Pal­pa­ble rem­nants of District Six doc­u­mented

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - KAREN PRE­TO­RIUS Be­hind the Cas­tle, Wheat­fields & Wind­mills, Be­hind the Cas­tle For more in­for­ma­tion see @ be­hindthe­castle­book on Face­book.

DECADES be­fore District Six was flat­tened by bull­doz­ers, farm­ers toiled on the land there. This is doc­u­mented in a book, which will be launched in De­cem­ber.

A labour of love by au­thor Jim His­lop, the book on the renowned sub­urb delves into the his­tory of the area be­tween 1700 and 1850.

The work fol­lows His­lop’s first book, which was pub­lished four years ago and deals with the early build­ings of Ob­ser­va­tory. He planned on tack­ling Wood­stock, but was in­trigued by District Six be­cause he said not much had been writ­ten about the area’s early his­tory.

The area where District Six is si­t­u­ated orig­i­nally con­sisted of “mar­ket gar­den es­tates” (small farms) such as Zon­nebloem, which pro­vided pro­vi­sions for ships and the grow­ing Cape set­tle­ment. Res­i­dents of these semiru­ral es­tates were Euro­pean set­tlers and work­ers.

His­lop said he found the early in­hab­i­tants of the area, com­pris­ing landown­ers, im­mi­grants, freed slaves, ar­ti­sans and wash­er­women, re­flected the de­mo­graphic later found in District Six.

“What I found in­ter­est­ing is the mix of peo­ple was there from the start. It was a cross-sec­tion of Cape Town so­ci­ety that lived side by side,” he said.

The sub­urb was named District Six in 1867 when Cape Town was di­vided into mu­nic­i­pal dis­tricts.

is self-pub­lished and is be­ing printed lo­cally, with the help of spon­sors. It is di­vided into sec­tions which deal with the early es­tates, the early home­steads and the first streets of District Six.

Re­trac­ing the streets proved a chal­lenge be­cause when the sub­urb was de­clared a whites-only area dur­ing apartheid, “they just flat­tened ev­ery­thing”, His­lop said.

He found rem­nants of Hanover Street, and the book in­cludes maps of the old and new street grid; fa­mil­iar street names such as Ten­nant, Pon­tac and Chapel are recorded.

His­lop said “a nice sur­prise” was the dis­cov­ery of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal items such as but­tons and frag­ments of porce­lain, which could still be found on va­cant land in District Six.

He found de­scen­dants of for­mer res­i­dents vis­it­ing District Six, sit­ting on their haunches, scratch­ing for items that tied them to the area.

“You can see when peo­ple have an emo­tional con­nec­tion to the place. Decades later, that pain (from res­i­dents be­ing forcibly re­moved) is still pal­pa­ble,” he said.

He has ded­i­cated the book to the 60 000 peo­ple who were thrown out of District Six af­ter it was de­clared a whites-only area un­der the Group Ar­eas Act in 1966.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.