District Six Museum. Cape Town.

‘No matter where we are, we are here.’ Mrs Abrahams, 1994

Cape Town has much to offer any tourist, international or domestic, and despite being spoilt for choice whatever your area of interest, I recommend finding the time to visit the places and museums that speak of the history of our city, the evolution of the people and the need to remember the past that brought us to where we are today. One of the places that does just this is the District Six Museum on Buitenkant Street, which offers a rather emotional experience.

This important Museum was established in December 1994 and was curated from the personal memories of those that were subject to forced removals from the area. As an introduction District Six was originally founded in 1867, a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants. It was for years a vibrant centre with close links to the city and the port.

Then on February 11, 1966, the Apartheid government declared Cape Town’s District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act of 1950 and from 1968 over 60 000 of its inhabitants were uprooted and relocated to the barren plains of the Cape Flats, and their houses flattened by bulldozers. In this process over a century of history, community life and solidarity among the people was lost.

A visit to the museum offers a place for reflection with personal items on display, revolving exhibitions and discussion about memories collected. It tells the stories of the individuals whose lives were forever altered by a government that didn’t believe in equality, and probably felt threatened by the vibrancy, love of music and sense of togetherness that this fabulously integrated community was renowned for.

A collection of Street Names at The Museum.

Old Apartheid Signs in the District Six Museum

Photos below by Cloete Breytenbach from his book ‘The Spirit of District Six.

I’d recommend that you book a tour with one of the ex residents, it does bring to life the once idyllic life destroyed. In additional there is a coffee shop and a fabulous dedicated book shop to support too.

The Essential Details.

  • Location: 25A Buitenkant Street Cape Town, 8001,
  • Contact Details: Tel +27 21 466 7200 and email: info@districtsix.co.za
  • Opening Times09h00 – 16h00 Monday to Saturday
  • Website: http://www.districtsix.co.za/
  • Ticket Prices: R30 pp for adults self-guide. R45 pp with an ex-resident guide. School learners at R5 pp. Free Entrance for ex-residents of District Six and other areas of forced removals as well as SA pensioners

*Part of my Cape Town Attractions series.

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Dawn Bradnick Jorgensen
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