This was our home

District Six residents remember

Journalist and photographer Yazeed Kamaldien has spent many years writing about District Six, as well as the work of the District Six Musem. He spent one month interviewing residents of District Six and producing his latest documentary, This Was Our Home. The film tells the story of the vibrant community in Cape Town which was razed to the ground by the apartheid government, which has since become a symbol of the destruction and displacement of black South Africans at the hands of the oppressive regime.

Between 1968 and 1981, 60,000 residents were forcibly removed from District Six after it was declared as a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act of 1960. The once dynamic community consisting of activists, artists and musicans was bulldozed and the rubble remains a scar on the inner city. Kamaldien found that students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology knew little about the community on which their campus is now built, and produced This Was Our Home to inform students of the past, and give residents a voice in the present.

This Was Our Home has been screened four times over the past few months. Following the screenings, the documentary has been edited into 12 short videos in which former residents revisit the site and tell the stories of the streets, the people and the memories that make up the historic District Six. The films serve as a reminder to the younger generation about what was lost as residents emotionally recall the past and give their views on whether there really has been justice two decades into democracy.

“It is so empowering for the former residents and those who have returned to be able to tell their stories. The screenings and discussions after are not always easy,” said Kamaldien.

“There’s still a lot of pain that people feel from the traumatic experience during apartheid and how it affected their whole lives. This work is really part of our collective healing as a society.”

“It’s like late shock… it’s like it happened yesterday”

Nazlie Connelly grew up on Hanover Street surrounded by the Star Bioscope and the Fish Market. “As kids on summer nights we used to sleep on our balcony up here. We woke up with the birds in the morning, we could look into Table Mountain, clear blue skies down to the harbour,” she said.

“This was prime land”

William Peterson was born in District Six and lived there until 1980 when they were forcibly removed. “You had no say of where you wanted to go, the Group Areas Act, they would tell you where to go to…They wanted all the coloured people out,” he said.

“There is no justice here”

As part of the Land Restitution and Reform Laws Amendment Act after democracy, Mymoena Kreysler’s father was provided with a house in District Six, which was passed on to her after he passed away. But Kreysler says the new homes are poorly built. She recalls the traumatic experience of her family being evicted by the apartheid police and moved to the Cape Flats. Her return to District Six after all these decades has been a bitter sweet experience as she says the dignity of residents is still being compromised. “Instead of it being the most joyous and wonderful thing… it was becoming the saddest thing because these homes are supposed to be the most beautiful homes …for the people who went through the most traumatic experiences.”

Visit the D6 Our Home Facebook Page for more videos

Videos courtesy of Yazeed Kamaldien

Yazeed Kamaldien is a Cape Town-born journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker. He holds a degree in journalism from CPUT and a post-graduate diploma in media management from Rhodes University. His journalistic work has been published in newspapers and magazines in various countries. In South Africa, he has worked with the Cape Times, Weekend Argus, Mail & Guardian and The Times newspapers.

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