Last Stop “Little Gujarat”: Tracking South African Indian Writers on the Grey Street Writers’ Trail in Durban

  • L Stiebel


Grey Street in Durban is tied to the history of the Indian population in South Africa and their construction of a ‘home away from home’. Recently renamed Dr Yusuf Dadoo Street after the prominent anti-apartheid activist, “Grey Street” as it is still known by the locals, is where Indian immigrants to Natal inevitably made their way from the late nineteenth century onwards. Inevitably, too, South African Indian writers descended from these first immigrants have written about the Grey Street area in their works, describing the close community ties that developed amid the Indian-styled buildings their forefathers erected. Writers such as Dr Goonam (Coolie Doctor), Phyllis Naidoo (Footprints in Grey Street), Aziz Hassim (The Lotus People), and Imraan Coovadia (The Wedding ) have reconstructed a complex and contradictory past era – nostalgic, passing, difficult – centred in Grey Street’s busy streets, alleys and markets. Post apartheid this area is not as homogeneous as it once was, but survives as the old business and residential centre for the Indian community in Durban, and indisputably as its cultural heart. The Grey Street Writers’ trail, developed by the KwaZulu-Natal Literary Tourism project, retraces old identities and current pathways through this district looking at places through the writers’ eyes. This paper traces these writerly tracks in Grey Street as assembled in the trail and assesses the fictional reconstruction and shifting identities of this area, once a hotbed of political dissent, especially during apartheid. By way of context, a brief discussion of the phenomenon of the literary trail is offered.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2159-9130
print ISSN: 1013-929X