Projects & Programmes
Photographer: Paul Grendon
Two Rivers Project
The project aimed to raise public awareness about the sites of forced removals along the Liesbeek and Black Rivers in the 1960s. It aimed to document peoples’ experiences of their removal, and to this end oral history featured prominently in the project as a research methodology. It also aimed to stimulate debates about land ownership and Apartheid spatial engineering.
The Two Rivers Project was an extension of the Museum’s research into forced removals in District Six and beyond. It forms part of the ongoing documentation and recording of working class community histories in the greater Cape Town.
The Liesbeek and Black Rivers played an important role in the history of the city. First inhabited by the nomadic Khoi, then Dutch farmers and slaves, vineyards and anglicised villages later developed near these waterways. The more recent urbanised and green spaces along the banks of these rivers are testament to the extensive relationship people forged with sites along the rivers over time.
During Apartheid thousands of people in different communities suffered forced removals throughout South Africa. In Cape Town, many suburbs along the Liesbeek and Black Rivers were declared ‘whites only’ in the 1960s after the passing of the Group Areas Act of 1950. Places such as Protea Village, Newlands Village, Claremont, Belletjiesbos, Harfield Village, Mowbray and Black River in the Rondebosch area were areas where people were forced to leave because they were not classified white. In fact, they were labelled ‘disqualified’. Being ruptured from their extended families and friends and from their networks of social support, inflicted untold trauma on thousands of people. In addition, their forced removal from these areas to the Cape Flats, resulted in the severance of ties to the rivers.
The project aimed to raise public awareness about the sites of forced removals along the Liesbeek and Black Rivers in the 1960s. It aimed to document peoples’ experiences of their removal, and to this end oral history featured prominently in the project as a research methodology. It also aimed to stimulate debates about land ownership and Apartheid spatial engineering. Building environmental stewardship and appreciation of historic places, sites and landmarks and to make visible what had been erased as a result of forced removals, were additional and equally important objectives.
The Two Rivers Educational Resource Folder
This has been designed for educators, and it provides resources materials, and references which focus on forced removals, oral history methodology and research. The folder is organised into six sections, each examining a site of forced removal with case studies that shed light on various aspects of community. Historic places that represent living links to the past, musical heritage, social biographies, memory maps, graveyards, archival photographs, family trees and oral histories are included. The resource is aimed at Grade 9 History learners who will gain an understanding of how studies in local history and geography are linked to many aspects of their daily lives and the future of their communities.
The Two Rivers Heritage Trail
The trail runs along the Liesbeek River, stretching from the historic Protea Village to the current Two Rivers Urban Park in Observatory. It includes sites of forced removals, environmental landmarks and references to historic Dutch and British colonial sites. Places make connections across time, which gives them a special ability to create empathetic understandings of what happened, why they happened and how people experienced them..
(All projects and programmes of the District Six Museum are structured inter-departmentally, with a lead department being assigned to each. The Two Rivers Project was a project of the Exhibitions Department of the Museum and was co-ordinated by Tina Smith.)