It is an emotional experience to stand in front of the display at the Apartheid Museum which lists all 148 laws that were passed in order to segregate and control the different racial groups in South Africa. The Group Areas Act No. 41 of 1950 was perhaps one of the most infamous of the laws passed by the Nationalists. The Act designated certain residential and business areas as white-only, in effect excluding non-whites from living in the most developed urban areas. It resulted in massive upheaval, as entire neighbourhoods were forcibly removed from their homes, often in the dead of night.

The non-white population, which formed the majority in terms of numbers, were allocated much smaller sections of land, far from city centres where many of the people worked. The Act put even further financial strain on people who were already struggling to survive by increasing their transportation costs, as they now lived further away from their places of work. Rents were also often higher in the new neighbourhoods created by the removals. Most importantly though, the Group Areas Act destroyed communities.

Initially the Act applied only to ‘White’, ‘Native’ and ‘Coloured’ groups, as Indians were viewed as an immigrant community that needed to be repatriated as soon as possible. But perhaps realising the reality of the situation, on the 30th March 1951 the government issued Proclamation 73, which created a sub-division of the Coloured group, which now included Indian and Chinese people. The government didn’t only want to separate white people from non-whites, they didn’t want people of any races mixing, with the result that ‘Coloured’, Indian and Chinese people were designated to neighbourhoods in the north and south of Durban, distinct from those areas reserved for black people.

A project is currently underway to collate an archive of photographs of the Coloured and Indian individuals and families that were displaced during the forced removals in Durban. Fittingly the project is called Proclamation 73, and is a joint venture between eThekwini History Museums, independent curator Chandra Frank, and social researcher, Zara Julius. The team are calling for the submission of photographs, with the aim of creating an online open-source archive that will visually document the stories of Durban’s Indian and Coloured communities. An interactive exhibition, hosted by eThekwini History Museums, is planned for the end of this year.

Visit proclamation73.wixsite.com to submit your family photographs, or to find out more about this very important project.

Images courtesy of www.mtholyoke.edu and www.sahistory.org.za

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