Written by: Merisha Lalla
“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow–deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we have come from.”
[Alex Haley – Author of Roots]
In her recently published book “SVET – Living The Legacy”, author Tholsie Moodley’s recreates the scene of that fateful day in 1860:
On Friday afternoon, 16 November 1860, the Truro anchored at the Harbour of Durban. The next day, Saturday morning, Dr Holland the Health Officer completed his examination of all the passengers. He was happy to inform the British authorities that the passengers were fit for duty. Passengers disembarked on Saturday afternoon. The Master of the Ship then handed the Ships List to the Coolie Agent, later known as the Protector of the Indian Immigrants.
It was summer in Natal, the sun beat down relentlessly on the group as they walked in a single file. “On your feet you Coolies – time to move on” said the Manager. The group trudged on reluctantly with their tiny bundles of worldly possessions on their heads.
- 20 years since Heritage Day was declared in 1996;
- 200 years of the Zulu nation;
- 60 years since the Womens March in 1956;
- 40 years since the 1976 Youth Uprising;
- and… 156 years since the arrival of Indians to SA
Pallium, a 20 year old lad from India left his motherland seeking greener pastures in the Colony of Natal.
Amma, Appa naan poodhu woruku pohren. Neeinge nalla irukunum. Naan panu… kasi maatu… maatu anperen.
Mother, Father, I am going to a new place. Both of you stay well. I will send you money every month.
And with that, the sobbing Perumal family sent their youngest son on his way to new beginnings.
From Girmitiyas to Coolies… From Calcutta to Port Natal… From average homesteads to colonial barracks. They persevered indeed. In every single facet of life in South Africa, Indian names emerge victorious – from sport to politics to education – and especially in the arts and religion. One can only appreciate their supreme sacrifice to build schools and places of worship to ensure a bright future for their children.
Ahead of the 156th Anniversary of the arrival of Indians to South Africa, MegaZone Media attended the sod turning ceremony of the planned statue to commemorate the milestone event at Lawn Park on Bell Street.
The first ship, the SS Truro docked at Port Natal on November 16, 1860, carrying 342 immigrants from Madras. The site at Addington Beach is the preferred site for the erection of a monument commemorating the arrival of the indentured labourers in South Africa.
Mayor of the eThekwini Municipality Zandile Gumede praised the gathering for practicing the spirit of togetherness. KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu expressed his appreciation to the 1860 Organising Committee for undertaking the task.
Mchunu added: “We remain indebted to the Indian indentured labourers for their contribution especially in terms of establishing the agricultural potential of KwaZulu-Natal making it the world renowned region of the sugar industry. By working towards the erection of the monument, we are expressing our deep appreciation to our fellow brothers and sisters from India who unequivocally declared South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal in particular, their preferred place to live in.”
If you wish to trace your roots, these resources may help:
- SA History Website: In Pictures: 25 years – the arrival of Natal’s Indians
- Ships List: Guidelines for tracing ones roots and Printable Ships List
- Documentation Centre: Visit the 1860 Heritage Centre at Derby Street and take a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
It is imperative that the contributions made by our elders, including their lessons of perseverance, humility, good work ethics and love for fellow man are remembered. More importantly, communities must forge ahead in the next 100 years to build a legacy our forefathers and the next generation will be proud of.