District Six Museum
Cape Town ~ South Africa
Using the specific context of its past and working with the local people, District Six Museum in Cape Town, has created an unusually effective, interactive, experience of memory. The Museum, through personal encounters, draws visitors into the history of the formation, growth and then enforced displacement of the community. In the context of apartheid, District Six was an impoverished neighbourhood but it was home to a unique community of marginalised people from many diverse cultural groups, including a large number of Malay descendants and people of mixed-race parentage, living harmoniously together. Their position in the heart of the city, on the lower slopes of Table Mountain was a desirable location and the apartheid government through forced removal, uprooted the community. Public outrage prevented the government from demolishing the hundred-year old buildings and, since 1994, the original people have been moving back. Through research and active engagement of the community, the District Six Museum has gathered artefacts, letters, photos, documents and especially personal stories in a vivid recreation of the community’s history. Many well-known artists, poets and musicians, such as Dollar Brand, lived in District Six. Visitors have personal encounters with old inhabitants who act as guides. The Museum’s programmes do not only deal with the past but engage local people in active regeneration and development, in environmental and housing planning, in music, literature and art events and in public action. The Museum nurtures respect for dignity, identity, continuity and co-existence of races.