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Wednesday, December 16, 2020


Phansi Museum collaborated with the Durban Book Fair and the Durban Heritage Trust, by hosting a book launch and a photographic exhibition on December 6. This marked the closing event of the Durban Book Fair that was held at Mitchell Park from December 4 to 6, 2020, culminating at Phansi Museum.

A number of books were launched during this three-day event, culminating with the launch of a book titled, The buildings of the ‘Durban system’; the architecture of social control, authored by Leonard (Len) Rosenberg. Rosenberg also curated the photographic exhibition, which displayed images of the architecture of the ‘Durban system’, and was formally opened at the book launch.

The Durban Book Fair (DBF) has been in operation for three years and occurs on the first Sunday of every month, within Mitchell Park. Over the last three years it has provided a platform for 160 authors to launch their books, at no cost, in a historic, beautiful and family-friendly setting. The DBF is recognised and partly funded by the National Arts Council.

The Durban Heritage Trust was established in 1987 to develop a revolving conservation fund for the rescue of threatened buildings. Because of many difficulties with this the Trust switched its focus in 2014 to encouraging and sponsoring publications about historic architecture. This book is the sixth such publication to date.

The buildings of the ‘Durban system’: the architecture of social control, examines and illustrates, in more than 60 photographs, the notorious system of control that became the basis of ‘Native Administration’ during the colonial and apartheid period. The control and subjugation of the African population, was based on the municipal monopoly on the manufacture, distribution and sale of traditional beer, utshwala. Since the beginning of the 20th century, private and home brewing of traditional sorgum beer was outlawed. Municipalities throughout Natal built breweries and beerhalls and generated an income which accrued in a separate account, which in turn funded the apparatus of control over Africans’ lives in the cities. The profits from beer sales was used to set up and fund an oppressive system of influx control which manifested in beerhalls, barracks, hostels and rudimentary educational, sports and social institutions. Durban was a leader in this brand of oppressive ‘Native administration’ and was emulated by other municipalities throughout the country.

Although Durban pioneered what became known as the ‘Durban system’, very little is generally known about it. How did it work? When was it implemented? What did it consist of and how was it implemented? Was there opposition to the system? The book seeks to address these questions.

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