District Six is a former inner-city residential area in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1960, over sixty-thousand of its inhabitants were forcibly removed during the apartheid regime. Since 1970, this piece of land has remained a void in the city, with only a few houses being constructed, and decenials of former residents wanting to reclaim what they consider to be “their land”. The question of land ownership between the state and private citizens remains open.
District Six was named the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town in 1867. It started as a densely populated working-class area inhabited by a diverse, multi-racial group of people. Freed slaves, Malay people brought by the Dutch East India Company, immigrants, merchants, and artisans, would live here as a testimony to a rich diversity. By means of the Population Registration Act of 1950, new ethnic identities were imposed upon the South African population. The new classifications of ‘White,’ ‘Native,’ or ‘Colored,’ were introduced. In 1966, District Six was declared a “Whites-only” area; the government subsequently forcibly removed more than sixty-thousand inhabitants to far-flung apartheid ghettos on the Cape Flats. Bulldozers began flattening buildings in 1968.
But, District Six is just one exceptionally visible case of what happened to hundreds of communities all over South Africa. Little towns of the Karoo or Limpopo’s rural Edens are never-heard-of communities that were also racially segregated and sent to townships due to the Group Areas Act.
Image by Michalinos Zembylas, Vivienne Bozalek, and Siddique Motala. Edited by Fabiola Cruz.