Posts by Bonita Bennett : Thinking Aloud

Director of District Six Museum

Interactive Discussion The South Africa we all want to live in

Interactive Discussion Social Media Post_19 Feb .png

Members of the public, especially those involved in non-governmental and community organisations, are invited to the District Six Homecoming Centre next Tuesday night (19 February 2019) to discuss what they would want in a future South Africa.

The event, hosted by Community Chest, the District Six Museum and the One City Many Cultures Project, follows on a recent discussion about the role of NGOs in an election year where it was clear that there was a need for a broader, more interactive discussion.

The discussion, facilitated by media expert Ryland Fisher and Bonita Bennett, director of the District Six Museum, will reverse the traditional trend of panel discussions. The discussion will start with inputs from the floor and invited respondents in the audience will be allowed to comment at the end. This is to ensure that more people are able to participate in the discussion within the limited time allocated.

“After the success of our previous panel discussion, held in January and where we explored the role of NGOs in an election year, it was decided that we needed to broaden the topic to look at what we want from the government that we will elect in a few months’ time,” said Community Chest CEO Lorenzo Davids.

Bennett added: “We want to know from ordinary people what are the issues we want government to deal with. How do we interact with government in a way that will help them achieve a more equitable society? How do we fix the many things that are wrong in our country so that we can all look forward to a better and more positive future? What do we want the country we live in to look like?

“We will bring together a group of people who are interested in taking forward the vision of a more equitable society irrespective of political affiliation. Our aim is not to point fingers at anyone but to help in the search for solutions.”

Fisher said that at the end of all the dialogues – the final one will be after the elections – the organisers intend to draw up a report that will be circulated to senior politicians and municipalities throughout South Africa to give them an idea of the views of ordinary South Africans.

Details of the other dialogues, which will be held at venues across Cape Town and the Western Cape, will be announced at the event.

For catering purposes, RSVP to

Celebrating Alex La Guma

20 February 1925 – 11 October 1985


Alex La Guma was one of South Africa’s greatest writers of the 21st century. Born in Roger Street in District Six, this community became the setting for his first book, A Walk in the Night, which he wrote in 1962. In the next few years he also wrote And a Threefold Cord, The Stone Country, The Fog at the Season’s End, and Time of the Butcherbird. He was also an important political figure, and spent large chunks of time wither banned, under house arrest in prison and finally in exile. He was living  with his wife Blanche in Cuba as chief representative of the African National Congress in the Caribbean at the time of his death in October 1985.

Had he lived, Alex La Guma would have celebrated his 94th birthday on 20 February 2019. District Six Museum together with Friends of Cuba, invite you to a launch event on Wednesday 20 February 2019, starting at 18h00, at which we will share some ideas about the commemorative programme for the year. His good friend and legal counsel Judge Albie Sachs will be the guest speaker for the evening, and we will listen to a selection of readings from his works.

Please RSVP by Monday 18 February for catering purposes, by calling 021 4667200 or emailing

Please note that this event will take the place of the Museum’s Supper Club event for February.



11 February 1966 – 11 February 2019

Remembering the declaration of District Six as ‘whites only’

In the face of so many issues that impact negatively on our communities and the growing disappointment of so many, commemorating significant past events becomes more and more difficult. Occasionally overwhelmed by present issues, it might seem like an indulgence to mark the past.

But, despite the potential for the issues of the day to completely absorb our attention and energies, we know that it is dangerous to live in the ‘now’ only. Legacies live deep and we need to acknowledge them appropriately.

In this context, we invite all Capetonians to once again join us in the annual commemoration which is significant to the District Six community. The walk of remembrance marks the day that District Six was declared a White Group Area in 1966.

Remembered in different ways over the past number of years, the former and returning residents have worked hard to ensure that the day will be remembered by generations beyond their lifetimes. Connections are made between this past traumatic day and its current translation into a positive signifier. It was on 11 February in 2004 that the first ‘Return of the Elders’ took place. We remember the elation of that occasion when Mr Dan Ndzabela and Mr Ebrahim Moerat (both now deceased) received the keys to their new homes from the late President Nelson Mandela. There was joyous acknowledgement of the place of that day in his own life as well, marking his release from prison in 1999. On that day in 2005, another celebratory event took place when the next group of returnees received their keys as well.

