South Africa is losing much of its undocumented history and, as a result, our history is very one-sided. It is important to preserve and recognise local histories from an Afrocentric point of view. Afrocentrism does not violently confront any person or people, but is a resolute attempt to put the records right. It is about placing African people within their own historical framework. It is a demand that the contributions of Africans in all areas of civilization be reflected in world history. (Onyewuenyi, 1993, p.21)
The township of Edendale outside Pietermaritzburg was established in 1851 by the Rev. James Allison of the Methodist Church and 100 African Christian settlers who wanted to create a new Eden in Africa. Instead, their settlement suffered a long history of high handed treatment by white authorities, which led to it becoming the worst slum in the area by 1937. For well over a century, its people were ruled without consent.
Using the medium of oral history, Sinomlando – in partnership with the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Department of Global Development Studies at Queens University in Canada, relevant South African government departments such as Art & Culture, local libraries and the municipality of Umgungundlovu – plans to preserve and document the history of the area from an Afrocentric point of view.
Book and museum
Ultimately, we want to produce a book on the history of Edendale, establish a local museum and duplicate this model of documenting participatory community histories in other areas where history is in danger of being lost.