District Six Museum is in the former inner-city residential area, District Six in Cape Town, South Africa. The Museum was established in December 1994 to remember the forced removals of the people who lived here during the years of apartheid.
Visiting this museum I learnt the following things…
- This area was named District Six when it became the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town in 1867. It was originally a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants. All of these different cultures together made District Six a very vibrant place to live.
- The South African apartheid government swooped down on District Six in 1966, forcibly removing its occupants and declaring the area a “whites-only” zone. The museum has photos depicting this removal of people and it is quite a shocking scene. As the more prosperous moved away to the suburbs, the area became a neglected ward of the city. The rich fabric of an impoverished, but vibrant community was torn to shreds.
- By 1982, after being declared a whites only area, the life of the community was over. More than 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats and all buildings except religious ones were flattened by bulldozers. I can just imagine how emotional it must have been to be made to move and then having to watch your home flattened by bulldozers.
- 4. The museum was created as a space for reflection and contemplation. I think it is mainly an institution for challenging the distortions and half-truths which propped up the history of Cape Town and South Africa in the apartheid years.
- 5. The District Six Museum was established as a memorial, in an effort to preserve the memories of District Six, including the forcible relocation of thousands of other people around the country during Apartheid in South Africa.
- The floor of the museum is covered with a big map of the district with hand written notes of former inhabitants, which indicate where their houses were once located. I am currently living on what was once Sir Lowry road. I am quite intrigued by the fact that I currently live in what was formerly District 6. It is right in the heart of the city and walking distance from all the main points of interest.
- The 170-year-old museum building in Buitenkant Street was formerly the Methodist Mission Church. It now contains old traffic signs, presentations of moments of history, lives of families and historical declarations by its former inhabitants. The District Six Museum also houses an impressive collection of historical photographs, paintings, books and studies as well as audio-visual recordings of District Six, most which were donated by its former residents.
- Furthermore, the museum offers programs for the current inhabitants to develop the district. The museum is dedicated to the construction of houses, environmental planning, and the organization of activities in the field ofmusic,literature, and art, wherein the public has an active involvement.
- The museum has been designed in such a way that a visitor can wander in off the street and take a self-guided tour, but more importantly a visitor can also make use of the privilege of taking a tour with an ex-resident of District Six. These guides provide historical information and commentary and they will gladly answer all your questions. It is an amazing experience to hear the personal recollections of an ex-resident.
- The site has been nominated as a National Heritage Site and is therefore a conservation area of Cape Town and should be treated with sensitivity and respect.