District Six Revisited
A collection of photographs of a symbol of cruelty and inhumanity suffered by the people of South Africa
In the varied architectural landscape of District Six in Cape Town lived a close-knit community of artists, musicians, writers, politicians, priests, sheikhs, workers, gangsters, sportsmen, housewives and business people. The Avalon, the British and National cinemas entertained the locals and two photographic studios in Hanover Street recorded their social life. There were restaurants, grocery stores, butchers, tailor shops, drapers and a large fish market offering a wide selection of sea produce at very reasonable prices. When, in February 1966, the National Party government announced that District Six was to be razed to the ground in order to make space for a new 'white area', the poet James Matthews suggested to George Hallett and Clarence Coulson that they photograph the area before the bulldozers came in. As young students of photography they produced an intimate portrait of District Six under the guidance of Peter Clarke and Sakkie Misbach, who also provided Hallett with film for the project. In the 1960s Jackie Heyns ran a weekly column in the Golden City Post called 'Aunt Sammy's', which he illustrated with his own photographs. The columns - three of which are reproduced here - were based on the real Aunty Sammy, a shebeen owner living in District Six with her white husband and a rich source of local stories. Gavin Jantjes was a student at Michaelis Art School who lived in District Six with his parents; his pictures were taken during his wanderings in the area. Finally Wilfred Paulse, a free-lance photographer, covered the district shortly before its destruction, along with the bleak new developments on the Cape Flats where most of the inhabitants ended up against their will. District Six Revisited is set to become the definitive collection of photographs of this vibrant suburb, whose destruction became a symbol of the cruelty and inhumanity suffered by the people of this country. It attempts to reconstruct the spirit of the place from important historic photographs, some of which are published here for the first time.
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