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NATARAJA AWARDS (article first published : 2005-11-11)

The Indian Academy of South Africa will shortly hold its annual Nataraja Awards ceremony which pays tribute to individuals who have served a universal cause and in so doing bring credit to the Indian community and South Africa as a whole.

The philosophy of the annual Nataraja Awards is put forward by Dr TP Naidoo, Director of the Academy: “Almost 145 years after Indian semi-slaves and labourers landed in Durban, this colourful community of many languages and religious rituals finds itself at the crossroads of the new South Africa. Indians appear to be in the shadows of the sociopolitical changes sweeping South Africa. They stand out among the minorities as one of the most dynamic entities. While South Africa’s almost 1.3 million Indians made up of an interesting cultural mix of Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Gujerati, Muslim and Christian people, have made this southern tip of Africa their home and some of them regard India as their motherland, a contradiction of India’s foreign policy which implores local Indians to be South Africans first and Indians second.

“Why does an Indian of all people stand out in our multi-cultural melting pot? Put in simple terms, the Indian can be best described as the Ama-Benzi clan, a reference to the wealth status of their middle to upper class who mirror their social standing, symbolism or snobbishness via a standing culture that has stood the test for an enterprising lot.

“In social circles, their behavioural patterns range from being sophisticated to humble and dignified, depending on which side of the social scale they come from. As eminent sociologist Professor Fathima Meer explains that majority dispelling the myth or perception that most Indians are wealthy and generally ‘well off.’ Whilst poverty and unemployment is rampant among Indians, it can be said that very few are homeless or destitute, probably enhancing the argument among underprivileged Africans that Indians enjoyed more privileges than other Blacks under apartheid.

“The Indian community’s 145-year old history in this country is a saga of a continuous struggle against injustices, hatred, jealousies and envy directed against them for their progress and achievements. Despite the prejudices, unjust laws and racial envy, the Indian people have made tremendous progress in every walk of life.

An era of unfulfilled promises by white regimes devoid of any sense of honour – the growth of Indian resistance to unjust laws, from the broken promises to the community made to entice Indians to join the war against Hitler – the return of Indian ex-service men from the wars to a country that paid scant respect for their fight against Nazism – the emergence of a powerful and growing academic grouping – the devastation of the Group Areas Act – the Passive Resistance Struggle – the excitement of Indian politicians rallying Blacks towards freedom – the resounding voices of protest of such political giants as Dr Monty Naicker, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, Amina Asvat, Nana Sita, JN Singh, Ismail Meer and countless other – the stirrings of Freedom.

“The Indian determination to fight racism in sport and a million other memories of a community standing up to fight injustice, inequality and a thousand other handicaps. It was in this context that the Indian Academy felt that it should recognize the efforts of its noble sons and daughters for their outstanding achievements. If the ‘Academy’ did not do so, no-one else would. Initially, the Nataraja Awards were for Indians only – today in the new South Africa we are aspiring to present Awards on merit to anyone who serves a universal cause and in so doing bring credit to our community and country.”

The Indian Academy of South Africa was the first Indian organisation in South Africa to recognise the contribution made by people towards the promotion, preservation and propagation of Indian Culture, music, literature and the arts. In 1964, Dr TP Naidoo banded together a core of Indian leaders.

“I pointed out to the South African community at large that recognition being given at the time was directed at whites only,” says Dr Naidoo. “The abhorrent apartheid system had compartmentalised the various races of South Africa into vast human camps. Most races, because of this separation were ignorant of the other communities, cultures, languages and customs.”

Thus was born the Nadaraja Awards. The Nadaraja Award was presented to men and women who made a distinguished contribution to the country and especially the Indian community. However, the Nadaraja Award did not cater for the legions of the younger people rising to great heights in other walks of life. Winners of the 2005 Nadaraja Awards are Ashwin Trikamjee; C N Reddy; Malose Kekani and KC Jinabhai.

The Golden Peacock Achiever Awards were launched in 1990 with Post Natal. Subsequently the Indian Academy decided to present these Awards on its own to younger people in the field of Commerce, Industry, Banking, The Arts and other skills.” We are proud to say that many of our Awards recipients have gone on to greater heights and achieved great distinctions both among the Indian community and the nation,” says Dr Naidoo. The Golden Peacock Achiever Awards for 2005 will be presented to Kandimati Christine Ramon; Shireen Pillay; Robbie Naidoo; Dr Michael Sutcliffe and KV Ricky Naidoo.

A Corporate Award will be presented to Phoenix Galvanising.

The Awards Presentation Banquet will take place on November 12 at 18h30 at the Durban City Hall. The celebration marks the Golden Achievements of individuals who have striven towards success and set an example for those following in their footsteps. They are the inspiration for now and the future. More information from the Indian Academy on 031 400 2725.




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