Cape Town, South Africa
District Six got its name from being designated the sixth municipal district of Cape Town in 1867. Made up of a diverse population that criss-crossed barriers of race, class and ethnicity, its residents included the descendants of the freed enslaved people of the Cape, artisans, merchants and immigrants. By the early 1900s it was a vibrant cosmopolitan hub of more than 50 000 people which had a close connection to the city’s port.
In 1950, the South African Nationalist Party government introduced the Group Areas Act. It was intended to consign groups of people, on the basis of the State’s definition of their ethnicity, to specific geographic areas, irrespective of their history or relationship to the land on which they resided. By 1982 60,000 people had been forcibly removed from the area and their houses bulldozed to rubble. Entire families and neighbourhood groups were ripped apart and “resettled” to some of the most barren and desolate parts of the Western Cape.
However, the District Six story is far from over. The site is a symbol for the triumph of memory, healing and dignity. On Sunday 26 November 2000 a landmark ceremony took place in District Six which marked the final stages of the restitution process for residents of District Six with the return of forty hectares of land to some 2 000 families who had won a land claim court victory. The first twenty four families have moved back amidst much celebration, and the groundwork is being laid for the next phase to be implemented.
The District Six Museum is dedicated to ensuring that the history and memory of forced removals are never forgotten and that the process of remembering serves as both testament and challenge to social repression.
Over 300 images from the District Six Museum are available for licensing through Africa Media Online.
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Enquiries: Kate Dearlove
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