Memory, nostalgia and reality: a socio-historical perspective of the Grey Street complex.
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Urban restructuring has become a challenge experienced in every region, modifying both the fabric and forms of cities, and is driven by political and economic forces. Major consequences include socio-spatial, cultural, and economic variations in the urban landscape. Consequently, lived experiences in historic urban environments are lost, and can only be traced in the memories of its former residents. Although the identity of a city (with its urban morphology) is merely history once it is altered, the place-relationship remains perpetual and preserved in the emotional memories of citizens. The South African experience has been no different, especially with regard to forced displacement and relocation of established communities. The aim of this dissertation is to assess the rise and decline of the Grey Street Complex during the apartheid era. More specifically, the study presents an historical background to the Grey Street complex; assesses the impact of the Group Areas zoning on this precinct; and analyzes role of culture, memory and nostalgia in influencing the historical connection of former and current residents to this quarter. This research has employed a case study approach and a variety of qualitative methods, including interviews and documentary analysis. This precinct (currently renamed after Dr. Yususf Dadoo, an anti-apartheid activist) formed the node where many indentured and passenger Indians, in Natal, established cultural bodies, educational institutions and commercial enterprises since the late nineteenth century. Often called “home away from home” for former Grey Street residents, this complex encapsulated a rich cultural ambience (religious, educational and recreational). Sadly, the uncertainty relating to Group Areas zoning, led to the decline of the Grey Street complex, which was perpetuated in the post-apartheid era. It is evident that the community of this precinct still share a spatial connection with the Grey Street Complex as they recall from memory common events, similar experiences at particular locations in the precinct, and a shared yearning and nostalgic sentiment based on their mnemonic attachments.