District Six Museum Foundation

District Six Museum Foundation

The recently restored and updated museum includes exhibitions and artefacts detailing the history of the oldest residential area of the inner city, which was declared a whites-only area in terms of the Group Areas Act in 1966. Personal stories and political history are given equal treatment in this unique community-based museum.

The District Six Museum is a heritage project that seeks to serve the interests of the victims of the various forms of forced removals that occurred in District Six, the larger city of Cape Town and in other parts of South Africa. The Museum seeks to place itself at the heart of the process of reconstruction of District Six and Cape Town through working with the memories and experiences of dispossessed people. It offers itself as a center for former residents of District Six and others to recover, explore and critically engage with the memories and understandings of their District Six and apartheid pasts, for the purpose of remaking the city of Cape Town.

Up until the 1970s, District Six was home to almost a tenth of the city of Cape Town’s population. In 1965, the apartheid government, as it had done in Sophiatown in 1957, declared District Six “white”. More than 60,000 people were forcibly uprooted and relocated onto the barren plains of the Cape Flats. In the process, over a century of history, of community life, of solidarity amongst the poor and of achievement against great odds, was imperiled.

As an independent space where the forgotten understandings of the past are resuscitated, where different interpretations of that past are facilitated through its collections, exhibitions and education programmes, the Museum is committed to telling the stories of forced removals and assisting in the reconstitution of the community of District Six and Cape Town by drawing on a heritage of non-racialism, non-sexism, anti-class discrimination and the encouragement of debate.

District Six in Cape Town and Sophiatown in Johannesburg, both sites of diverse and vibrant subcultures, posed similar threats to the apartheid government, which was intent on enforcing "separate development" for different ethnic groups. Sophiatown was razed to the ground in 1957 to make way for the "white area" of Triomf (meaning "triumph" in Afrikaans).

The museum houses an impressive collection of historical materials, photographs, paintings, artefacts, physical remains like street signs, books and studies as well as audio-visual recordings of District Six, most which were donated by its former residents. The Photographic Collection consists of approximately 8,500 photographic prints, 1,000 transparencies, and 4,500 negatives. These images date back to the turn of the century and document the process of the removal itself and the accompanying human tragedy.

The museum, the Stepping Stones Children’s Centre and Ons Plek, a shelter for girls, are all housed together in a building belonging to the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town. The current permanent exhibition, Digging Deeper, is a rich visual experience documenting various aspects of life in District Six. Visitors are allowed to get deeper into the lives of ex-residents, giving insight into their social, cultural, economic and political make up. The museum is geared for individuals as well as group and school tours, and is open from 9am to 4pm Mondays to Saturdays. There is also a bookshop and coffee shop, and the museum’s Memorial Hall is available for hire for conferences or other gatherings.

Nowadays, former residents and their descendants are rebuilding their memories and cultural heritage. According to the museum, District Six, close to the city and port, was originally “a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants”. Former neighbors and friends were subdivided further into segregated ethnic groups: “Cape Coloreds,” “Cape Malays,” and “Indians.” Many never saw each other again.

The 170-year-old museum building in Buitenkant Street was formerly the Methodist Mission Church. It contains a permanent multimedia exhibition called Digging Deeper, which includes narrated life histories of District Six residents.

For District Six Museum History, Pre-apartheid history, Restoration please follow the link bottom of this page (below image).

District Six Museum Hours:
09h00 – 14h00 Mondays (doors close at 13h30), 09h00 - 16h00 Tuesdays - Saturdays (Sundays are by appointment only)

Location and Contact:
District Six Museum

Visiting Address: 25a Buitenkant Street, Cape Town 8000, Western Cape
Postal Address: PO Box 10178, Caledon Square, South Africa, 7905
Reception / General Enquiries / To book a tour: +27 21 466 7200 (ask Mandy Sanger or Linda Fortune)
Fax: +27-21-466 7210
Email: i...@districtsix.co.za or educ...@districtsix.co.za
District Six Museum On The Web: http://www.districtsix.co.za/
District Six Museum collections