Today, I want to do things a bit differently. Today was the most harrowing day so far, and rather than tell you about it, I want to show you. So today will be more of a photo blog/journal entry. I’ll provide captions to explain things, starting with District 6. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the original location, as it is a barren wasteland now. A large plot of grassland was once a thriving city, demolished after residents–mostly colored and black–were forcibly removed from their homes and scattered across the outskirts of the city. Per law, they could not live within 8 miles of the city center. Although not exactly widespread, District 6 is just one example of just how wretched apartheid was; how calculated and evil it was to consciously split groups by race and divide them to conquer them.
This is Richmond Street today (though the photograph is from 1986), one of the main roads that was through-way of the city. Why do I say city? Take a look.
Homes demolished; government deciding where people live, how, what they can read, how and where to drive (road lanes were separated according to whites, blacks and coloreds, colored meaning mixed race), and whom they could and could not marry.
The District 6 museum in which all of this is housed has a mission:
Although not all District 6ers, these are what the townships of Cape Town look like today, at least the worst of them. The housing provided for the “evictees” were built homes which were impersonal and rather basic. No other personal effects were provided, other than about $300 for compensation. These are the shantytowns in South Africa, some bad, some worse.
A local daycare provides a place for children, and just beyond the high wall, lies real life, but hopefully not the future for these children. The government is working on building housing, but who knows how successful it will be. These may look like shantytowns of any developing city, and in some respects, they are. But the reason they’re built changes; here it’s the result of oppression, but in either place, here or other developing countries, it’s the result of severe economic injustice.
People still make a living. Here, in the first picture, women are taught how to loom rugs and fabrics using discarded shirt material from local textiles. In the second, a man makes flowers from old tin soda cans–and it supports him and his 5 children. When he started 17 years ago, he had 2 children.
I’m beginning to find that, in creating a unique South African culture despite so much diversity, one can begin to look at post-apartheid sentiments. There is still the ever present feeling of community among people, even in the townships where people were haphazardly scattared. Where the ruling white tried to divide people so they wouldn’t be able to organize, and effectively did so, they also created a culture of unity, brotherhood, a common cause and common enemy. And after 1994 and Nelson Mandela’s election, this played into a culture of diversity and acceptance. The ruling African National Congress, the ANC, is corrupt though. And everyone knows it and sees it. Many question what led to this when it was the leading force of anti-apartheid, and Joe from the District 6 museum and former resident says, “the once never haves now want more.” Self gratification rules, textbook style.
As I continue my look at South African cultural development, I continue to look at how much the Black Consciousness (Black Power) movement has played a role and how it has developed a black nationalism. Looking there, Africans must and have taken from the past and moved forward.