Durban is the second most populated city in South Africa after Cape Town, although Johannesburg takes the top spot as a municipality. The KwaZulu-Natal city also once had the largest South Asian population in the world outside of the Indian subcontinent and, along with isiZulu and English, – Urdu, Hindi, French, Kiswahili, Afrikaans, Portuguese, Mandarin, Dutch and German are spoken on its streets.
The flavour of Durban is changing, too. The city has become a home for many from central and west Africa as the conflict in the Great Lakes region and economic possibilities in South Africa make it a viable option for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The east coast is a cost-effective holiday choice for those who prefer the warmth of the Indian Ocean over the icy Atlantic. The city is subtropical, so it’s warm all year round and mostly laid-back but still flavourful.
In the central business area of the city bowl, you could be anywhere in Africa or Pakistan or India. On the beachfront, you could be in Rio de Janeiro or Miami. The promenade, which has been called the most democratic public space in the country, is a legacy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Some liken the promenade to a city heartline, writes Greg Ardé – “the line that runs across the palm and some believe indicates a person’s emotions”. Durban academic Imraan Buccus told Ardé that the promenade flattens class lines.
Public space encompasses the streets, the squares, the parks, the open market and the beaches. Public spaces are democractic nodes in a brutally unequal society.
These pictures are the result of connecting with some of Durban’s urban spaces as a commuter cyclist. They are areas a cyclist can traverse undetected, able to stop and look around and look again. Some are end points and some are waypoints. Others are surprises, the significance of which was only realised after some thought. But they all are spaces that the people of Durban have claimed for their own.
These pictures were all taken with an iPhone 6 cellphone camera. They first appeared on independent online media publication the Safrea Chronicle, which is created and curated by members of the Southern African Freelancers’ Association.