At home with Gandhi

PHOTOS: Manuel Zublena



Most South Africans know that Gandhi lived in our country. But not many know where, exactly. Now locals and guests alike are invited into Ghandi’s Johannesburg home, which has recently been converted into a museum and guesthouse.

The faithfully restored Satagraha House in Orchards was opened at the beginning of the month by Jean François Rial, CEO of French travel company Voyageurs du Monde and Satyagraha House (Pty) Ltd. This was the first move Voyaqeurs du Monde have made in a roll-out plan to invest in "liberation tourism" within the country.

The Orchards house was built in 1907. The property is revered as the place where the future Mahatma ("Great Soul") conceptualised and evolved his philosophy of passive resistance – the pacifist method of protest that he subsequently employed in India when leading the country to independence.

Voyaqeurs du Monde bought the Orchards property two years ago, and with the guidance of local historians have re-created an authentic Edwardian home and developed an on-site museum complete with Gandhi memorabilia and period pieces from India that reflect the development of Mahatma Gandhi’s anti-colonial and anti-racism philosophy and his commitment to non-violence.

His concept of passive resistance became known at Satyagraha (Sanskrit for "truth force") – the name chosen for the new tourism destination for those who have not forgotten Gandhi’s South African experience and wish to learn more.

Heritage architect Rocco Bosman, who aimed to make changes true to Gandhi’s story, did the renovations of the building. Interior designers Amit Zadok and Christine Pulch took care of the decor. They kept the space light and white, because although Gandhi’s birthplace, India, is known for its bright colours, Gandhi himself is associated worldwide with the colour white.

The guesthouse component of Satyagraha House comprises nine rooms and a restaurant offering strictly vegetarian fare in accordance with Gandhi’s own dietary preference.

Jean François Rial noted: “Satyagraha House marks an important passage in a liberation struggle that was later taken up in South Africa by leaders such as Nelson Mandela.

“We believe the site will attract both South African and international visitors and will resonate particularly with those with an abiding interest in the struggle to combat racism and ultimately apartheid.

“The house tells its own compelling story, but can also be integrated into a wider visitor experience by combining a visit here with visits to Soweto, Constitution Hill and Johannesburg’s Old Fort Prison, a jail where Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were both held.”

Exhibits, curated by museum designer Lauren Segal, celebrate Gandhi while reflecting the minimalism and simplicity that characterised his life. A trip to Satyagraha will certainly help visitors understand the life and practice of this worldwide icon of peace.



The Great Soul of a House from Voyageurs du Monde on Vimeo.

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