Rita Lazarus – Ms Durban, 1960. Photographer Ranjith Kally. © Bailey’s African History Archive
Riason Naidoo and Dominic Willsdon
Thursday, April 25, 2013
ICI Curatorial Hub
401 Broadway, Suite 1620
New York, NY 10013
For his program at the Hub, Riason Naidoo (Director of South African National Gallery & Old Town House Museums, Cape Town, South Africa) will present his documentary film, Legends of the Casbah - ‘Indian’ rebels of the 1950s (2013), directed by Naidoo and Damon Heatlie. Following the screening will be a conversation between Naidoo and Dominic Willsdon, Leanne & George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs at SFMOMA. Willsdon is co-curator of Public Intimacy: Art and Social Life in South Africa (Feb-June 2014), and his recent essay Tricontinental Drifts, co-authored with Tarek Elhaik, reflects on cosmopolitanism and decolonization in the 1950s and ‘60s.
A feature-length documentary on some extraordinary South African ‘Indians’ from the 1950s, Legends of the Casbah is fresh from the cutting room in Johannesburg. It tells the intertwined stories of a number of surprising characters from Durban, ‘rebels’ who escaped the constraints imposed by the apartheid system to forge their own identities. In uncovering an ensemble cast of gangsters, sports stars, musicians, stunt riders and activists (amongst others), the film weaves an alternative history of Durban’s ‘Indian’ community in some of the iconic and symbolic spaces of the time like the Victoria Street Market, Victory Lounge eatery, Blue Lagoon beach, Sastri College, the Grey Street precinct, Curries Fountain stadium and the Durban Country Club. The film makes extensive use of photos from various state archives, DRUM magazine (BAHA), the likes of veteran Durban photographer Ranjith Kally and has also unearthed some fascinating gems from family footage and private photo albums. Musically it features a mesmerizing soundtrack by young jazz supremos Kesivan Naidoo, Kyle Shepherd, and Bokani Dyer, to name a few.
The film has grown out of two curatorial projects by Naidoo; the first is an exhibition (2006) and book (2008) entitled The Indian in DRUM magazine in the 1950s, curated from the Bailey’s African History Archives that has toured South African art museums and the second is numerous curated exhibitions on the work of veteran photographer Ranjith Kally from his own archives: 60 years in black & white – Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg (2004); Ranjith Kally – Photographer, Durban Art Gallery (2004); Lens on a Hidden History – 6th African Photo Biennale, Bamako (2005)/ Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) (2006); DRUM – Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2006); and finally Exposition Memoires: Ranjith Kally – Espace JEUMON, Ville de Saint Denis, La Reunion (2007).