Photo credit:

1999 /

Democracy’s Images: photography and visual art after Apartheid
There are three stone cottages just outside the entrance to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. For generations, these cottages were occupied by gardeners, stone masons and foresters who were part of the community of Protea Village. The cottages are now part of the national botanical garden, a monument to South African natural heritage.

Between 1966 and 1969, approximately 120 Protea Village families were forced to leave their homes under the Group Areas Act. It was a significant blow to this old and close-knit community. The Protea Village exhibition was started in 2001, and was born out of the Museum’s commitment to telling the stories of forced removals throughout South Africa, and inviting these forcibly removed communities to make their own contributions.

In October 2002 the Protea Village Action Committee (PROVAC) and the Museum opened the exhibition, A History of Paradise, about the life of the community of Protea Village. Light boxes, family photographs and trees, a baptism register and archaeological fragments from the former Village gave visitors a taste of the colourful life of Protea.

Approximately 55 families shared their stories in the making of the exhibition. They also participated in a series of workshops which allowed them to creatively engage with their memories. This process was aided by the use of photographic material sourced not only from archives and libraries, but also from their own private collections. For many of the participants, the workshops provided the opportunity for them to meet up with friends they had not seen in decades.

The stone cottages situated at the entrance to Kirstenbosch continue to embody a sense of a place shaped by history and nature. They are the focus of ongoing negotiations between Kirstenbosch and the Protea Village ex-residents, who are reclaiming their right to return to their previous homes.