SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN: Declare District Six a National Heritage Site

#D6HeritageSite  #D6NationalHeritageSite

Why a National Heritage Site?

After the dramatic announcement on 11 February 1966 of the declaration of District Six as a white group area, a number of protest organisations and committees grew, which included the District Six Defence Committee, the District Six Association, the Friends of District Six, the Rent, Rates and Residents’ Association, and the Hands Off District Six Campaign Committee being amongst some of the better-known ones. In addition, the institutions in the area engaged in protest actions involving their different constituencies. This included schools such as Trafalgar and Harold Cressey; churches such as the Catholic, Methodist and Anglican Churches.

We have come a long way since the Hands Off District Six Campaign of the late 1980s, the eager anticipation of the first photographic exhibitions, the heady days of elections and national renewal in the 1990s.

Much has been achieved, against considerable odds.  Land restitution is a reality, even if it remains fraught with political challenges and challenges of delivery.  District Six is claiming its place in the pantheon of formative narratives of the nation.

The District Six Museum bears the scars and traces of this process of nation-building at a very local, but profoundly global scale.  It has emerged from a humble, community oriented space into international prominence, celebrated in many journals, books, and reviews.  It remains the most successful example of a community based project of its kind, an object lesson for local and international projects seeking to engage people in the remaking of their past and its mobilisation for democratic ends.

Yet, the greatest achievements of the museum lie squarely in its future.  The power of the site of District Six remains its greatest asset.  It continues to speak to many thousands in the city, and the rest of the country of the demand that we build cities ‘not of races, but of people’ and that this simple demand becomes a component for every vision in every community in the nation.

Indeed, District Six takes its place alongside Sophiatown, Cato Manor, and other iconic removals as the pre-eminent narrative of forced removals in South Africa.  The tale of its destruction captures the destructive impact of an idea called apartheid, and its attempt to destroy a competing idea, namely that South Africans could be citizens of a unified country based on universal principles.  Its induction into the national estate presents a perpetual opportunity to remind South Africans that we are to transcend this traumatic past and build on its ruins, the basis for a new citizenship in which we all share and celebrate.

The struggle for District Six should not, however, be seen as one which was waged independently of other struggles. It was one which found support in other community structures, particularly in the period of mass actions in the 1970s and 1980s. The success of the land restitution process in District Six benefited from similar struggles waged simultaneously elsewhere. So, just as District Six was a formative example to other communities and gave rise to strong political leadership, so too did it benefit from the supportive actions waged on other sites of struggle.

The implementation of the policy of forced removals has played an important part in the history of Cape Town, and District Six is but one of these areas so affected. The prominence of the District Six story provides a platform from which to investigate the impact of forced removals nationally, and to explore its ongoing impact on contemporary communities.

Like Ahmed Kathrada says of Robben Island, ‘While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument to our hardship and suffering. We would want Robben Island to be a monument … reflecting the triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil. A triumph of non-racialism over bigotry and intolerance. A triumph of a new South Africa over the old.’[1] In the same way, we believe that the District Six site can be an invaluable nation-building space.

[1] Kathrada, Ahmed

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Panel Discussion: The Politics, culture and pedagogy of representation

USAKOS – Photographs Beyond Ruins: The old location albums, 1920’s-1960

The panel discussion will interrogate some of the often contentious issues confronting photographers and researchers who work with communities facing despair of one kind or another. It is often in the process of curating the lives of others that a line is drawn between rendering the subjects in a way that is demeaning or dignified with a lot of grey in between.

Panelists will include Giorgio Miescher (University of Basel); Jeremy Silvester (Museums Association of Namibia); Tina Smith (District Six Museum); Martha Akawa (University of Namibia)

Saturday, 20th February 2016 \ 10am – 12pm \ D6M Homecoming Centre, Gallery, 15 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town \ Contact Zahra: 021 4667200 \ education@districtsix.co.za

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USAKOS – Photographs Beyond Ruins: The old location albums, 1920’s-1960

This exhibition is a mobile version of the one housed at the Usakos Municipal Building, Namibia. It will open on Tuesday, 16 February at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre, followed by a walk-about and panel discussion on Saturday, 20thFebruary (The politics, culture and pedagogy of representation) and it will be closed with the launch of a photo and video blog on Saturday, 12th March titled: Tell your story to a ‘born free’!

This mobile exhibition revolves around private photographic collections owned by four female residents of the small town in central Namibia called Usakos: Cecilie //Geises, Wilhelmine Katjimune, Gisela Pieters and Olga //Garoës. The photographic collections lay out the physical and social landscapes of the old location. They range from studio photography; images of particular location sites and buildings; photographs of mission congregations and school classes; music bands and football teams; and many portraits of men and women posing in front of the camera. Most images were taken by local or itinerant African photographers, and they evidence a vibrant aesthetic and visual culture in a cosmopolitan environment that made a stand against the containments and constrictions imposed by the politics of race.

