CPUT stu­dents to learn story of Dis­trict Six

Ini­tia­tive aims to im­part his­tory

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - YAZEED KAMALDIEN

DIS­TRICT Six ori­en­ta­tion tours are planned for stu­dents at the Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy ( CPUT) as many ap­par­ently do not know the his­tory of the area.

Mandy Sanger, head of ed­u­ca­tion at the Dis­trict Six Mu­seum in the city cen­tre, said this week the mu­seum man­age­ment was con­sult­ing with CPUT on mak­ing sure new and ex­ist­ing stu­dents be­came fa­mil­iar with the area’s his­tory of apartheid-era forced re­movals.

“We have pro­posed to CPUT that all first-year stu­dents and oth­ers be ori­ented through the mu­seum about Dis­trict Six. They need to walk through the area,” said Sanger.

Jac­qui Scheep­ers, who man­ages com­mu­nity en­gage­ment projects for stu­dents at CPUT, con­firmed a pro­posal was on the ta­ble to start the ori­en­ta­tion tours early next year.

Her col­league Des­mond Jack­son, part of a CPUT task team work­ing with the mu­seum, said they wanted stu­dents to “know what hap­pened where they are walk­ing”.

“Stu­dents live there (in res­i­dences) but don’t even know the his­tory of the place. When you ask them if they know where it is, they don’t even know,” he said.

“They may have heard about re­movals that hap­pened here, but they don’t know who was re­moved.”

Jack­son said they were also look­ing at adding his­tory lessons about Dis­trict Six “into our stu­dents’ cur­ricu­lum so they can be sen­si­tised”.

Scheep­ers added: “We are grow­ing cit­i­zens who are mean­ing­ful to so­ci­ety and can make a con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety. It’s about the de­vel­op­ment of the self in the con­text of a demo­cratic na­tion.”

The tours would start build­ing a bridge be­tween the mu­seum and CPUT, which has in the past been in con­flict about how to re­store jus­tice for peo­ple of colour forcibly re­moved 50 years ago from Dis­trict Six.

Sanger said the mu­seum had long been con­cerned that CPUT “has not grasped the need for memo­ri­al­i­sa­tion” of Dis­trict Six.

“There are now in­di­vid­ual staff and stu­dents who are in­vested in rais­ing con­scious­ness about the area where they are learn­ing,” said Sanger.

The mu­seum had held public di­a­logues in­volv­ing CPUT staff, stu­dents and for­mer res­i­dents. Sanger said they wanted to en­sure CPUT would not ini­ti­ate projects that did not ap­pro­pri­ately memo­ri­alise the area’s his­tory “for the sake of tick­ing boxes”.

“We are con­cerned that CPUT will take a Dis­ney-fi­ca­tion ap­proach,” said Sanger. “They could pay ex-res­i­dents to dress up as min­strels to wel­come vis­i­tors with­out re­ally telling them the area’s his­tory. We are her­itage ex­perts and want to work with them on this.”

Sanger said the ini­tial Dis­trict Six was 150ha in size, with only 42ha avail­able for recla­ma­tion to for­mer res­i­dents who have lodged land claims with the gov- ern­ment.

Sanger said this meant the “area for memo­ri­al­i­sa­tion and re­turn has be­come smaller and smaller”.

CPUT is the largest oc­cu­pier of land where fam­i­lies pre­vi­ously lived be­fore their homes were bull­dozed.

Sanger said CPUT needed to start creat­ing memo­rial spa­ces to se­cure the his­tory of one of the most well-known ex­am­ples of forced re­movals.

The mu­seum was “not against new de­vel­op­ments, but there are ways of de­vel­op­ing that ac­knowl­edges the his­tory of a place”.

Jack­son said stu­dents could mean­while also get in­volved with schools in the area to teach art classes and work on ur­ban gar­dens with res­i­dents who have re­turned, as part of CPUT’s in­volve­ment with its neigh­bours.

“When the min­strels are in town they can per­form in the am­phithe­atre. There’s space for an ur­ban skate park and gar­den,” said Jack­son. “We need to look at how we can bring back the com­mu­nal spirit of Dis­trict Six.”

Scheep­ers said there had been shifts as “it’s a na­tional trend for uni­ver­si­ties to be more re­spon­sive and en­gaged with so­ci­ety”.

“We are also from the same trau­ma­tised com­mu­nity. We sit in meet­ings at CPUT and un­der­stand the need for trans­for­ma­tion.”

yazeed.kamaldien@inl.co.za

‘We’re con­cerned

PIC­TURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

Dis­trict Six Mu­seum staff Mandy Sanger and Chrisch­ene Julius are work­ing with the Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy to en­sure the sto­ries of forced re­movals are passed on to the in­sti­tu­tion’s stu­dents.

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