Projects & Programmes
Donor: Anne Richards
Seven Steps Club for District Six Ex-residents
Even though they no longer exist, the Seven Steps occupy a strong place in the memorial landscape of District Six. Being such a strong point of reference as a community gathering space, the Museum has used it as one of its main symbols to represent this gathering aspect of the community that it represents. The Steps feature in the Museum’s logo, and is the name of the honorary club of ex-resident members.
The location known as ‘Seven Steps’ in District Six was possibly the best-known landmark in the area. It was the place where people met, where street crooners gathered to entertain themselves and passers-by, and where casual gamblers rolled their dice and dealt their cards. Anecdotes about happenings at the Seven Steps feature prominently in the many stories told about District Six.
Even though they no longer exist, the Seven Steps occupy a strong place in the memorial landscape of District Six. Being such a strong point of reference as a community gathering space, the Museum has used it as one of its main symbols to represent this gathering aspect of the community that it represents. The Steps feature in the Museum’s logo, and is the name of the honorary club for former residents.
The Seven Steps Members’ Club was formally launched on Heritage Day in 2008. The idea was to bring old friends and neighbours together for monthly coffee mornings, the first of which took place on 23 October 2008.
Since its early days, the Seven Steps Club has become so much more. In addition to being a valuable place for reconnecting with neighbourhood friends who were unceremoniously separated when the District was destroyed, the club has grown to become the life-blood of the Museum’s work and the source of much of its energy. The club consists of just on 800 members to date and has a slow but steady growth each year. A small number of members are from areas of displacement other than District Six. Because most members are elderly and often not mobile, only a small number are active participants, and an increasing number of next generation children and grandchildren are beginning to represent their families at these occasions.
Seven Steps members get together once a month. These meetings vary from being storytelling and reminiscence sessions, opportunities for oral history interviews, fact-checking and information-gathering, ideas generation, memorialisation discussions and debates about contemporary issues. Some sessions have been variously sad and focused on tragedy and loss, but they have also been positive, reflective and inspiring. In the context of the Museum, this is the platform where the much celebrated ‘spirit of District Six’ has been kept alive.
Seven Steps members have been the main participants in projects such as ‘Huis Kombuis’, the Peninsula Maternity Hospital (PMH) memory project, ‘Tell your story to a born-free’, the suitcase and other storytelling projects. They represent the continuous thread of community that connects the Museum with its founding moments. They have also been the main advocates of the National Heritage Site declaration project being led by the District Six Museum.
(All projects and programmes of the District Six Museum are structured inter-departmentally, with a lead department being assigned to each. The Seven Steps Project is a project of the Director’s office and is co-ordinated by Bonita Bennett.)