St. Mark’s Memory Mapping Project
Donor: Charles Ahlgren
In 2016 St. Mark’s rector, Father Austen Jackson, wanted to build a memorial for St. Mark’s parishioners who were baptised between 1871 and 1983, the last year of removals from District Six. In working with a team from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the idea of creating a historic map to represent District Six and the memories found within the community was formed.
During the first year of the project, CPUT teamed with the University of Michigan in creating what would become the foundation of an interactive map that would serve as the catalyst for accessing a virtual memorial representing the memories of residents who lived in District Six and were affected by the forced removals. In addition to the digitised St. Mark’s baptismal records, a number of St. Mark’s parishioners were interviewed to provide further insight into the daily life of District Six residents. With support from the District Six Museum, additional images and histories were provided to represent the tapestry that is the District Six community.
Progress on the St. Mark’s project continued through 2019, and the resulting interactive map is the accumulation of the time and dedication of those who have volunteered to participate in seeing the project come to fruition.
You are currently viewing the version of this webpage for small screen sizes. To experience the full content of the page including the interactive historic map of District Six, please view this page with a larger screen size.
June Marcia Frances Adams-Borien
June Adams-Borien, former teacher and second youngest of seven children, has been a long-standing member of the District Six community. Although she was born on the outskirts of District Six in Woodstock, much of her upbringing took place in the heart of District Six. She was baptised and confirmed at St. Mark’s church, attended Zonnebloem Girls Practising School, and worked at her father’s shoe repair shop, Modern Shoe Repairs, located at 136 Hanover Street during busy seasons. She also frequented Hanover Street with her friends to visit places such as the Star Bioscope and the library at the Lieberman Institute. June particularly enjoyed the food from the Indian shops on Hanover Street. In her words, “Hanover Street was the lifeblood, as it were, of District Six. It was a constant coming and going of people walking on its narrow pavements.”
Colin Carollisen, the youngest of five children and active member of St. Mark’s church, remembers fondly the close-knit community of District Six. He is proud to have come from such a diverse neighbourhood where everyone respected each other. He recalls being very active at St. Mark’s church even as a young boy, being appointed altar server and attending church events where he got to admire the St. Mark’s Brigade. Colin continues to be a part of this community as he recently served as a member of St. Mark’s parish council. Furthermore, Colin enjoys assisting community members whenever possible. He is always willing to lend a ride or a helping hand when someone is in need. Colin even keeps in touch with his old classmates from St. Mark’s Primary School and hopes to continue to connect with past, present, and future District Six community members.
Esther Cottle, an avid St. Mark’s church parishioner, was born and bred in District Six. Esther remembers growing up in the vibrant District Six community and recalls with fondness what life was like before the forced removals. She attended St Mark’s School, and the Community Centre was a central place for her to have fun, with it being the venue for many concerts, socials, and acting classes. Esther appreciated the culture that the Community Centre harnessed. When the demolition of the houses began, Esther moved to Sheppard, then Bruce Street. She fought to stay in District Six but finally left in 1981. After moving to Lentegeur in Mitchell’s Plain, Esther contemplated leaving St. Mark’s church, thinking she would no longer be able to attend. However, it wasn’t long after the removals that she and her children would make the long train ride to and from District Six to return to her beloved church. She did this for over 30 years and made the best of the journey. For her it was worth traveling the distance. Fortunately for Esther, in October of 2013, she was given a house in District Six as part of restitution. It was a 19 year process of going back and forth with community development workers and the lands claims office, but Esther prevailed and rightfully received her new District Six home.
Kenneth Hess, current parishioner of St. Mark’s Church, remembers District Six being a very diverse place. Upon reflecting on his life, he recognized that there were a few incidents in which black people were treated with less respect than white people, most notably at his school, St. Theresa’s. However, Kenneth believes that he was spiritually guided to be in those spaces for a reason. As he grew older, he wasn’t able to finish schooling. He attended Zonnebloem for a short period of time but did not finish due to circumstances at home. Kenneth would sell newspapers and ice cream to help his family financially as he was the son of a single mother. He remembers often changing jobs until he began working for a Dutch merchant company. However, the humble beginnings of Kenneth’s life did not faze him, as he remembered District Six as a mecca for entertainment. He would frequent the markets, cinemas, and hotels to have a good time. Kenneth laments the destruction of District Six as it had a negative effect on so many people’s lives. Fortunately, Kenneth’s career in the merchant navy provided him with the finances to move into his own house in another area before the forced removals began. During his years in the merchant navy, Kenneth was able to travel the world, including the United States, the ABC Islands, Japan, and Antarctica. He also picked up many languages along the way.
Susan Lewis, the sixth of nine children and former parishioner of St. Mark’s Church, remembers having a glorious childhood despite coming from a poor household. As a child, she would play outside until late at night because there was always someone looking after the children. Susan remembers how supportive the District Six community was when someone was in need and attributes this communal environment to her great upbringing. At the age of 27 years old, Susan and her family were forcibly removed to Hanover Park. She felt that she had lost the sense of community that District Six had naturally fostered. However, with time, she was able to build great relationships with those in Hanover Park as she had lived there for 35 years. Currently, Susan is back in District Six. She and her mother were able to move back to District Six with the first group of restitution receivers. Her mother has since passed away at the age of 99, but fortunately was able to spend five years back in District Six. Susan has adjusted well to being back in District Six and continues to educate people on the history of District Six, serving as a tour guide at the District Six Museum and even being interviewed by TIME Magazine.
Denise Lowton, middle child of five, was the daughter of an Anglican father and a Muslim mother. She fondly remembers the balcony on their home that allowed her and her siblings to see ships in the harbour and downtown Cape Town, as well as the neighbourly environment of District Six. Denise recalls walking to St. Mark’s church on Wednesdays with peers from all faiths for St. Mark’s School’s weekly services and how it felt like “one big happy community family.” At the age of 16, Denise began working to support her family. In 1979, when her family was forcibly removed to Mitchell’s Plain, they attended St. Mark’s only occasionally. After years of occasional attendance and trying out different churches, Denise and her family returned as regular parishioners of St. Mark’s in the mid-1980s. Denise holds a lot of pride in the church refusing to be demolished and has shown her appreciation by being on the church council and also serving as a church warden.
Helene Sables, long time parishioner of St. Mark’s church, recalls spending much of her leisure time as a child at the church. Helene, her sister, and her two brothers joined the church’s choir and were required to attend practise every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Through the choir, she was able to make strong friendships that have lasted through the years. Even after so many years she’s been able to stay in touch with quite a few friends that were in choir with her. Helene also remembers spending time at the Community Centre where she did ballet and played badminton. Despite being forcibly removed to Mitchell’s Plain, Helene always returned to her beloved St. Mark’s church because it has always felt like “home” . She has always felt a “sense of belonging.” Helene is currently back in District Six and has joined the neighbourhood watch where she’s become great friends with her neighbours.
We would like to acknowledge the significant contributions by the following:
the seven parishioners of St. Mark’s Anglican Church who volunteered their stories;
the baptismal registry of St. Mark’s Anglican Church, and Father Austen Jackson and Father Clifford Jones;
Cape Peninsula University of Technology department of Town & Regional Planning and department of Civil Engineering & Surveying, lecturers Siddique Motala and Nicholas Pinfold;
University of Michigan Global Information Engagement Program, Professor David Wallace and students Michelle Rubin, Jackson Huang, Madel Leal, Vaness Cox, Valyn Dall, Vincent Qiu, Jessica Yelk.
Where possible, all images have been credited and used with permission.