the United Colours of Africa
Since Vasco Da Gama's arrival in 1497, development has fought a duel with nature. This land was once a heaven on earth, teeming with an abundance of creatures roaming freely in jungles, mangroves, natural gardens and large lush forests.
One of nature's phenomenon on this coast of the Indian Ocean is the sardine run, a seasonal migration of millions upon millions of newly spawned sardines from the cool Agulhas North down the East Coast to the warmer waters. They make their way to Mozambique where the survivors will breed in the warm waters. In ancient times the Bushmen people would do a similar migration, by foot, from the Cape, along the coast as far as Mozambique. They did it because they were NOMAD's which means they do not go mad.
The Bushmen were the first people of Southern Africa and lived totally within the bounds of nature. The Zulu came south from Central Africa and set up the vernacular architecture of the day, mud and thatch homes. They were joined by the Colonial English who built in art deco et al and the Indian people with their colourful spirituality, temples and markets. Durban is a melting pot of the multiple perspectives of different people and ideas. For example, in India cows are sacred, in Africa cows are sacrificed and in Europe cows are slaughtered and in Durban everything goes. Durban has a surname, eThekwini. The name is derived from the Zulu definition to mean testicle (in the description of the shape of the harbour).
Durban is situated on the spinal column and a profound acupunctural point on the body of Mother Earth. The centre of Durban (the City Hall statues) is situated at an important sacred geometric point on Mother Earth, exactly on the 31 degree longitude lay line. This line follows an extraordinary path across the continent and the globe, passing through a number of natural and ‘manmade' wonders of the continent, such as Adams Calendar (outside Nelspruit), the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, the White Lions of Timbavati, the Great Rift Valley and the Pyramids of Giza which is the geodesic centre of the earth. The Nilotic 31 degrees East Meridian is a sacred line that runs from North to South and has very important links to our place in the cosmos.
Alchemy, change, transformation and healing are all aspects of the people of Durban and their visitors. In the mythological origins of the Zulu people, ‘Indaba My Children' Credo Mutwa tells the story of the first mother of the Zulu People, Princess Marimba. She loved to turn bad into good and as a result invented a plethora of musical instruments and lifestyle utilities that are still in use today. Turning bad into good was also a trait of the Prophet, Isaiah Shembe. When faced with the forced employment of many of his female followers as domestic servants he encouraged them to make beads and straw crafts. He created a market for them on the beachfront which exists to this day.
There was a band in Durban around the time of 1990, called Urban Creep. Of Durban they sang: “sea level, caught between the angels and the devil, you come up for air and they push you back down.” Chris Letcher and Brendan Jury like other great musicians such as Kevin Volans and Allen Kwela left Durban to follow their dreams! This sadly would be come to be regarded as an economic migration. Durban had a well known band in the 1960's, known as the Flames. Their two albums ‘Soul Fire' and ‘Burning Soul' were hits which lead some of the musicians to find international acclaim. Steve Fataar, a founding member, has stayed in Durban throughout. He once said that the secret to their success was: playing a venue a regular day every week without fail.
In Durban, at sea level in the presence of the warm Indian Ocean one is given the opportunity to take an authentic step towards ‘knowing ourselves.' Mahatma Gandhi arrived here as an esteemed young lawyer. He left a sustainable spiritualist.
Mahatma Gandhi spent twenty years in South Africa, eleven of which was in KZN. This has been known as his apprenticeship to becoming a ‘Mahatma' or ‘Great Soul.' Satyagraha (meaning truth and firmness in sanskrit) is the philosophy of non-violent resistance. The Satyagraha movement was born on 11/09/1906 in the Empire Theatre Johannesburg were Gandhi chaired a meeting of more than 3000 people. This meeting produced the fourth revolution where Indians resolved to go to prison rather than submit to the ordinance. “Thus came into being the moral equivalent of war,” Gandhi said. In 1910 he founded Tolstoy farm near Durban , a co-operative colony for Indians. In 1914 the government of SA made important concessions to Gandhi's demands and he returned to India . A salt march walks the streets annually to this day in his honour and as a symbol of the great change in life he experienced in this very location.
