This house, in the residential neighbourhood of Orchards in Johannesburg, was the home of Mohandas Gandhi from 1908 to 1909. Within these walls, the future Mahatma created and developed his philosophy of passive resistance: Satyagraha in sanskrit. A pacifist method of protest that he employed in India to lead the country to independence. The house was built in 1907 by Gandhi’s close friend, the German architect Hermann Kallenbach, and today it begins a new life. Renovations overseen by a team comprising a historian, a curator, an architect, two interior designers, and their respective teams, have restored the original spirit of the house, bringing back an important page in the history of both South Africa and Mohandas Gandhi. The Satyagraha House is now a registered part of the country’s historical heritage and presents an innovative accommodation concept linking guesthouse to museum. In all, seven rooms are spread out between the original house, called the Kraal in reference to its architecture resembling a traditional African farm, the cottage added a few years later, and the modern wing built in 2010. A museum retracing Gandhi’s experiences in South Africa and particularly those that he shared here with his friend Kallenbach is installed in the very heart of the house. In this way, a peaceful and meditative atmosphere channelling Gandhi’s life within these walls inhabits the property.
The house, which has known some transformations under its different owners, has been put back to its original state. The dining room, convivial and opening onto the back of the garden, is under a reading room of strong symbolic importance: the mezzanine on which Gandhi had chosen to live.
In the front of the house, on either side of the door, two rondavels (circular rooms typical of african architecture) are dedicated to the exhibit that continues in the living room, comfortably laid out around a large chimney.
A spiritual library, with a collection of works of various philosophical currents is available. The garden invites guests to pursue their meditation. It gathers centennial trees (Prides of India), rough stones, earthen pots and an organic vegetable garden.
“To spend a night in a museum”. This is the concept of the Satyagraha House. Particular attention has been paid to the decor in order to faithfully restore the atmosphere of sobriety in which lived Gandhi and Kallenbach. A harmonious compromise between asceticism and comfort is reached using furniture, objects, fabric and bedding found in India, in Gandhi’s native state of Gudjarat.
The main house counts three rooms, two of which have direct access to the museum.
The Kallenbach Cottage: this annex to the main house was built a few years later and includes two separate rooms.
The New Wing: built in 2010, this section is composed of two large brick and glass cubes offering three rooms. It was conceived by the architect Rocco Bosman in a manner that complements yet distinguishes it, with its lines and sober style, from the original house, the goal being to create a harmony between the two.