The exhibition will be open to the public from 17th February to 16th March 2016

EXHIBITION OPENING

OPENING TALK: OMAR BADSHA

Tuesday, 16th February 2016
6 for 6.30pm
D6M Homecoming Centre, Gallery
15 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town

GPS: -33° 55′ 36.940707″, 18° 25′ 28.475475″

Buitenkant street panorama_HRes_Text

Contact Zahra: 021 4667200 / reception@districtsix.co.za

Woman-against-wallCouple2womenandman

GiselaPieters,OlgaGaroes1 WilhelmineKatjimune

Usakos, a railway town

Usakos developed as one of the main hubs of first the German colonial and later the South African railway system. Its urban morphology was marked, from its early beginnings, by the policies of segregation and apartheid urban planning. The exhibition highlights a particularly traumatic moment in the town´s history, when in the early 1960s the apartheid administration began to remove African residents out of what was then called the old location into newly built townships that were geographically removed from those parts of the town subsequently reserved for ‘whites’.

The collectors and the collections

The four women and their photographic archives are part of a trans-generational network and practice of collecting and curating. Since their lives and those of their fellow residents have been deeply marked by the experience of forced removal, and concurrently by economic decay and socio-cultural disruption, their collections have become part of diverse discourses and practices of commemoration and memorialisation.

The women´s care for the photographs – the ways in which they have for several decades placed them in albums, displayed them in living rooms, shared them in conversations with family, friends and acquaintances, and stored them in handbags and boxes – is an expression of how these women´s small but continuous daily aesthetic acts powerfully countered the ruination of their living environments. This is why the collections transcend the concern to recover the past alone and also describe an ongoing reflection of the present inviting an opening into the future. The Usakos photographic collections then constitute forms and practices of collective mobilisation – of memory and experience, of vision and imaginary.

Paul Grendon

The resonances of the old location photographic collections in the past, present and future are taken up in the exhibition through the work of photographer Paul Grendon. His camera follows the traces and layers of the Usakos experience of colonialism and apartheid that remain visible in the physical and social landscape of the town: it exposes ruins of the old location houses, maps out a decaying railway infrastructure, but also explores the many ways in which residents of Usakos have and continue to relate to their environment, turning spaces of ruination into places of belonging.

The exhibition catalogue and content

The exhibition catalogue includes essays on photography and the urban history of Usakos; three image sections including a black and white one introducing the women collectors and their collections of historical photographs; and one section with colour photographs by Paul Grendon.

The exhibition consists of mobile panels on which are printed black and white photographs selected from the women’s collections and colour photographs by Paul Grendon. Additionally there are information panels and two large maps. The mobile exhibition is a newly produced version of the one produced for Namibia and another one for international travel.

Important to the process was the substantial involvement of students in the Usakos and Basel exhibitions. Students from the collaborating Universities of Basel and Namibia, participated in the mounting of the exhibition in Usakos and again in Basel. They also worked on joint oral history projects.

Usakos

The first exhibition opening was in the Usakos Municipality Building on 27 June 2015.  The opening event was planned by the Usakos Municipality in collaboration with the Museums Association of Namibia. The exhibition will permanently remain in Usakos and be integrated into the future local museum.

Europe & USA

A second exhibition was produced for Europe and America, and was opened in Paris at Sorbonne University on 7 July 2015.  The exhibition was then scheduled as part of the European Conference of African Studies in Paris on 8-10 July. Following Paris, it was presented at the Basler Afrika Bibliographien in Basel on 28 August 2015, and then at the University of Bielefeld on 7 November 2015. The following venues have been confirmed: the Regis West Gallery, Minneapolis on 5 April 2016 and then the Brunei Gallery, London on July 2017.

Southern Africa

The mobile version that will be at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre, Cape Town in February 2016, is scheduled to go to the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, the University of Fort Hare in East London, and then the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. Eventually the exhibition will be handed over to the Museums Association of Namibia for further educational use in the country.

The exhibition is curated by Paul Grendon, Giorgio Miescher, Lorena Rizzo, and Tina Smith

PROJECT PARTNERS & FUNDERS

Carl Schlettwein Stiftung Basel

Centre for African Studies, University of Basel

District Six Museum

Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft BS

Max Geldner Stiftung Basel

Municipality of Usakos

Museums Association of Namibia

Pro Helvetia Johannesburg

Stiftung Mercator Schweiz

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

University of Namibia