District Six – the name may conjure up negative connotations of a long-gone era of segregation far from the luxury Cape Town environment that we see on holiday or business trips, but a trip to the District Six Museum will open your eyes to another side of this historic place.
Originally established as a community of about 60 000 labourers, immigrants and freed slaves, the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town was formally recognised in 1867. Considered a slum, the area became a vibrant hub with a culture and character of its own, and it is these aspects that the museum brings into sharp focus among all the sad memories that also linger here.
Football was a great passion of the folk in district six, along with music of all kinds – in the form of goema, jazz, langarm, street bands, opera and minstrel choirs. These aspects, as well as the daily tribulations and survival skills of this vibrant community are showcased in exhibits at the main venue at the Methodist Church, 25A Buitenkant Street and the newly acquired D6M Homecoming Centre at the old Sacks Futeran warehouse, 15 Buitenkant Street.
Apart from the static displays and tours offered within the buildings, the museum also offers a range of District Six Encounters. By means of these site walks, home visits and planned interactions, visitors get to experience first-hand some of the vibrant cultural life and charm of the folk who once called this place home.
There are currently six of these experiences available:
- ‘No matter where we are we are here’ consists of two walks through the ruined buildings of the old city on Saturdays at 14h00, during spring and summer.
- Sunset walks through the vacant land of the district, on the last Thursday of each month or by appointment.
- Stories of hope – interactive storytelling, snacks and tea with residents.
- A musical walk through District Six accompanied by musicians with first-hand experience of the musical traditions of the time.
- Noor’s story: my pigeons come home – a talk supported by slides from the speaker’s personal album of experiences in District Six.
- Joe’s story: the colour of my skin – a talk and video extract.
Experience a different kind of Cape Town luxury – that of history poignantly and accurately preserved, at the District Six Museum.
Image credit: Flickr – Brian Holsclaw