On this day we acknowledge the tremendous impact of the draconian Group Areas Act under Apartheid, and its lasting legacy in the communities of people who were directly affected by it: District Six, Sophiatown, Bokaap, Windermere, Sakkiesdorp, South End, Fietas, Constantia, Claremont, Tramway Road and so many more.

On this day we also renew our pledge to ensure that the right to memory is non-negotiable, and its place in nation-building is to be affirmed. We remind ourselves of the unfinished business of land restitution, and of the ongoing displacement of people even as we inhabit the space of the new South Africa.

Join us at the District Six Museum on 11 February, starting at 11h00. We will walk together to the cairn of stones in Hanover Street (now enclosed by CPUT residence fencing), and end at the Homecoming Centre. You are invited to bring a stone from your community to lay on the cairn.

Six-months’ contract position available at District Six Museum

Short-term position at District Six Museum

Project support to the Director’s Office

(6 months fulltime)

Do you want to be part of a cutting edge heritage institution? Would you like to join a dynamic and creative team who are committed to telling the story of forced removals in Cape Town and South Africa, and exploring contemporary legacies? If you are passionate about these issues and if you have the required skills, you should consider coming to work for the District Six Museum.

Flowing from its recent strategic planning process, several projects have been prioritised by the D6M team. A number of these are located within the director’s office while in the development phase, which includes raising funds for implementation. This office is in need of short-term support for this work. The three main areas in need of support are:

  • Coordination of the National Heritage Site project;
  • Visioning of the Memorial Park project (as part of the NHS project);
  • Support for implementation of memorialisation projects;
  • General support for projects located in the director’s office.

This position will suit a recent graduate or early career heritage practitioner who is interested in the area of intangible heritage, site-specific memorialisation and community engagement. Being funding dependent, this is a six-month position.

 Key responsibilities include:

  • Documentary and policy review (National Heritage Resources Act provisions and procedures);
  • Gap analysis of work-to-date and documents generated by processes;
  • Archival research;
  • Convening internal and stakeholder think-tanks, linking with other projects and initiatives both internally and externally;
  • Conduct and administer oral histories or general interviews as needed;
  • Document and track administration of project meticulously and thoroughly.


  • A post-graduate qualification or equivalent in museum, heritage, or related studies;
  • Some experience of the working in the above areas of research / project support / administration or communications, even if on a part-time basis, with demonstrable capabilities.
  • Working knowledge of MS Office suite of programmes.
  • Meticulous and organised.
  • Research skills.
  • Ability to communicate clearly both verbally and in writing.

Own vehicle and drivers’ licence would be an advantage although not required.

How to apply?
Submit CV with a covering letter and two contactable references for attention of THE DIRECTOR to,. Please copy

Please include a recent writing sample (not older than six months) which could be an article, essay, blog post or proposal of approximately 250 words in length. If you do not have a writing sample, please write a motivation of the same length, explaining why your skills, aptitudes and experience are suited for this position.

If you prefer you may hand deliver your application to the front desk of the Museum, 25A Buitenkant Street.

Closing date: Monday 14 January 2019

The position is immediately available and interviews will be scheduled soon after the closing date.

‘A Walk in the Night’ to celebrate EMANCIPATION DAY

AWITN17_E-flyerOn 1 December 1834, the enslaved people of the Cape were legally freed. To commemorate this day, the annual Emancipation Day “Walk in the Night” will once again take place on the eve of this jubilant day with celebrations and a public picnic running into the anniversary of the freedom of the slaves – 1 December.

Date: Thursday, 30 November 2017

Time: 9:30pm

Start: Zonnebloem Estate

This year’s walk takes inspiration from former slave, Lydia Williams (1820 – 1910) and world-renowned South African artist, Lionel Davis, whose wok was recently exhibited at the South African National Gallery.

