PRESS RELEASE: District Six Museum Celebrates 20 Years

by | 5 Dec 2014 | CELEBRATION

Please join the District Six Museum community for a celebration of 20 years of existence. If this were a marriage we would be using CHINA as a traditional form, or PLATINUM as a more contemporary theming option. We’ll be happy with the emerald green colour scheme and lilies as the flowers of choice. Please join us for morning tea!

Wednesday, 10th December

11am – 2pm

D6M Homecoming Centre, 15A Buitenkant Street, Cape Town

On the 10th of December, District Six Museum – a memorial to a decimated community and a meeting place for Cape Town residents who identify with its history – will celebrate its 20th anniversary since opening its doors in 1994. Known as a city within a city, District Six was considered the soul of Cape Town. It’s bustling streets, diverse and colourful f residents and a deep sense of community are engrained in the memory of those who once lived there.  In February 1966 it was declared a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act, and by 1982, the life of this vibrant community was over.  More than 60 000 people were forcibly removed and the buildings were flattened by bulldozers.


In honour of its 20th birthday, the Museum will pay tribute to and celebrate the once vibrant community by reflecting on 20 objects, places and people that truly epitomise life in the former District Six.

  1. Van Kalker Studio – Proudly hanging above the family mantelpiece, the all-familiar sight of a Van Kalker photograph could be found in the homes of many District Six residents. The Van Kalker studio in Victoria Street became a routine visit for special events like birthdays, weddings, graduations and christenings.
  2. Waentjies – To get their fresh produce, residents looked no further than the local fruit and vegetable seller ‘Waentjies’, who would set up shop on Hanover Street.
  3. Fish horn – The nasal sound of fish horns signalled the day’s fresh catch. With fish piled high, residents would flock to the pungent Fish Market (‘vis markie’) to get their share.
  4. Hanover Street – Dubbed ‘the hub’ of District Six, Hanover Street was the place where you could acquire anything and everything.
  5. Peninsula Maternity Hospital – Situated between Constitution, Primrose, Caledon and Mount Streets, the Peninsula Maternity Hospital is where thousands of District Six residents were born.
  6. Seven Steps – For anyone who lived in the old District Six, the Seven Steps’ is a powerful symbol of their heritage. To work, to home, to school, to play, to church, to mosque, to shop, to celebrate and to mourn, these steps carried thousands of residents on their way.
  7. Bioscopes – Going to local bioscopes on a Saturday afternoon was a regular treat for residents and occupied a special position in the recreational life of the community. The Avalon, Star, National and the British Bioscopes doubled as venues for beauty pageants, talent shows and musicals.
  8. Crescent Café – People journeyed from far and wide to sample the curry at Mr. Kathrada’s Crescent Cafe in Hanover Street.
  9. Beinkinstadt – Judaica bookstore – In its early years, The Beinkinstadt Jewish bookstore was a meeting place for the local Jews who, on Friday evenings, would congregate there to enjoy the heimishe ‘open house’ hospitality of owners Moshe and Olga Beinkinstadt.
  10. Kewpie – District Six was legendary for its gay community in the 1950s and Kewpie, the local drag queen, became a figurehead for District Six’s vibrant characters.
  11. Koe’sisters – Food played a central role in the lives of the District Six community. The traditional Koe’sister, a delicious spiced doughnut dipped in syrup and rolled in dry coconut, remains a Sunday morning treat among District Sixers.
  12. Fah-fee – Fafi or fa-fi (pronounced fah-fee) was a popular betting game played in District Six, and has been described as the ‘poor man‘s Roulette’.
  13. Richard Rive – Rive was a former resident and the well-known writer of the acclaimed ‘Buckingham Palace’.
  14. Lydia Williams – Affectionately known as ‘Ou Tamelytjie’, Williams was a former slave woman who settled in District Six. She established a school in the area and was a founding member of St Philip’s Anglican Church.
  15. May Abrahamse – May started singing at age 14 and went on to become one of South Africa’s most prolific opera singers. With her talent and support from the Eoan Group – a theatre and dance group – she played leading soprano roles in La Traviata, La Boheme and Madame Butterfly.
  16. Globe Gang – The Globes – one of the most notorious gangs of District Six – initially started out as a vigilante group, taking their name from the Globe Furnishing Company.
  17. Music of District Six – The music of District Six is legendary…one of the leading lights of Cape jazz was Dollar Brand (later known as Abdullah Ibrahim) who, with his Jazz Epistles, recorded the first jazz LP by black South African musicians.
  18. The Rose and Crown – One cannot forget the many pubs of District Six. The Rose and Crown was a particular hot spot in Hanover Street.
  19. Horse Drawn Carriages – There were the horse-drawn wedding parades to look forward to on weekends, where little girls would eagerly anticipate the beautiful wedding parades that took place most Sundays.
  20. Malay and Christmas Choirs and klopse – On Christmas and New Year’s eve, residents would prepare to stay up through the night to watch the Malay and Christmas Choirs proceed from Tennant Street to Caledon Street, up Wale Street and ending down at the Parade, where the klopse would begin celebrations well into New Year’s evening.