag as well.

There will be vendor stalls where representatives of various cultural groups will showcase their culture and costumes, and offer an inter-cultural food tasting experience.

Artists will perform on stage and leading scholars will talk on the historical significance of the event.

Bhamjee said the festival is being held in this precinct because of the temples, church and mosque in the area. They were built by the earliest indentured Indians and are over a hundred years old.

The celebration is not about the Indian community, but about celebrating the making of South African history, said Bhamjee.

“The 1860 arrival of indentured Indian labourers is one aspect of that history and we are using this occasion as an opportunity to capture lost and unknown aspects of that history,” he said.

The 1860 Legacy project co-ordinators for the events include Bhamjee, Dr Raj Govender, acting general manager in the KZN Department of Arts and Culture, and Melanie Veness of Pietermatzburg Tourism.

They are working with a committee of representatives from government, business, religious and cultural groups.

South African national symbols, including the flag and copies of the national anthem will be distributed at the march.

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