Gandhi's SAfrican home draws flurry of potential buyers | india | Hindustan Times
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Gandhi's SAfrican home draws flurry of potential buyers

Mahatma Gandhi's former home in a quiet Johannesburg suburb where he lived as a young lawyer has attracted a flurry of potential buyers from around the world, the current owner said on Friday.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2009 11:51 IST

Mahatma Gandhi's former home in a quiet Johannesburg suburb where he lived as a young lawyer has attracted a flurry of potential buyers from around the world, the current owner said on Friday.

Nancy Ball put the property on the market after struggling to find a buyer keen to preserve its heritage as the place where India's spiritual and political icon temporarily called home.

Revealing to the public its famous former resident has seen a flurry of interest in the rare historical gem in the Orchards suburb.

"This house has become like Susan Boyle ... There's been a lot of interest from India and further," she said, referring to the Scottish singer who recently gained worldwide fame in a British television talent show.

A civil rights activist who guided India's independence movement, Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 and spent his early years here as a young lawyer, where racism and prejudice shaped his role as a social activist.

Gandhi had his "political baptism" in South Africa, where he lived on-and-off for 21 years, intersected with stays in Britain and India.

The Johannesburg residence up for sale was built by his friend and confidant the architect Hermann Kallenbach, and was his home between 1908 and 1910.

Since then the house has been enlarged and modernised but Nancy, an American artist, and her South African husband made a point of maintaining the spirit of the place since their arrival in 1981.

His former home retains some original features from his stay -- the garden, a well, and the metal bracket, which supported the ladder leading to the small room where he slept under the thatched roof.

One of the only places Gandhi stayed that have not been demolished, the house is called the Kraal, or the cattle pen, because of the blending of European and African architecture.

"He lived under this roof, he walked through this room... We want to pass it to people who will really preserve Ghandi's heritage," said Ball.

When he lived in the house, Gandhi walked 10 kilometres (six miles) to his office, to avoid using segregated transport, and slept on a mattress on the open stoop or the attic loft.

Eric Itzkin, a city heritage official and author of "Gandhi's Johannesburg", said the activist had also resided in Pretoria and Durban during his years in South Africa.

"The importance (of Johannesburg) is very high. He launched his struggle here, the Satayagraha movement. He developed his co-ideas which he took back to India and implemented in the Indian independence struggle."

His Satyagraha (devotion to the truth) approach involved the resistance of tyranny through mass civil disobedience, as opposed to aggressive revolution.

"He had an important influence on the later black liberation struggle and the formation of the ANC (African National Congress) and some lines of thinking downhill in the anti-apartheid movement."

When the Balls bought the house in 1981 it was run down and needed renovations to the roof and windows, and new wiring.

"But we always tried to preserve the original character of the house. We've done it with a lot of love and respect," said Ball.

"If this house became a sort of a place that could be a monument in a way to his life here and a place where people could come and meditate on his influence. There could be a library, a conference room... I would love to see that happen," she said.