Saturday, May 31, 2014

District Six

My experience in Cape Town has been truly life changing. Prior to coming South Africa, I did not have much idea what to expect, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I thought that there would still be a lot of bitterness between the different racial groups because it's only been twenty years since the apartheid ended. However, after speaking to multiple individuals I have experienced that many people are not necessarily bitter towards a certain group but towards the past government. Many people whom I have spoken state that it's not the people's faults but the government's fault.

I've had very interesting days at Cape Town, but the most memorable day for me thus far has been visiting District Six museum. District Six was a district that was unlike other districts under the apartheid regime where various racial groups mixed. There were Cape Malays, Blacks, Jewish, Indian and White groups in the District who live harmoniously together for decades unlike the rest of the country where often other groups stayed within districts with their own races. Because one of cabinet minister's wife wanted a gentrification of the neighborhood and wanted only white families to live in that neighborhood, she convinced the government to pass an order to remove all of the residents from their houses. Thus, the government started the removal process and over the years, the houses were razed, and the people were effectively removed from their residences. These residences had been passed for generations. Because this action caused a huge uproar abroad, no houses were ever build in the District Six. Post-apartheid, the government has started the process to return the land to the residents slowly. However, since a university now dominates 40% of the land, and many residents have long since perished, it is difficult to re-distribute the land to all of the previous residents.

 It was truly sobering experience visiting the museum, which showcased the streets with the families names. The museum was filled with walls with pictures of individuals who had lived in District Six illustrating the lives of people. The pictures illustrated beautifully how people's lives revolved around their residences showcasing the resident's birthdays, weddings etc. If you think about it so so many life memories are formed around our residences. The museum also had a sheet with all of the resident's names. To top it all off, we had a guide whose family had lived in District Six for generations. The guide's family had migrated from Gujarat, India and his family was forcibly removed after living there for generations. Seeing the pictures of the museum really made me angry and truly resonated with me.  As my own family migrated from India, I can imagine how difficult it must be to uprooted from roots. My own grandparents also had issues with their house, which was forcibly taken from us in India by property developers. Your home truly plays an essential role in upbringing. Many people from District Six died with a broken heart because they were never able to return to their home as my grandparents who also died without ever seeing justice. Despite everything, though the guide clearly had a reason to be angry, he blamed the government for the issues that he faced without explicitly blaming any racial group. At the end of the tour, he said he was still waiting to get his house and hopefully he will see the house before his death.

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