Three academics from the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology (UFC@DUT) have written a fascinating book about Kenneth Gardens, which is Durban’s largest low-income municipal housing estate. The book is titled: VOICES OF RESILIENCE – A Living History of the Kenneth Gardens Municipal Housing Estate in Durban.
DUT will co-host an official book launch in partnership with the Publishers of the book, UKZN Press, on 02 August 2018 at Phansi Museum in Glenwood, Durban. The authors and some of the storytellers will share their enthralling journey of compiling this enlightening book.
VOICES OF RESILIENCE – A Living History of the Kenneth Gardens Municipal Housing Estate in Durban, gives a wide-ranging account on this historic area, which was initially built for ‘poor whites,’ Kenneth Gardens today is arguably one of the most socially diverse living spaces in the city of Durban.
While the estate is significant in terms of its size, history and social make-up, very little has been written about it. This book provides a journey of Kenneth Gardens, through the oral history stories of its residents. It is a rich tapestry of narratives as told by the people who resided in Kenneth Gardens during apartheid era, those that moved into the estate when the Group Areas Act began to crumble, as well as stories from new residents who have recently moved into the housing estate.
According to Professor Monique Marks, Head of the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology, who is also one of the authors, “whilst this book is about Kenneth Gardens itself, it is also about the history of social housing, identity formation and change, urban planning, and state regulation.” She added that many of the storytellers reveal intimate moments of struggle in their lives. But what emerges more strongly than vulnerability and hardship is embedded resilience and adaptability.
“Through the narratives, we come to understand how a subsidised rental apartment becomes home, and how relative strangers can form a neighbourhood based on shared circumstances, proximity and an urban planning design that fosters familiarity and belonging. The narratives are accompanied by a unique photo essay created by acclaimed photographer Cedric Nunn. Through this book, we invite readers to dwell in the everyday lives and memories of the people of Kenneth Gardens, and in so doing unravel the complexities of social housing, local government, regulation, urban identity politics and human agency.,” said Prof Marks.
Dr Kira Erwin from UFC@DUT, who is also one of the authors, said the book has in many ways been a personal journey for the authors. In the 6 years that we worked in Kenneth Gardens with residents on various projects that tried to improve everyday lives in the estate it would be impossible for it not to be.
“For myself, the project also had a deeper meaning of exploring a place in which I grew up as a child. But besides how much Monique, Tamlynn and I learnt personally through this experience, the book is first and foremost a testimony to the people who live in Kenneth Gardens today. This book offers a unique look into contemporary low-income living in the surrounds of what was under apartheid “white” middle-class suburbs,” she said.
“It is a history from below about living in state subsidised housing, but it is also a book that piques the sociological imagination more broadly. For us, how the narrators of these stories negotiate difference and diversity whilst finding ways to live together and support each other, holds important lessons for all South Africans in how to build commonalities within, and across, our various social fractures,” added Dr Erwin.
Pictured: Cover of the book titled: Voices of Resilience – A Living History of the Kenneth Gardens Municipal Housing Estate in Durban.