KwaZulu-Natal literary route
KwaZulu-Natal’s rich literary heritage includes writers from Sir Henry Rider Haggard, Wilbur Smith, and Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country, to contemporary authors including Lewis Nkosi, Mandla Langa, and John van de Ruit author of the comic Spud books . To help promote the province’s contemporary writers and its literary heritage, KwaZulu-Natal Literary Tourism has set up a website with the aim of providing a resource for visitors interested in literary tourism and the places and events associated with fictional texts and the lives of their authors.
This includes places associated with fictional characters as well as the haunts of their creators.
They are four area-based trails (Midlands Writers; INK Writers; Cato Manor Writers; Grey Street Writers) as well as two stand-alone writer trails (Rider Haggard and Paton's Pietermaritzburg).
The Midlands Writers Trail
The Midlands is an inland area of KwaZulu-Natal that lies between Pietermaritzburg and the Drakensberg mountain range. Several small towns including Howick, Hilton, Balgowan, Nottingham Road and Mooiriver have strong literary connections.
The trail includes Imraan Coovadia (b. 1970), Wilbur Smith (b. 1933), John van de Ruit (b. 1975), Jenny Hobbs (b. 1937), Jonny Steinberg (b. 1970), John Conyngham (b. 1954), Kobus Moolman (b. 1964) and Fred Khumalo (b. 1966) and, of course, Alan Paton (see below).
INK Writer’s Trail
Inanda, which means ‘Pleasant Place’ in isiZulu, is located about 25km inland from Durban and along with Ntuzuma and KwaMashu (INK) collectively forms part of an ambitious urban regeneration programme initiated by the South African government.
In the early 1900s several wealthy African families bought farmland in Inanda along with many Indian agriculturalists. Many of these families were descendants of the indentured labourers who had worked on the sugar estates from the 1860s. But by the 1980s, apartheid policies had turned Inanda into a shanty town and Inanda was caught up in a spiral of violence. Since 1994, the situation has significantly improved and Creative INK is a project that aims to use literature as a regeneration tool.
The trail includes Mandla Langa (b.1950), the Gandhi family, Mewa Ramgobin (b. 1932) John Langalibalele Dube (1871-1946), Herbert I. E. Dhlomo (1903-1956), Ellen Kuzwayo (1914–2006) and Rubendra Govender (b. 1966).
Cato Manor Writers Trail
Cato Manor, just 10 kms from the centre of Durban, is an area rich in cultural and political heritage. Its first residents were Indian market gardeners who later leased plots to African families prohibited from owning land themselves. The vibrant, Afro-Indian culture that came into being from this shared space became a trademark of the area. Its Zulu residents knew the warren of shacks, shebeens and shops that grew into Cato Manor as Umkumbaan – named after the stream on whose banks the shantytown sat. Cato Manor survived and thrived for many years as a rough-hewn community in direct contradiction to the Apartheid government’s policy of racial segregation.
The trail features Ronnie Govender (b.1934), Lewis Nkosi (1936-2010), Kessie Govender (1942 - 2002), Mi S'dumo Hlatshwayo (b.1951), and Kenneth Bhengu.
Grey Street Writers Trail
Grey Street is tied to the history of the Indian population in South Africa first brought over by the British in the 1860s to work the newly established sugarcane plantations in Natal. Today, Durban has the largest Asian population in sub-Saharan Africa and trade with India has become a large part of the local economy. Grey Street exists today as the old Indian business and residential area of Durban and the cultural heart of the KwaZulu-Natal Indian community.
The trail features Phyllis Naidoo (b. 1928), Dr Goonam (1906–1999), Fatima Meer (b. 1928), Aziz Hassim (b. 1935), Mariam Akabor (b. 1984) and Imraan Coovadia (b. 1970) and Ravi Govender.
Rider Haggard Literary Trail
Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was an adventure novelist born in England who spent a large proportion of his life in Africa, most notably in the British colony of Natal, now KwaZulu-Natal. His most famous novels are King Solomon's Mines and its sequel Allan Quatermain, She and its sequel Ayesha. She is generally considered to be one of the classics of imaginative literature and with 83 million copies sold by 1965, it is one of the best-selling books of all time. He is also remembered for Nada the Lily (a tale of adventure set among the Zulus).
His novels are set in the British colonial era but notably portray the indigenous people of the time in a sympathetic light. Africans often play heroic roles in the novels, one of the most notable being the Zulu warrior Umslopagas and Ignosi, the rightful king of Kukuanaland, in King Solomon's Mines.
Locations along the trail associated with Rider Haggard include Estcourt, Newcastle, Pietermaritzburg and the Anglo-Zulu War battlefields.
Alan Paton (1903-1988) is most famous as the author of the world-renowned novel, Cry, The Beloved Country. He also wrote two other novels, poetry, short stories, biographies, autobiographies and political articles. He was torn between being an author and a politician. He was a founder member of the Liberal Party of South Africa (LPSA) in 1953, its National Chairman from 1956 to 1958, and its National President from 1958 to 1968. He is also famous as a humanitarian, educationalist, a reformer of the juvenile justice system (from his time as Principal of the Diepkloof Reformatory, 1953-1948) and as a fierce opponent of apartheid. He was born and educated in Pietermaritzburg, and he retained ties with it throughout his life, calling it "the lovely city" in his autobiography.
Locations in Pietermaritzburg along the trail are 19 Pine Street, Paton’s childhood home; the Christadelphian Ecclesia, Boom Street, where his mother worshipped; Russell High School; 16 Echo Road (formerly 551 Bulwer Street) where he lived from 1914-1924; the Tatham Art Gallery (formerly the Supreme Court and Post Office) where his father worked; 10 Myhill Rd (formerly 10 Gough/Howick Rd) where he lived from 1930-35; Maritzburg College where he was at school and later taught; and the Alan Paton Centre, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
Find out more about special interest routes in KwaZulu-Natal