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Sunday, December 29, 2013


Chatsworth: the Making of a South African Township edited by Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed is published by UKZN Press and was recently launched at Ike’s Bookshop.

In 1960, apartheid’s planners created the ‘Indian’ township of Chatsworth, evicting people from established neighbourhoods around Durban and forcibly settling them into the grid of a modern racial ghetto. Making home within this architecture of exclusion, along streets without names, tens of thousands of new residents began building new lives and new communities, developing an urban space with a unique cultural vibrancy born of creativity and economic struggle.

With the dismantling of Group Areas legislation from 1990, and within South Africa’s continually changing political landscape, Chatsworth has witnessed innovations of livelihood, shifting boundaries of identity and protracted social challenges. This book brings together an exhilarating mix of voices that collectively tell the story of Chatsworth’s origins, transformations and ongoing rhythms of daily life. Its narrative richness is further enhanced with classic photographs, some dating back to the period of early settlement, as well as a contemporary photo essay by distinguished photographer, Jenny Gordon.

Ashwin Desai is a professor at the Centre for Sociological Research, University of Johannesburg, and a regular newspaper columnist. He is the author of such titles as Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island (2010); Inside Indian Indenture: A South African Story, 1860–1914 (co-written with Goolam Vahed, 2010); and The Poors of Chatsworth (2000).

Goolam Vahed is an associate professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His previous works include: Ahmed Deedat: The Man and His Mission (2013); Gender, Modernity and Indian Delights: The Women’s Cultural Group of Durban, 1954–2010 (co-written with Thembisa Waetjen, 2010); and Many Lives: 150 Years of Being Indian in South Africa (co-written with Ashwin Desai and Thembisa Waetjen, 2010).

The book’s 40 chapters explore the many sides of Chatsworth’s history, covering aspects ranging from sport and religion to gangs and politics. The narrative richness of the book, its attention to detail, and sensitivity to how broader changes impacted on life in the township is enhanced with poignant photographs of the township’s past, as well as a stunning contemporary photo essay.

Chatsworth: the making of a South African Township is a 500-page, glossy-paper hardcover full of rare photographs ISBN: 978 1 86914 255 1. Recommended Retail Price R425. More information from Cedric Sissing at Adams Bookshop on 082 873 2702 or Joanne at Ike’s on 031 303 9214.