The walk is open to all – young and old – and will start at the Zonnebloem Estate, move through District Six and end at the Lydia Williams Centre of Memory in Chapel Street with a night picnic. We encourage everyone to join us and bring along their picnic basket as we celebrate and commemorate this important day. Unfortunately, no alcohol will be permitted.

For more information on the walk, contact the District Six Museum at +27 21 466 7200 or email

The Emancipation Day “Walk in the Night” is organised by the District Six Museum and the Prestwich Place Project Committee.


‘The stories we tell’: a District Six Museum symposium

Walk of Rememberance 01819 – 21 October 2017

’It is the storyteller who makes us who we are, who creates history. The storyteller creates the memory that the survivors must have – otherwise their surviving would have no meaning.’’ (Chinua Achebe)

Storytelling has always been at the heart of District Six Museum’s work since its formation. Stories of pain and loss, survival and resilience, and dreams of returning to a much-loved place, have fuelled its vision and mission.

The Museum has been one of the main advocates for promoting storytelling as a tool for healing, knowledge-making, activism, education, community-building and personal growth – and its ever expanding oral history archive bears testimony to that.

At the same time, storytelling is in danger of being branded as the panacea for all our political and social imperfections. While not denying its healing potential, this is only one aspect of its impact and value. Processes such as that undertaken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have done much to reinforce this association between storytelling and healing, sometimes glossing over material conditions such as land restitution and economic redress, which need to change in order for healing to continue.

Storytelling has also become a fashionable business tool. High-end storytelling retreats generate good income for entrepreneurs, and many businesses are using storytelling techniques to brand their products. While not denying its validity in these other contexts, we have felt the need to reassert the power of storytelling as practiced and facilitated by the Museum and others, as distinct from storytelling in business  contexts. We have felt the need to reflect on the challenges which we face in dealing with the multi-dimensional stories of our country, many of which are struggling to be heard. We would also like to draw on lessons learnt from practitioners who might not have had the opportunity to reflect on their own practices.

This symposium will experiment with and demonstrate various knowledge-making formats which includes the presentation of papers and case-studies, panel presentations, practical workshops, storytelling site walks, world café format and performances. It will be largely participant-driven.

What drives your storytelling practice?

In a recent book with the title ‘Tell me how it ends, Valeria Luiselli says:

How do you explain that it is never inspiration that drives you to tell your story, but rather a combination of anger and clarity? How do you say: No, we do not find inspiration here, but we find a country that is as beautiful as it is broken, and we are somehow now a part of it, so we are also broken with it, and feel ashamed, confused, and sometimes hopeless, and are trying to figure out how to do something about all that.

The experience of District Sixers is called to mind by this quote. It reminds us that we need to both build and share our evolving understanding of how storytelling enables former residents to make sense of their own experiences of displacement and also in the process, reorganise their sense of themselves. At the same time, what means are available to those who choose not to express themselves verbally, or in public? What other modes are storytellers using as platforms to share and explore issues?

The Museum has always been mindful of looking beyond District Six, acknowledging that stories of different communities are intertwined and cannot be seen apart from each other. So while District Six is certainly the inspiration for much of the content of this symposium, it at the same time is an acknowledgement that the various stories of our country are indivisible.

Can the saying be true: ‘change the story and you change the world.’

Programme overview

There are still a few places available for each day, but registration is essential. Please use the link to REGISTER

Fee exemptions will be considered on request. Lunches, teas and materials including a conference pack, is included in the registration fee.

Ideally, participants should attend all 3 days, but for many people this is not feasible. Single day attendances are possible but need to be clarified at registration. In person registration takes place from 8h30 on each of the three days.

Please call 021 4667200 if you are not able to register online, or email

Day 1, Thursday 19 October

The Museum is committed to emphasising the inter-connectedness of the stories of our different communities, and will be having the opening day of the symposium at GugaS’thebe Cultural Centre in Langa.

