District Six Museum Foundation
The District Six Museum Foundation was established in 1989 and launched as a museum in 1994 to keep alive the memories of District Six and displaced people everywhere. It came into being as a vehicle for advocating social justice, as a space for reflection and contemplation and as an institution for challenging the distortions and half-truths which propped up the history of Cape Town and South Africa. 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. The Museum seeks to develop policies relating to heritage and memory that are both grounded in and seek to develop the interests of the poor and dispossessed, specifically.
Umbon’ Omhle is a youth organisation based in Langa. The organisation teaches music, film, sound, dance, cooking, horticulture, poetry, debate, drama, visual art, sport, community campaigns and organisational development. The vision of the organisation is to see a safer and more self-reliant Langa. Through the practice of nurturing and mentoring for individual and community growth, we want to empower young people by providing them with skills that they can use as a source of upliftment and as a means to support themselves, their families and their community. We wish to create new possibilities for our community through the provision of programs which would otherwise be too expensive to study at higher educational institutions.
In combining these skills with value systems that focus on the human spirit, we hope to encourage a new set of cultural practices which will enable members of the broader community to place their humanity at the heart of all interactions. We believe in the development of all creatures, including the development of mother Earth.
International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
The Museum’s involvement with the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience (rebranded as the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience) has provided an invaluable support mechanism for engagement with the physical site of District Six. It has served as a forum bringing together the experiences of various sites of trauma. The Museum has been part of formulating a framework for engagement, captured in the declaration which member sites are invited to underwrite:
We represent historic site museums in many different parts of the world, at many different stages of development, presenting and interpreting a wide variety of historic issues, events and people. We hold in common the belief that it is the obligation of historic sites to assist the public in drawing connections between the history of our site and its contemporary implications. We view stimulating dialogue on pressing social issues and promoting humanitarian and democratic values as a primary function. Whether it interprets great good or great evil, whether it preserves a cultural or an environmental resource, a historic site has unique power to inspire social consciousness and action. By opening new conversations about contemporary issues in historical perspective, historic sites can become new town halls, central to civic life and democracy. A site of conscience makes a commitment beyond its conventional role as a museum by interpreting history through historic sites.
International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
The Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum is a memorial to the system of migrant labour, single sex hostels and the control of black workers through the identity document which controlled the lives of black South Africans under apartheid— the infamous pass book.
The museum reminds residents and visitors of the horrific living conditions that the migrant labour system imposed. Lwandle was established in 1958 with hostel type accommodation for workers in the nearby fruit and canning industry. These hostels were only intended for single men. With the onset of democracy in South Africa, the ANC led government turned the hostels of Lwandle into family type accommodation. Residents of the area felt that at least one hostel should be preserved to sustain a memory of how the system of apartheid had operated and decided to establish a museum. On Workers Day (1 May) 2000 the museum was officially opened by the poet and ex-Lwandle resident, Sandile Dikeni. The museum’s exhibits commemorate the trials, tribulations and triumphs of migrant workers and hostel life in Southern Africa. According to William Khanuka, one of Lwandle’s oldest residents, the museum is for people now as well as for the coming generations.
The mission of the PeaceJam Foundation is to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody. It is an international Program built on three simple ideas: Education, Inspiration, and Action.
The purpose of the PeaceJam curriculum is to stimulate youths’ critical thinking skills, strengthen their research abilities, increase their knowledge of the role of nonviolence in conflict, and promote self-growth and reflection.
Through the PeaceJam program, youth explore the personal stories of 13 Nobel Peace Laureates-most of whom have overcome tremendous challenges. Each Laureate’s choice to stand up against negative forces and to solve problems in their own countries through nonviolence can serve as inspiration for youth as they work to address the issues they are most passionate about. Youth analyze the skills, knowledge, and attributes that allowed the Laureates to be successful in their work. Youth are also asked to explore their own beliefs, actions, and choices, and to explore how to put their talents, skills, and passion to work for positive change.