Nelson Mandela came to KZN as a leader taking up arms against injustice. When he left he was prepared for peaceful protest and the statesman qualities of compassion and forgiveness he later displayed. Durban has offered me much healing and change. Under every light bulb there is probably a story of healing and personal transformation.
Throughout time traditional African people have traveled to these shores to pray and bathe in the rivers and ocean. Within these waters, people are re-birthed in the presence of God or uNkulunkulu. uNkulunkulu is translated to mean ‘that which is greater than greatness itself' illustrating a metaphysical comprehension of God as the ‘Source Field', or infinite and eternal consciousness, that is ALL.
One of the great assistances in the path to becoming yourself unique to this region is the people of Kwa Zulu Natal. The philosophy of being of Kwa Zulu Natal is often described as ubuntu which is translated to mean ‘people depend on other people to exist as people.' In other words we are ONE on the body of uNkulunkulu
“Indian Ocean – washing machine of the soul.” Adam Knight
In Durban people have the opportunity to heal. There is a strong network of world class facilities to accommodate this healing. Alternative medicine is very well represented here with traditional healers, nyanga's (herbalists) and sangoma's (spiritual healers) outnumbering allopathic healers ten to one.
The direct translation of sangoma is ‘person of the drum.' Music and healing is synonymous. Ngoma is also the practice of participative community performance of drumming accompanied by dance. This is an unlimited musical format and every region of KZN has a unique ngoma. A person is always a participant in ngoma, whether dancing, playing, clapping or foot stamping. It is an organic music, built on the relationship of rhythm and breath. And it heals, illustrating how wholeness is the essence of healing.
Durban is a healing destination. We experienced the early signs of this at the 2010 World Cup when people from all over the world visited both the city and the country over an intense sporting period of one month. One such visitor was Diane Cooper, author of the book ‘Keys to the Universe.' She wrote poetically of how our region of Southern Africa was situated in the solar plexus chakra of planet earth in the fifth dimension. The result of this metaphysics is that Southern Africa will play a significant role in transmuting fear and bringing forward ancient wisdom.
She said, “Your country will be a place of wisdom, integrity and abundance and will be communicating this to the whole world. It is time to recognize and honour yourselves, knowing that there is no separation for we are all one.”
A great example of humanities one-ness is the ukusina sacred dance composed by Isaiah Shembe. In this music, warriors play huge drums, steady, steadfast and sure; they beat out the rhythm of human hearts, entraining one to the all. Large spaces claim their silence between these powerful drum beats. Giant steel horns (invented by Isaiah and called vuvuzela today) are played by vast orchestras of young men in perfect unison. They play a single note chant.
The women dance according to their era. The maidens dance together moving poetically with shield in one hand. The widows dance together matching the maidens' playful moves with a subtle ingenuity. The simple manipulation of an umbrella into opening and closing becomes an expression of pure grace and joy. In a harmonic people everybody has their place and purpose and sacred dance reaffirms that.The sacred dance is a micro-cosm of the macro-cosm. As planets and universes move in and amongst each other in a ‘music of the spheres,' so people's and communities have the opportunity to create a harmonic interaction; and when we are in perfect health the cells and organs within our bodies dance together harmoniously.
“To be nobody-but-myself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else … means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting” E.E Cummings
My pilgrimage to and from Durban eThekwini, land of my birth, land that I love, has been a lifetime which has lead me to the realisation that this destination is extraordinary for many reasons, most notably at a soul level, where i am challenged, i am humbled, i am healed. Here is a growing perspective from the melting pot of Durban.
The sovereignty of all beings and the empathy and understanding of all narratives is indeed crucial. We can only celebrate all the many narratives that make up the diverse ingredients of the wonderful soup of experience that is the universe. And Durban will not be left out. It is as if back in Cape Town, looking at the night lights of a great city from the villa of the mountains or out at the stars of the night sky. Each shining light is a story waiting to be told.