‘So, what’s your story and how do you tell it?’ 

Modern storytellers have become adept at using different modes for the telling of stories. There are a number of web-based options which include pod-casts and YouTube uploads. There are curated storytelling experiences, and storytelling retreats designed to help you tell your story more effectively and to capture your audience. Then there are the everyday stories of resilience and survival told in the quotidian, non-curated spaces encountered by many people, which are soul-destroying in their seemingly endless repetitive narrative in which change does not seem apparent. And then there are the many stories that we might never get to hear as people live their lives ‘of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them. (David Thoreau)

SESSION 1: 9h30 – 13h00

The speakers in this opening session of the symposium are all involved in creating various storytelling platforms to bring about change in one way or another. They range from being involved in dance, drama, radio, writing, video, storytelling projects and museum education. They will be asked to reflect on their particular practice, share some of their insights into what they are doing, and say something about the  change they believe themselves to be effecting.

The format of this session will take the form of two panels, with time being set aside for questions or discussion. The panel will take the form of a relaxed ‘talk-show’ format.

SESSION 2: 14h00 – 15h15

Walking the Langa landscape

SESSION 3: 15h15 – 17h00

‘What’s your story?’ Group session 

Day 2, Friday 20 October

This session will take place at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre.

SESSION 1: 9h30 – 12h45

Ethics and voice: ‘Who tells whose story?’ 

Many people we have met in the Museum recall how they have been approached by journalists or researchers who are keen to hear their stories. They recall being convinced that the world needed to hear their stories and conceded to being interviewed. While mostly the experiences are positive an cathartic, they are not always so.

Many are left with the uncomfortable residue of having embarked down a path of memory that had not been visited in a very long time. The road to healing through storytelling is not a simple linear process and there are many difficulties along the way.

These feelings are exacerbated on occasions when interviewers disappeared after gathering the required information, without proper after-care and without discussion about where the stories would find their way. People who chance encounter their stories in places that had not been negotiated with them – journals, documentaries, articles, etc – experience further distress and often regret availing themselves so freely to be interviewed. They are left wondering whether the need to get their stories ‘out there’ trumps the need to be treated with consideration and respect.

This is just one kind of scenario: there are a number of others where the tellers of stories have felt robbed of their agency after the process of telling had been complete.

in this session we will touch on these and other related issues and will draw on participants’ collective experiences and learn from their strategies of dealing with them. We will also spend some time reflecting on some of the limitations and losses associated with digital storytelling notwithstanding its potential power as a medium and platform.

SESSION 2: 13h45 – 17h00

Storytelling landscapes: reflecting on practice

As storytelling practitioners we invite stories in, invoke them and facilitate them. Some of us tell our own stories to show solidarity, to create security and to reflect on our own process for future practice. Our storytelling practice is rooted in people and their sense-making, but it is also inextricably linked to those landscapes we inhabit, those which we hope to occupy and those we dream about. In working with people who have experienced the shock of being torn from their communities and physical spaces, often we invoke the landscape / site /place as a mnemonic device through which to shape stories and histories. Through the landscape / site /place we foreground certain narratives and hide others from view. We craft ways to mark our physical presence in the landscape / site / place, but also accept the temporary nature of this movement through space.  Landscape / site / place represent an interconnected web of relations that connects people across space and time. How do we reflect on the interconnectedness through storytelling practice? What have been the celebrations and the setbacks in connecting ourselves, through storytelling, back into a community landscape? Where is the site of memory located?

Recent and past public art interventions in District Six have foregrounded the interconnectedness between the performance of memory through creative expression, the archive and site. While reflecting on this practice during this session, the aim is primarily to generate a discussion about the dynamics of storytelling at sites that have a particular genesis in the Group Areas Act – as places people were removed from and relocated to.

This session will involve a short walk to a site which is currently in the process of being memorialised, some stories from other sites and a mapping exercise.

