25/08/2017 14:52 SAST | Updated 25/08/2017 15:13 SAST

Zulu Tomb Up For Major International Architecture Award

The R75m Umkhumbane Museum memorialises Goodwill Zwelethini's mother.

The uMkhumbane Museum complex is up for an international architecture award.
Duenna Mambana
The uMkhumbane Museum complex is up for an international architecture award.

A museum inspired by the life of the Queen Thomozile Jezangani Ka Ndwandwe Zulu, mother of current Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, is now a leading frontrunner in the prestigious African Architecture Awards. After much cultural debate, the R75m Umkhumbane Museum is now built around the newly-established tomb of the late queen.

The five-storey structure, the first phase of which opened in May this year, features a cultural park and public square; galleries for a permanent collection on forced removals; dedicated space for community exhibitions; gathering areas for oral, performance, installation exhibits and social gathering areas.

The building is the only South African finalist in the Built category of the award, which received over 500 entries from 32 countries. As one of the world's largest forced removal sites, according to the organizers, the Umkhumbane site (formerly known as Cato Manor) is remembered for being the most vibrant and diverse community in Durban during a time characterised by separation.

"Community uprisings, subjugation and eventual emancipation form a major part of the sites history." Architects Choromansky say of the buildin. "The heritage of the people who resisted oppression permeates through the present as a triumphal spirit of freedom. This spirit is an inspiration for the development of a complex which celebrates life, growth and the transition of a community of people."

The site, which Ethekwini municipality says is the first of its kind since 1994, is at the confluence of two major arterials crossed by the uMkhumbane River and included in the Durban Metropolitan Open Space System. Towering metal panels, curving earth mounds, slit windows and dappled light mark the architectural feeling of the new space.

The awards announced a shortlist of 20 projects, which now stand in line for a trophy in either the Built, Speculative, Emerging Voices or Critical Dialogue category; or, the overall Grand Prix award of USD$10 000. There were 139 entries in the Built category, 91 entries in the Speculative category, 44 entries in the Emerging Voices category and 34 entries in the Critical Dialogue category.

The shortlist was chosen by a Master Jury comprising a Pan-African panel of architects and industry experts, including: Anna Abengowe (Nigeria), Guillaume Koffi (Côte d'Ivoire), Professor Edgar Pieterse (South Africa), Patti Anahory (Cape Verde), Professor Mark Olweny (Uganda), Tanzeem Razak (South Africa), and Phill Mashabane (South Africa).