District Six Museum

District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa

Number two on my must visit list of Cape Town is the District 6 Museum. It might not be the most cheerful place to visit, as it celebrates a lively multiracial area that was destroyed during apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s, but it is an integral part of what has formed Cape Town. I visited this museum with my parents while we were exploring Cape Town on one of the famous red bus tours. Don’t make this your last stop of the day as it can be a bit depressing and you will need a cheer-up after you have seen and read all about what once was District 6 and what happened to it.

It is very sad to think that these signs depicting the exclusive use of things for people of a certain colour were quite common place all over South-Africa during apartheid.

District Six Museum

Benches like these were the norm during apartheid

District Six was was established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants. With this mixture of cultures it had no choice but to turn into a very colourful and lively area.

District Six Museum

Inside the museum hangs a lot of old street signs from District 6 before oit was demolished

District Six Museum

The stairs are covered in old street signs from District 6 before it was demolished

Unfortunately during apartheid, the vibrant community of District Six was forcibly relocated from the city as the area was declared a “whites only area” by the government. More than 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats. Once removed, all the houses and businesses were demolished, with only religious buildings saved from the destruction. Now, the District Six Museum serves as a way to rebuild the memories and cultural heritage of this historic area.

The District Six Museum, housed inside a former Methodist mission church, was established in December 1994. The displays inside include a floor map of District Six, on which former residents have labelled where their demolished homes and features of their neighbourhood once stood. Though the buildings were destroyed, the community has remained strong and many of he former residents and their descendants are rebuilding the area from their memories in an attempt to restore what once was. Many of the staff are practically all displaced residents themselves.

There are also reconstructions of home interiors, and faded photographs and recordings made by some of the former residents. Walking around what was formerly District 6 it is quite evident that the neighbourhood is being re-invented and is getting a lot of its vibrancy and colour back. I lived in this area for 2 years and it was such a fabulous experience to be in the heart of all this change.