District Six Museum
One of the most heartbreaking and shameful events in the city’s living memory is the whole-scale destruction of the once-vibrant creative hub known as District Six, now home to one of the most interesting museums in Cape Town. Declared a “Whites Only” neighbourhood in 1966, bulldozers moved in and displaced around 60,000 people – almost one-tenth of the city’s population: mostly coloured people (Cape Muslims), but also other non-whites considered undesirable by the racist regime, were instantly ghettoized and relocated to the distant, near-uninhabitable plains at the far outer reaches of the city, known appropriately as the Cape Flats (where, today, communal strife, gangsterism, and poverty persist). In deference to this shameful act, no one was prepared to build on the land (other than the government-funded Cape Technikon) and it remains to this day a vast, virtually untouched barren wasteland. This museum, near the outskirts of District Six, not only memorializes the eradication of this community, but also celebrates the people who once lived
there. Always a multicultural and inter-denominational area, District Six was home to Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French settlers, and the population included descendants from slaves who were brought here from the Caribbean, Mozambique, Malaysia, Madagascar, and Indonesia, and also many Jews from Lithuania and Latvia, and Xhosas from the Eastern Cape. The museum deals critically and intensively with District Six as a microcosm of the programme of social engineering that was going on throughout the country – this was just one of 42 areas where people were ‘relocated’. It’s an interactive museum, using photographs, documents and oral history, in which people come and tell their stories, providing a very personal insight and first-hand understanding of how Apartheid afflicted ordinary people.