Satyagraha House in Johannesburg (Gandhi’s House)


I’ve been on a mission lately and I’m not stopping until I get a reaction. I want everyone in Joburg to recognize and visit our national heritage sites and museums because there’s a lot more to see than just the Apartheid Museum or Constitution Hill. Joburg, despite its relative youth, has played host to some of the world’s most influential personalities and built up quite a cultural heritage in its 150 some odd years.

Located in the unassuming Orchards neighbourhood not far from the city, Satyagraha House belonged to none other than Mahatma Gandhi. This is where he lived while here in Joburg and although you may never have known he lived here, Joburg was a place that significantly moulded the Gandhi we’ve all came to know as a Joburger. I take a certain pride in knowing that.

I visited a few weeks ago and had no idea what to expect but boy was I impressed. The manager of the estate explained how the house was basically left for ruins and sold off relatively cheaply when it was acquired by the now owner, a French businessman who grew up loving and respecting Gandhi. He explained that the acquisition of the house was purely intended to maintain the house as an important historical artefact, one that the public should have access to, rather than being left for destruction or used as a money spinner.

Approaching the building you can’t help but notice that a lot of effort has gone into the quality of the space, and that carries through the whole property. Large and awfully robust solid concrete plaques containing some of Gandhi’s more significant quotes are hung or functionally or utilised throughout the house and if those don’t impress you (by sheer weight alone) then the authentic Indian vintage decor definitely will! Utmost care has been taken to make the house as authentic to Gandhi as possible from the original furniture such as his study desk and charka (fabric tool) to original vintage pieces from Gujarat, Gandhi’s native region in India.

The property has been carefully expanded to allow guests to stay over and while this may seem like a commercial move, the manager assured me that the intention is simply to allow guests to enjoy the serenity of the estate. Apparently there is no money in this endeavour, it’s purely a labour of love. The main house is virtually untouched with the exception of basic maintenance and looks like the kind of place a humble young Gandhi would have stayed. The interior is not only immaculately decorated but fitted with snippets of Gandhi’s journey in South Africa with lifelong friend and partner Hermann Kallenbach. Areas of the house have been adapted to allow for memorabilia and you’d be surprised at how it actually holds quite an impressive amount of his personal belongings and an expanse of knowledge too. I left feeling slightly overwhelmed to say the least.

 

One of the things that really stood out for me during my visit was the garden. It’s really a work of art in its own right with herbs and vegetables supplying the kitchen inside and a design that takes both aesthetics and aroma into account. Apparently specific flowers and herbs have been chosen just to scent the garden – is a real first for me. It smells amazing!

You can’t say you’re a Joburger without having visited this place, it’s an absolute gem and I can only imagine what it must be like staying there for a night. They are not a restaurant though so if you are looking to entertain guests or host a business lunch there, then you’re going to have to call ahead. Vegan guests will be in for a special treat.

Address: 15 Pine Road, Orchards, Johannesburg
Contact: 011 485 5928

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