Many people have asked me or asked those close to me – what exactly does Maya do at the 1860 Heritage Centre?
On an emotional level, there’s a piece of my heart at the centre. Every time I visit, I feel happy at heart and I feel a calmness of spirit. Physically, I feel energised to keep going back and doing my bit.
On a practical level, by virtue of my birthright as a South African, I feel like I belong to the centre and the centre belongs to me.
And, there’s no reason why you should not feel the same too!
The 1860 Heritage Centre is a public space created to ensure that untold stories reach the masses in an engaging and interactive way. It’s about history being brought alive because it is still relevant today. And no, it’s not limited to that perilous journey undertaken by the 1860 Indian indentured labourers to South African shores. In addition to the exhibition on indenture, there are rooms dedicated to icons like Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli and Mahatma Gandhi too. There are rotating exhibitions too throughout the year – from women’s rights to golfing legend Papwa Sewgolum to that non-racial sporting mecca Curries Fountain.
The beauty about the centre is that its doors are always open to the public. Yet for some there isn’t enough impetus to visit this amazing space.
It’s why the concept of a Family Day was created and actioned for the first time last year – with phenomenal success! This year we are at it again. The Family Day has been planned for Sunday 30 June with the intention of getting more families to experience the beauty of the centre together and allow the youth in particular to connect with our roots.
Guided tours of the centre will be held at regular intervals and there will be a host of entertainment activities – from cooking demos to dances, books, arts and crafts on sale, mehndi artists, face painting and live music.
More exciting details will be revealed in the coming weeks so watch the press for details. You can also follow the centre on Facebook for regular updates.
Of course, to keep the centre running is no easy task. Besides a small grant from the KZN Department of Arts and Culture, the centre relies on the generosity of donors to fund exhibitions. Hence the Family Day has a minimal entrance fee of R10 per person, with no cost for children under 12.
Perfectly-timed for during the school holidays, our Family Day promises to be informative, insightful and invigorating. Here’s a video clip of last year’s event, beautifully put together by the centre’s Satish Dhupelia…
And when you visit you will get to see exactly what I do – which, as a volunteer, is a bit of everything – behind the scenes, in-front of the microphone, some logistics and lots of running around. I also get to work alongside and learn from amazing community activists and members of the centre whom I hold in high esteem – Selvan Naidoo, Satish Dhupelia, AV Mohamed, Krish Gokool, Juggie Pather and Yatin Singh.
For me, as a passionate history student and journalist, I want to share how important it is to understand the history that shapes our common identity as South Africans. The centre has given me new perspectives on this – and I’m sure it will resonate with you too. I look forward to sharing this journey with you on the 30th of June!