Today we had the pleasure of visiting District Six Museum– a museum situated in a former church that’s dedicated to keeping alive the memories of those who were forcibly removed in the 60′s when the once-thriving District Six area was declared “white” under apartheid laws. We talked with Mandy, Tina, and Joe, who discussed the goals and operation of the museum and how it fits into the process of remembering and healing from apartheid. Looking around the museum, we saw pictures of the vibrant community with its ex-residents doing everyday things like going to the barbershop or celebrating birthdays. It was like looking through the pages of someone’s family photo collection.
You would think that a museum centered around the destruction of a community of 60,000+ people would offer a somber experience, but I left District Six feeling more hopeful than anything.
The people of District Six were ultimately removed from their homes, but they resisted oppression in their own way by keeping their sense of community strong; the museum is a living testament to this, as it still serves as a place for ex-residents to gather, remember their homes, create works of art, etc. It shows apartheid in a more humanizing way than we see in some other museums. By telling individual narratives of those that suffered under apartheid, the museum shows that the experiences were not black and white; it affected everyone in a different way and the only way to discover this is to dig deeper– a lesson that can be applied in situations in all of our lives to this day.
Image from http://www.hg2capetown.com