Durban, the third largest city in South Africa, embodies the stark contrasts of the nation's socio-economic landscape. While known for its scenic beaches and diverse cultures, Durban also grapples with pronounced inequalities. As the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal, a province with one of the country's highest poverty rates, Durban is characterized by a divide between affluent suburbs and underdeveloped townships. Disparities in access to basic amenities like housing, healthcare, and education persist, alongside issues of high unemployment rates and crime.
Recently, infrastructure failures caused by years of neglect and increasingly erratic weather patterns from climate change have pushed Durban to the brink. Devastating floods and riots have caused many to question whether the city, and the country, can withstand the enormous investment it will take to fix the country's problems without graft and corruption swallowing everything. Politically and structurally, the city is poised for a challenging next few years.
Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course is located along the lush green slopes of the Umgeni River in Durban. The golf course is named after an apartheid-era golfer of Indian descent, named Sewsunker “Papwa” Sewgolum. Papwa was an excellent self-taught golfer, with no formal schooling. He is famous for his reversed, cross-handed grip (called the “Sewsunker” grip even today), but he is possibly most famous for beating Gary Player and winning the 1965 Natal Open.
The Natal Open was held at the Durban Country Club, which at the time did not allow non-whites into the clubhouse. Sewgolum won the tournament, the only non-white in a field of 113 players. At the time of the prize-giving, he had to receive his trophy outside, in the pouring rain, while the white players sat comfortably inside. The pictures of him in the rain were broadcast around the world, resulting in an international outcry and a number of countries imposing sanctions on South African sporting events.
Just as his career looked as if it would take off, the South African government banned him from all local tournaments, and also withdrew his passport, preventing him from competing abroad. He died impoverished in 1978, at age 50, from a heart attack. I find it ironic and sad that in some ways, this location has come to define the project for me, a tragic portrayal of inequality.