PeaceJam puts youth in the authentic position of being peacemakers and peacebuilders who address the most pressing issues of our time in both local and global communities. Youth will use the framework of as extreme poverty, disease, racism, violence, environmental degradation, human rights, and the proliferation of weapons. PeaceJam offers all young people the opportunity to step into powerful leadership roles that will make a lasting and sustainable impact. PeaceJam’s Global Call to Action to implement creative projects that address the root causes of such issues What vision of heartbreaking misery, what manner of dire poverty, what degradation of the human spirit must we all see before we stand up and actually commit to doing something about it?
ComArt, a partner in the District Six Museum’s
Based in Elsies River on the Cape Flats, ComArt (Community Arts Association) is a non-profit organisation making a unique contribution to shaping and influencing people’s lives.
At the heart of all this is an awareness of heritage as an inspiration leading to a proud celebration of hope and achievement while enabling access to and participation in enjoyment of the arts as cultural expression, close to where people live. We understand heritage to be one of the ways through which to deal with questions of identity, as identities have a fundamental component which is historical. Our programmes are designed to reflect how people perceive and represent themselves as well as the way they are viewed by others.
Elsies River has been characterised as a highly challenged environment, burdened by socio-economic problems resulting from unemployment and low-income levels. In this context, positive perceptions are often blurred and access to opportunities is limited. Hence the need to continually create exciting possibilities that will increase people’s choice range and eventually impact on levels of poverty.
We have experienced the celebration of heritage as hugely empowering. It has helped to facilitate processes leading to the rediscovery of identity, creating a sense of belonging while taking people on a journey involving the restoration of values. The journey embraces freedom to choose one’s own destiny while unlocking extraordinary creative potential which creates new memory-makers which leave legacies for generations to come.
Given this context, heritage has emerged as the foundation for ComArt ’s related focus area of arts and culture. As an integrated whole they become vehicles for individual and community development.
ComArt’s varied programme has a number of dimensions. The development programme offers an integrated approach to celebrating heritage, creating access , developing skills and nurturing talent. Young people and women have been identified as priority target groups and currently more than 300 participants are involved in various projects of which the main ones are listed below:
Heritage: Memory development; storytelling; historical site tours; historical research; family history; photographic archiving; traditional toys and games
Music: Choral & instrumental music;music literacy
Dance: Spanish, contemporary & line dancing
Drama: Youth theatre; stage production & performance
Story Writing & Photography
Other additional activities relating to lifeskills; Information Technology resources; health & wellness; hiking & environmental awareness; management and leadership development are also provided.
ComArt is well positioned to interact and collaborate with other organisations and institutions in Elsies River. This is primarily the result of broad-based community participation and to some extent the central location of our office in the Multi-Purpose Centre.
Our focus on heritage has enabled building further networks in the community contributing to strengthening the social fabric. Establishing the Elsies River Heritage Forum in 2005 represents a major milestone in this regard. This forum creates a platform for Elsies River residents, former as well as current, from diverse backgrounds to meet on a monthly basis to share experiences and have conversations on a wide range of topics. It is an ideal platform for facilitating both community and nation building processes.
Music forms an integral and vibrant component of the community building process. The community choirs for adults and young people have not only acquired new meaning through the realisation of being rooted in rich musical traditions, but have also broadened ComArt ‘s constituency and support base by serving as public flagships for the organisation and the community. MUSEDI, a music education programme, provides access to musical skills development and training for young people in Elsies River, including those who are members of the Christmas Choirs.
Establishing a strong working relationship with the District Six Museum has indeed been immensely beneficial to ComArt. The museum staff not only provide valuable insight serving as a mentoring source but also facilitates interaction with other heritage organisations in the City.
Embracing the arts as vehicle for contribution in building community the journey ComArt has embarked on is one firmly rooted in our heritage proudly affirming the rich cultural diversity of the South African nation.