With a somewhat heavy heart, I write this post about this mornings outing to the District 6 Museum. I did not realise that emotion that would well up inside me to this extent. The atrocities that the families endured under the Group Areas Act of the South African apartheid government, are just downright wrong. The segregation, forced removals from many areas and other brutalities committed towards human beings are plainly unacceptable.
The museum is in what was once the Buitenkant Methodist Church, forcibly shut down for its stance against apartheid.
Outside the museum is a plaque that reads as follows:
ALL WHO PASS BY
REMEMBER WITH SHAME THE MANY THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO LIVED FOR GENERATIONS IN DISTRICT 6 AND OTHER PARTS OF THIS CITY, AND WERE FORCED BY LAW TO LEAVE THEIR HOME BECAUSE OF THE COLOUR OF THEIR SKINS.
FATHER, FORGIVE US....
District 6 was a vibrant mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants. It was close to the city and port. Under the Group Areas Act of 1950, it was declared a white area. The first to be resettled were Africans who had been forcibly removed in 1901. By 1982, 60 000 people had been removed and their homes had been flattened by bulldozers.
The Museum portrays the history of apartheid and its effects on those who lived there. In the centre of the main hall is a tall structure with the street names of District 6. According to out guide, these had been kept in storage for many years by the man responsible for demolishing the area.
Our guide, Noor, was a lively character and I have the utmost respect for him. He kept us listening to his every word. His grandfather had a home in District 6, in which his 30 children by 4 wives were born. Noor himself was born there, as well as his own children. In his mid 30's, Noor watched, tears rolling down his cheeks, with his two young children beside him, as the home that had been his family's for four generations was bulldozed to the ground.
He harbours no resentment today and has forgiven those who did this to his family.
We were then free to roam the museum looking over old photographs, paintings and physical remains of District 6. Most of this collection has been donated to the museum by the community of ex-residents. The daily lives of those that lived there are brought to life and there are no words for what these people must have been through.
The Fresco Wall, entitled "No matter where we are, we are here" occupies a vast area of 8m x 8m .It is dedicated to those who have made and continue to make the museum a living project.
I love the way the light shines through the stained glass window , giving a sense of hope.
The seven steps have a history of their own that lives on in the hearts and minds of those who lived in District 6
I thank God that our own children are not growing up in a society that thinks signs like the one on the bench above are normal or right.
Recollections of former residents, such as the one above, are scattered in the mosaic and cement floor.
It was a worthwhile visit and one unlikely to be forgotten too soon.