Venice, Versailles, the Taj Mahal ... Phoenix?
Durban wants the historic Phoenix Settlement declared a world heritage site in honour of Gandhi
The wheels are in motion to have the historic Phoenix Settlement in Durban declared a world heritage site.
The settlement was established in Inanda, north of the city, in 1904 by Mahatma Gandhi – where he trained political activists to fight unjust British colonial laws.The National Association of African American Studies in Maine has a team working on convincing Unesco that the settlement deserves world heritage site status.
The association met with Gandhi’s family, city planners, architects and local universities in November last year.
It wants Gandhi to be recognised for the contribution he made against the oppression of the marginalised.Lemuel Berry, head of the association, said at the time that when a place is declared a world heritage site it attracts visitors from across the globe.
Ela Gandhi, Gandhi’s granddaughter, said this week that a report submitted by the association to Unesco, is expected to be up for discussion at the body’s next meeting.
“There are a few steps that we have to take to ensure everything is in order. They are expected to send a party to inspect the site and to see whether everything we have said in the report is on the site.
“We are in negotiations with the city council and the provincial government for funding approval.”Gandhi said the move to declare the settlement a heritage site was to promote her grandfather’s teachings and “not to glamorise it”.“The transformation of Gandhi’s life took place at Phoenix Settlement. It is an important part of history. He left his beautiful home in Durban and took on a sparse life at the Phoenix Settlement. There was a purpose to him moving from a life of luxury, to a place where ordinary people lived, to experience poverty,” said Gandhi.
“He left a heritage in South Africa, where he developed the whole satyagraha movement,” she added.Gandhi spent 21 years of his life, from 1893 to 1914, in South Africa before returning to India to fight British rule.
Next month India and South Africa will commemorate 125 years since the peace icon was expelled from a “whites only” train compartment in Pietermaritzburg.
Indian high commissioner Ruchira Kamboj announced that the historic incident would be commemorated with an elaborate two-day celebration on June 6 and 7 – parts of which would be televised live in both countries by national broadcasters Doordarshan and the SABC.