uMkhumbane Museum, Cato Manor. Choromanski Architects

uMkhumbane_Cato Manor_Heritage Place- Africa Architecture Award 2017 Grand Prix Winner

 Project by the Architecture Department,eThekwini Municipality and Choromanski Architects

Black Africans came to settle in Cato Manor during the 1920s, and rented land from Indian market gardeners who occupied the area since the early 20th century, as the apartheid system restricted settlement in the city.

Cato Manor covers a geographical area of approximately 1800 hectares and is situated approximately 7 kilometres from Durban’s City Centre. It is currently the home to an estimated 93 000 people who settled in the area through mass invasions in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.Cato Manor had been left vacant since the 1950’s and 1960’s following apartheid forced removals of an estimated 150 000 people. Today, Cato Manor residents include some of the poorest of the urban poor, despite the successes of the EU funded Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA) programme.

The area remains characterised by a high unemployment rate and social fragmentation. At the same time, Cato Manor residents are increasingly taking the initiative in the development of the area and there is a high level of community organisation, citizen action and participation. The Cato Manor Area Based Management (ABM) Unit of the Municipality seeks to work with these strengths and build on post-infrastructure development and consolidation processes such as social upliftment, responsibility and cohesion; community planning and participation; economic development and skills development.

The city’s Economic Development Unit together with Parks Recreation and Culture and the CMDA identified Cato Manor as an ideal location to develop The “uMkhumbane Heritage Site ”, to preserve the areas rich cultural and political history and stimulate innovation. The site at the confluence of two major arterials is crossed by the uMkhumbane River and included in the Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (DMOSS) and in close proximity to mixed residential areas, businesses and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

The first project reports responding to the heritage project were compiled in 2003 and an architectural competition by the City Architects laid the foundation for the appointment of the professional team. A master plan created by Choromanski Architects, incorporated the vision of the “uMkhumbane Heritage Site ” which compliments the Cultural Renaissance Programme of the eThekwini Municipality, and includes the following:

a cultural park and public square,

galleries for permanent collection on forced removals, focusing on the struggle by women and children and temporary collections,

dedicated space for community exhibitions,

gathering areas for oral, performance, installation exhibits,

social gathering areas for functions, eg. book launches, festivals (film, writers, poetry, dance, music)

concession areas including traders market stalls,

theatre as multipurpose space,

children’ innovative facilities,

linking of the development to tour routes through the community and surroundings areas, thereby extending the innovative entrepreneur spirit from the “uMkhumbane Heritage Site ” through Cato Manor and Surroundings

Funding for this project was initially provided by Lotto who together with the city stimulated momentum for the development, which was complimented by the donation of land for the site by the UKZN.

This site on the banks of the uMkhumbane River is also especially significant as it was chosen by the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini for the reburial

of the remains of his late mother in May 2011,Queen Thomozile Jezangani KaNdwandwe Zulu,who passed on in December 1959

A process of co-creating regenerative and enabling systems, where the project serves as a catalyst within its immediate environment, creates structure to enable the health of the surrounding community and natural environment. The activation of a neglected apartheid buffer zone along the uMkhumbane River to become a Heritage and Innovation Site

Creating new unique African Identity and Brands towards stimulation of a Township Economy

South Africa has a very wealthy history that is only now being appreciated for its complexity and diversity…”


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