Durban is dope. Here’s why

 
 
 

Lindani Gumede is always hustling. When he’s not photographing up-and-coming local creatives, he’s producing some of South Africa’s most attention-grabbing music videos and documentaries. A proud Durbanite, he’s focused on showing off the best of the city, from the talent of its people to the local hotspots. His job as a director of photography requires Gumede to constantly seek out new and unusual sites – which is how he discovered the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve. Despite doubting its potential, the place has now become one of Gumede’s primary sources of inspiration.

“I did a photoshoot with some friends of mine who are rappers. They said, ‘Come down, we have a dope place’,” Gumede recalls. “It was a bit random for rappers.” But when he arrived at the reserve, he was blown away. The stillness along the unpopulated trails belies the proximity to the nearby tourist town of Umhlanga. Lush greenery contrasts with urban living just minutes away. Dappled light filters through the trees. It’s a photographer’s dream. “There’s so much detail to pay attention to. Some things you’ll never catch in the city,” Gumede says. “Every time I come here I’m seeing different angles.”

While the site was proclaimed a nature reserve in 1980, it existed as a piece of paradise among the rapidly developing town for decades before that. Here, the waters of the Ohlange River cut through trails filled with diverse flora and a plethora of birdlife. But it’s more than just a place of beauty for Gumede; it also speaks back to his heritage. “As a Zulu man, I take pride in this place. Umhlanga is the Zulu word for ‘place of reeds’,” he explains. “Shaka named this place and treasured it. Therefore it’s a part of my heritage and I hope that we can preserve it for future generations.” Though a city guy at heart, Gumede makes time to return to this place, and to appreciate the perspective it offers. “I can come up with fresh ideas here,” he says. “As a filmmaker, it’s a good place to think, to figure out the purpose of a certain project.” And as the reserve feeds into Gumede’s creativity, he’s using his vision to put Durban back on the map.