This is our second full day in Cape town and luckily we had warm(ish) weather again. We started our day at 8:45 and set off to go to the Lwandle Migrant Museum. When we arrived we met up with the museum manager, Masa, and she gave us a tour of the facility.
Visiting this museum was an emotional experience because it was built almost completely around personal accounts about what life was like to be a migrant worker during the rule of the apartheid. All men who needed employment had to go live at the Western Cape in hostels to wait for a job opportunity. These men were confined in hostels with strict rules. There was two people to a bunk and 16 people to a room. There was no running water, the beds were concrete, and women and children were not allowed to stay there.
Eventually the women traveled to the Western Cape with their children to join their husbands because there was no time to start or raise a family with the parameters provided by the government. Suddenly the housing provided for 500 men was now housing 3,000 people. Whole families had no other option but to share a bed, completely eliminating the opportunity for privacy. This prompted unannounced police raids to arrest the people living there without permits and women were forced to hide in the cabinets in the rooms to evade arrest.
After the apartheid rule ended people were still living in these hostels because they had no where else to go and they had created lives there. in 2014 the government issued forced evacuations off of the municipal land. They bulldozed the neighborhoods three times but the residents would rebuild their houses the same day because they were just made from various scrap metals and cardboard. The government decided to burn the houses down after this but after a month of people being displaced they decided to build family housing in this area where people still live to this day.
We toured a hostel that has been kept in its original form to see what the living conditions were like for people during this time. It was sad to see what these people went through being forced to live in barely human conditions. Following this Masa gave us a tour of the whole community to give us an idea of how people live now.
Afterwards, we met with an artist named David and he told us his story of when he was a migrant worker. He had an interesting background, in and out of prison for working with the ANC. When he was out of jail he was forced to go underground to evade arrest again and he decided to become an artist. I am very grateful to have heard his story.
The second half of our day involved going to the Stellenbosch University Museum. We looked around at the artwork and history of the museum and learned that some people are not fond of the history of Stellenbosch because it originally started as an all white university.
We met with Bongani Mgijima, one of the founders of the museum, and he showed us a project he is working on with Michigan State. They are creating a virtual classroom where people from the two different universities can meet and have discussions and do an internship abroad program at museums in the two different areas.
After we met with him we got a tour of the art side of the museum by Ulrich Wolff. He talked to us about the struggles the university faced, like the fact that it is primarily taught in Afrikaans even though there is now a large population of english speaking students. We were fortunate enough to get to see the Imadiba sculpture, which is a replica of Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island. The walls have been reduced to the height of a bench and there are bars to represent the window in his room. This is a space meant for discussions and decompression after visiting a museum. It was the first of 25 built all over South Africa but they are planning on expanding more.
Next we met with Ricky V. to get a tour of the historical side of the museum. It is a difficult topic to discuss but he explained why it is important to have rather than trying to erase a part of history. This concluded our tour of the Stellenbosch University Museum and ended our day of excursions.