District Six Museum

District Six Museum, situated in Cape Town in the area known as “District 6”, serves as a remembrance to the events of the apartheid era as well as the culture and history of the area.

Visiting the museum you enter a joinery in time learning on the history of the region from the time that the community was lively and vibrant and getting along smoothly with the daily trend of life till it was ripped apart by the racial discriminations of apartheid.

The impacts of the apartheid are not hidden from the world and District Six Museum is the right place where one can discover how the racial segregation has carved its imprints in the lives and memories of people.

District Six Museum is a very popular museum in Cape Town. The large number of visitors to this museum may be attributed to the rich history of the area and its inhabitants.

Visitors to District Six Museum can expect to learn more about the different communities were displaced throughout South Africa such as South End, Sophiatown, Marabastad, Cato Manor, Fietas, Malay Camp, Protea Village while focussing on the original inhabitants of District 6.

The photo galleries in District Six Museum are:

  • Chambers of Dreams
  • Huiskombuis
  • Fields of Play
  • D6 Public Sculpture Festival
  • Offside
  • Last Days of District Six
  • People Lived Here
  • Going And Coming Back
  • Hanover Street
  • No Matter Where We Are
  • Spring Queen

Exhibition in Six District Museum

The museum stands as a living memorial and is more than a mere static exhibition. This space allows the former inhabitants of District 6 to reaffirm their identity and celebrate their heritage. Exhibitionists such as visual artists, sculptors, painters are given the opportunity to display their works in the museum for a specific period of time. Other than that, the only permanent exhibition in the museum is entitled “Digging Deeper” and was launched in 2000.

Digging Deeper

The museum has a permanent multi-media exhibition, rightly named “Digging Deeper” after the renovation of the building which houses the museum in 2000. This space allows the former residents and their descendants to “dig deeper” into their historical and cultural heritage.

Digging Deeper, with its vast collection and resources sheds light on the aim of the museum which is to allow the visitors to trace back the past of the South Africans who were the victims of apartheid.

The documentary material, oral histories and themes of the exhibition come from the collections of the museum itself. This exhibition is fully dedicated to working with memory by remembering the events of the forced removals, its various effects on the people and by focussing on treating this historical aspect with subjectivity to enhance communal harmony.

Tour of District Six

A visit to the museum can also lead to a tour of the area. Exciting guided tours of the region are provided which are conducted by a genuine ex-resident of the original District Six. Hence, you get a real sense of what it was like for the people back in those days. Not only will you be taken back in time to one of the biggest historical events in Cape Town but you are also given the opportunity of being able to ask questions to raise sensitive issues you may have wondered about.

Brief history of District Six

District Six Museum is located in the former residential area of District Six in Cape Town.

This area was, according to the museum, originally established as “a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants”

and was named the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town in 1867.

District Six was a lively centre and had close links to the city and the port.

In fact, it used to be a thriving community till it felt the tremors of Apartheid.

Apartheid in South Africa

Apartheid was a system of racial segregation in South Africa. Though it was enforced through legislation only in 1948, racial discrimination in South Africa can be traced back much before that. Right during the early 20th century, the process of marginalisation against non-Whites in South Africa and their forced removals had already started.

The first ones to be forced out were black South Africans who were displaced as early as 1901.

The Group Areas Act

In line with the ideologies of apartheid, the Group Areas Act was passed in 1950 and the government had the power to demarcate where each racial group could live and own property. Once an area was proclaimed as belonging to a particular racial group, only members of that group could reside and own property in that area.

The effects of apartheid on District Six

District Six, as a site of a diverse and vibrant subcultures, posed a threat to the apartheid government which was determined on imposing “separate development” for different ethnics. So in 1965, the apartheid government seized District Six.

All buildings apart from religious ones were demolished and houses were flattened by bulldozers under the pretext of ‘slum clearance’.

Over 60 000 people were forcibly displaced from their homes and livelihoods and relocated to the bleak plains of the Cape Flats, several kilometres away. To add to the injury, there they had few facilities or means of making a living.

On 11 February 1966, Six District was declared a White area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over.

Establishment of District Six Museum

With the occupants being uprooted in an inhuman way, the community's own fabric was torn to shreds. In an attempt to safeguard the memories of Six District and the forcible relocation of its original occupants, the District Six Museum Foundation was laid and in 1994, the District Six Museum came into existence in memory of the forced removal of its original inhabitant.

The 170-year old building which became the museum was earlier the Methodist Mission Church. It came as a platform to advocate social justice, to provide space for reflection and contemplation, and as a forum to challenge the distorted facts and half-truths on which the history of Cape Town rests and where debate and policy development is initiated.

The museum also allows the former residents of Six District and their descendants to rebuild their memories and cultural heritage once again in this area.

Additional information on Six District Museum

  • The District Six Museum possesses a great collection of historical material such as 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 museum has formed partnerships with dispossessed communities, both in South Africa and around the world.
  • Individual, group and school tours are available.
  • A bookshop, coffee shop and conference facility (in the Memorial Hall) are also available.

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Saturday
  • 9 am to 4 pm