August 14

Today we went to the District Six (Apartheid) Museum, which is a museum in the former inner-city residential area District Six. District Six was named the Sixth Municipality District of Cape Town in 1867.  Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers and immigrants, District Six was a vibrant center with close links to the city and the port.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, the process of forced removals and marginalization had begun.  The first to be “resettled” were black South Africans, forcibly displaced from the District in 1901.  As the more prosperous moved away to the suburbs, the area became a neglected ward of Cape Town. In 1966 it was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers. The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of these experiences and with the history of forced removals more generally.  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 located then. A well-known former resident is jazz musician Abdullah Ibrahim, better known under his artist name Dollard Brand. Other pieces in the museum are old traffic signs, presentations of moments of history, lives of families, historical declarations and the demolition. The District Museum was AWESOME!  I was most inspired by the authenticity of its personal touch.  As I person that loves photography, I was drawn by the personal pictures attached with the personal stories.  It made me aware that there were not a lot of black people in District Six and it appears that it was mainly coloreds that resided there.  Yet, their story of struggle was no different than the black struggle. Hearing Ebraheim’s (our tour guide) personal story was more instrumental to me than any book that I could ever read about District Six.  What struck me most was how he explained how a family would leave home for work and school and come back to a vacant lot.  Nothing I’ve read has ever described it in that manner.  Hearing Ebraheim’s story, coupled with the personal stories that I read in the museum, really put me there and I must say really angered me.  Even though these were stories of the past, I can strongly understand the feelings of the people that choose not to have any affiliations with the rebuilding of District Six.  You’ll never understand a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  I am well aware of my ancestors walk in the same mile and I am very much aware of their struggle, so I strongly understand and can relate to the struggle of District Six.

You know I had to sit on this bench

I was drawn to the “Resistance” section of the Museum

Our Tour Guide, Ebraheim

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