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Friday, March 7, 2014


Recently launched at the Durban University of Technology’s Art Gallery the exhibition Dirty Linen. Durban’s inner city forced removals is part of the launch of two books written by the University’s ROCS research project (Research Of Curries and Surrounds) about the Warwick Junction Precinct.

The two books: The Making of Place. The Warwick Junction Precinct, 1870s-1980s and the Curries Fountain. Sports, Politics and Identity seek to preserve Curries Fountain and the precinct’s rich history through the documentation of its history of people, places and events.

The expression “Dirty Linen” refers to the secrets and silences of the old government and the Durban City Council (of the National Government) around the question of forced removals, an ‘open secret’ that it prefers to be best forgotten. This exhibition focuses on the City Council’s shameful policy of forced removals in the 1960s and 70s which hounded established communities out of areas designated for ‘Whites’ and relocated them to racially designated townships on the outskirts of the city.

The area to the west of Warwick (Julius Nyerere) Avenue was first declared a “White” Group Area in 1963, in terms of the Group Areas legislation and part of it was subsequently zoned for educational purposes, thereby ceding the task of ‘forced removals’ on to an educational institution. This was a much more subtle approach than the brute forced employed at Cato Manor in the 1960s.

The photographs taken in the late 1970s at what is now known as the Steve Biko Campus of DUT depict the destruction of a once vibrant community. The images are a reminder of the urban decay that set in after more than a decade of neglect by the Durban City Council (DCC) because of the area’s ‘frozen’ status once it was declared a “White” Group Area in 1963.

As a result of collusion between of the City Council, National Government, the National Education Department and the Department of Community Development with the then Technikon Natal, the land was finally cleared of all residents and business by 1985, 13 years after the start of the first demolitions in 1973. The only traces of the community that once lived here are the few remaining houses and blocks of flats that are currently used by DUT for different purposes.

In contrast, the photographs of the Wills Road and Warwick Avenue area was taken in a different period by different people and does give a glimpse into what the area would have ‘felt’ like. This Wills Road area, which is part of what is referred to as the Warwick Avenue Triangle (WAT) and the forced removals in this area, was of a very different nature and was still not fully cleared by the late 1980s.

It is hoped that by airing and exposing this ‘dirty linen’, we can acknowledge what happened in this area and help bring closure to the lives of ex-residents. We also hope that together, we can write the stories of their rich lives in this once vibrant community so that photographs of urban decay and squalor on display at the exhibition and elsewhere are not the only memories and records that we have of the ‘Duchene’.

Dirty Linen. Durban’s inner city forced removals runs until March 12 at the DUT Art Gallery which is situated above the library on the Steve Biko Campus in Mansfield Road. For more information contact the Curator, Nathi Gumede, on 031 373 2207 or 082 2200 368 or email: