Travel Photo Essay – District Six

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the history of this ‘former inner-city’ residential area of Cape Town, South Africa, it is a place that has seen much trauma and heartache but that has also known great beauty and human solidarity.

During the 1970s, the former Apartheid government forcibly evicted the residents (who were ‘people of colour’ or non-whites) from their homes and, barring a few local churches and mosques, much of the area was destroyed.

Perhaps nothing can ever properly ‘re-compensate’ the 60,000 plus residents who were removed from this area but since 1994, efforts have, nevertheless, been made to recompensate those that are still alive today – or at the very least, their families.

As with anything in life, this gradual ‘re-development process’ (Note: this is just my phrase for it, not an official one), which began in 2003, has faced several significant setbacks over the years, many of which have been man-made, and has resulted in much debate and internal rumblings from all concerned.

However, things have slowly begun to get better and the area is now a wonderful mix of: places of worship, my very own university, the Cape Peninsula of Technology (or CPUT) – formerly known as the Cape Technikon –  shops and businesses, as well as housing complexes and last, but by no means least, one can find new, white-washed homes with brightly coloured entrances that hark back to the formerly colourful, vibrant District Six region of yesteryear.

According to mediaclub.southafrica.com, these homes (which can be found just below CPUT’s main Cape Town campus), can be best summarised as being: “a mix of three- and four-storey apartments and one- and two-storey row houses with balconies, all with possibilities for expansion by the homeowner” and are further being “built… and given to residents – some of whom are in their 80s – for free.”

Both sentences paint an accurate picture of this housing area as one finds it today but they fail to capture the beautiful, clean white buildings with their colourful front entrances, doors and mailboxes, the sweet balconies with accompanying gardens, the sleepy little side-streets, the tranquil residents, many of whom are indeed elderly, that quietly and peacefully frequent and reside in this area, as well as the spectacular views afforded to one as you stand next to or among these ‘new’ homes.

The mountain, local places of worship (churches and mosques alike, another special feature of this region) and distant harbour views make this ‘new’ section of Cape Town truly unique.

It’s true that the new homes can’t heal the injustices of the past by any stretch of the imagination… but, in my opinion, they certainly add a lot of much-needed character and sense of restfulness to the present moment and just maybe, they can one day provide a sense of hopefulness for the future as well – no matter how small it may be.

Below are some shots I took of the ‘new’ housing area below CPUT:

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Views of the mountain and CPUT.

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Two prime examples of the architecture of the new homes.

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Blue is one of the primary colours of this area. Pink, yellow and green can also be found.

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Even the mailboxes match each house’s colour theme.

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Some residents have small but lovingly maintained gardens.

Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan

Tamlyn Ryan is a writer and blogger, who runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust. Despite a national diploma in Journalism, her preferred niche remains travel writing. She is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and above all else, the great outdoors.

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