17h00 – 18h00

‘Memories of the East City’ site walk OR Self-guided tour of District Six Museum

18h00 – 20h15

Supper Club with ‘Jitsvinger’

This forms part of the Symposium programme but some tickets will be available to others not attending the Symposium (R100)

Day 3, Saturday 21 October

This session will take place at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre.

SESSION 1: 9h30 – 12h45

We’re all connected through stories – telling stories through food.

The Museum as a repository of memory has intensely engaged in projects that draw upon stories and storytelling as key heritage and knowledge resources.

The recent publication of the District Six Huiskombuis Food and Memory Cookbook is a culmination of a 10 year process that demonstrates the Museum’s memory methodology  as an interdisciplinary experiential platform. It is one of a number of projects that challenge conventional ways of memorialisation.

The session will introduce the District Six Huiskombuis Food and Memory Cookbook project. Participants will share their memories through food stories and their relationship to family recipes and sensory culinary traditions of District Six. They will reflect upon the project as a space for creative restoration and it relevance for making new memories.

The session will include ‘performing food’ and sampling of a few dishes.

SESSION 2: 13h45 – 17h00

Constructing stories of the past for restitution and social justice

This session aims to provide a space for the performance, further excavation of and discussions about narratives that link the past and memory to struggles for social justice in the city today. It will explore how the past continues to live in the present and the many ways in which contestations about socio-economic issues today like, #feesmustfall; #reclaimthecity; #affordablehousing; #unitebehind; #service delivery; #restoringhumanity; #equaleducation; #educationforall; #peoplenotprofit, are the unfinished campaigns of the mass movement against apartheid.

We will revisit, through personal and organisational narratives: (1) how this movement was enriched by culture, sport and popular education and explore how a particular approach that was grassroots, non-racial; anti-racist and non-sexist energised many local spaces like schools, libraries, civic centres, backyards and streets, and (2) how expressive artists and popular educators use individual or collective memories of the past to stimulate contemporary discussions and contestations for social justice. We will further explore the intersection between restitution and social justice.

13h45 – 15h30

It will start with a 6 participant panel who will share their stories of working with narratives from the past. The idea is to illuminate the SA historical timeline — pre-colonialism, colonialism, apartheid and democracy, all along reflecting on the evolution of inequality and resistance that illustrate narratives of restitution and/or social justice.

This will lead into two parallel sessions

15h30 – 16h30


A film screening – the Paulo Freire story OR  a workshop facilitated by Javier Perez (C.Y.P.H.E.R) : ‘the body as both library and sanctuary: writing poetry as praxis of self-love’


Finger supper and closing



Supper Club with ZELDA BENJAMIN @ District Six Museum Homecoming Centre

Valentine Zelda_cropped

Zelda Benjamin is this month’s Supper Club guest at the Museum’s Supper Club on Thursday 31 August. In an oral history interview conducted by the Museum’s sound archive several years ago, Ms Benjamin recalls how she first became aware of her love of jazz when listening to records at her aunt’s home. Growing up in District Six, she remembers how she and a group of her friends would spend Saturday afternoons improvising with music and through this process she discovered her own singing voice.

Although she trained as a nurse, Zelda managed to find the time to sign on stage and at club gigs. One of her earliest performances was at the Naaz. She says: “I very bravely got up and walked to the microphone and started to sing ‘It might as well be spring’ and ‘Delilah’ … the one that Nat King Cole sings.” She received a glowing review from a reporter from The Post and a Mr Parker invited her to perform every Saturday. She sang in a dance band called The Ray Johnson Quartet; she appeared as a guest artist on the African Jazz Variety and the African Follies with Mariam Makeba and Thandi Klaasen.

Many more venues were blessed with Zelda’s heartwarming performances, and it is an honour for the Museum to be welcoming her as our August – Women’s Month – guest.


Tickets are R 150 and can be booked by calling or emailing Chantal Delilie on 021 4667200 or


Welcome drink and samoosas for starters

Lamb OR beans curry (vegetarian) with rice

Apple pie with custard for dessert

Koesisters for afters served with coffee or tea


(With thanks to Jazz on the Vlei for supplying the image)