“District Six was named the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town in 1867. Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers and immigrants,
District Six was a vibrant center with close links to the city and the port. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, the process of removals and marginalization had begun.
The first to be forced out were black South Africans who were displaced from the District in 1901. As the more prosperous moved away to the suburbs, the area became a neglected ward of the city.
On 11 February 1966 it was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. More than 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers.” (District Six Museum)
District Six still exists as a series of empty lots, piles of rubble, and the skeleton of city streets only partially visible amongst the tall grass. Tens of homeless people construct their shacks in the grass among the rubble, only to be periodically harassed and dispersed by municipal workers and the occasional brush fire. It also happens to be a vibrant meeting point for some of the city’s strangest bedfellows; including young schoolchildren who are picked up nearby, churchgoers, longboarders, the homeless, former residents of District Six who have begun to move back, commuters, college students, and mosque-goers. It seems as if every day of the week, at every time of day, a different group utilizes the space, disappearing in a few hours and leaving the space barren and empty.
Conflicting emotions are present, as the space feels both like a memorial, a cemetery, and a park. Maybe above all else, it stands as a testament to the great wastefulness and futility that apartheid engendered. The refusal to redevelop the land, vacant for decades, speaks to the heightened emotions that still exist around the space.