Why we love Durban: Victoria Street Market – 5

This post follows Why we love Durban: Moses Mabhida – 4.

Where to stay advises of the following:

Durban’s Victoria Street Market is a vast oriental bizarre with hundreds of stalls offering a huge selection of spices, fabrics, baskets, beads, sculptures, soap-stones and other African curios.

It is a favourite tourist destination as it offers not only great prices, but a unique chance to experience the atmosphere of an oriental marketplace where haggling is considered the norm.

The market is located at the corner of Queen St. and Victoria St. and has plenty of underground parking“.

There is a general section for all and fish / poultry / offal section (not for the meek). Traders on the roadside sell vegetables.

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Ulwazi, as always, provides a wealth of information:

The Victoria street market in Durban is a rich historical site that reflects the struggles of a poor community striving for their own identity and a burning need to make ends to meet to survive in new pasture market currently stands strong in the central business district of Durban, and is an epic in the Indian community as it serves as a reminder of a disadvantaged community that was determined to survive against all odds.

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The market was a seed sown by the Indian indentured labourers that had completed their indenture ship and had a choice of either going back to India, or to seek employment, or create their own means employment.

The market was seen as transition from farming to industrial employment. Having experience from an agricultural sector their best option to survive was growing fruit and vegetables and selling them on the streets of Durban.

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Initially they used the Grey Street Mosque to trade but as the number of traders grew from both Hindu and Muslim backgrounds they moved to the streets. The atmosphere was a buzzing environment of a rush, with horse drawn carts and people sitting on the streets of Durban, attracting potential customers. They had to pay a daily rental fee to Durban town council and because it was unaffordable to travel back and forth from home they were forced to sleep on the pavements or seek shelters at a nearby temples.

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A typical market day started at 4am and ended at 6pm. Farmers reached the market as early as 2 am to secure a trading place. There was no access to toilets and there was no protection from extreme weather conditions.

In 1910, the Indian market was formally built by the municipal in Victoria Street it was also known as the Top Market or Squatter Market. The traders also sold groceries, fish, spices and crafts as part of their trade.

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The traders also experienced conflicts amongst themselves as the squatters on the street was seen as a hindrance to the stall holders inside the building complaining the squatters was causing pollution and was a threat to their sales.

In 1934, the Durban Town Council prohibited the sale of cooked food to accommodate restaurants in the market building.

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The squatter traders were members of the Indian Agricultural Association, Natal Farm Association and from the towns of Springfield, Newlands and Clairwood it was a business hub, but the traders were seen as a threat as they were selling cheaper commodities that meant other business were running losses.

The squatters also caused traffic congestion, and they were also destroying the cemetery that were near them. The Durban Town Council built a wall which the squatter traders had to pay the costs of.

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In 1970, the Durban City Council were set to build a freeway across the market which was opposed by the traders who protested, however in 1973 a fire destroyed the market and although the reason behind the fire was a drunk street man, the traders viewed it as a sabotage.

The market was reconstructed and its still thriving strong as ever with a blend of Indian spices and African craft.”

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