On approaching KwaMuhle Museum one is immediately struck by the elegance of the arch-lined veranda and large sturdy copper-covered entrance doors.
This building, once the headquarters of the City’s infamous Native Administration Department and the center of Durban’s harsh system of labour control, has been transformed into a museum. The museum seeks to reflect the Durban’s urban growth and the history of its residents from a range of perspectives.
Visit the KwaMuhle Museum and discover what life was like in and around Durban during and leading up to the apartheid era. Ponder over the exhibits, which include photographic prints of township life, and reflect on the contributions of the ordinary people who laid the foundations of Ethekwini’s development as one of Africa’s leading cities.
The Museum hosts a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
A major attraction at the Museum is an exhibition entitled ‘The Durban System’ which is comprised of well-researched texts, black and white photographs and a themed environment, which work together to detail this form of urban control. This system consisted of ‘influx control’, a municipal monopoly on the production of Zulu beer, the creation of beer halls and the creation of segregated accommodation.
The Mkhumbane Gallery displays photographs taken by S.B. Bourquin, who served as the Director of the Department of Bantu Administration from 1953 to 1973. Photographs relating to the forced removal of people from Mkhumbane, the role and function of the Department, as well as the development of townships, like KwaMashu and Umlazi, are to be found in the gallery. A recent addition to the gallery is an exhibition of bottles unearthed during the recent underpinning of the museum building.
Another interesting feature of the KwaMuhle Museum is the courtyard. A sculpture, The Shadows of the Past, by Durban-born artist Ledelle Moe, occupies the eastern section of the courtyard. Three naked figures sit, looking out onto the courtyard. They represent migrant workers: their nakedness refers to a lack of protection and the sitting posture is one of waiting. The figure on the left hand side represents a migrant worker reflecting on his experience whilst the middle and right hand figures represent two migrant workers in conversation.
There is also a mural in the courtyard, part of a community mural project completed in 1998. The mural describes the African male workers’ experience of the Municipal Native Affairs Department. The role of the Blackjacks in the Municipal Native Affairs Department, the queuing of migrant workers, the passbook, a medical doctor, an Inyanga (traditional doctor) and the story of dipping are depicted in the mural. Lastly the muti garden in the courtyard is a reference to local indigenous knowledge systems. Plants such as Iboza, Agapanthus and Wild Dagga are to be found in the garden.