(Dis)playing the Game attempted to trace, understand, document and celebrate significant aspects of more than one hundred years of sport in disadvantaged communities in the Western Cape, before, during and after apartheid. Black or “Non-White” communities (as people of colour were described) developed sport as a site of political resistance, particularly during apartheid when political organisations were banned, and as a means of creative cultural expression. When people had limited opportunities for exploring their talents, sport made it possible for them to develop their own stories, values, and strengths. People emerged from this process with a sense of identity and with dignity. The exhibition was an attempt to foreground this process as central to the making of social identity in the Western Cape
The exhibition began to collate some of this history in a way that made the information available, and exposed it to healthy public scrutiny and debate.
The role of sport in communities is not purely recreational. It creates a forum for the development of crucial community skills such as initiative, leadership, self-discipline, cooperation and conflict management. It is instrumental in shaping identity and building the community values of trust, respect, consideration and sharing, as well as engendering a feeling of unity and belonging. The strength of this sense of identity and unity was frequently used as a basis for collective bargaining in the days before the recognition of trade unions.
Sport also has the potential to build a framework whose codes can cut across the boundaries of language and culture. Evidence of it having done this in the past was buried and destroyed by apartheid and the Group Areas Act. It is this untold story of the vigour of sporting codes in dispossessed communities which the exhibition uncovered in the hope of strengthening these values in our communities.
The collation of the sports exhibition was a process of discovery, reconciliation and renewal. Its focus was the documentation and imaginative reconstruction of the sporting life and cultural heritage of various communities in the Western Cape Province who were affected by the Group Areas Act and apartheid system. Over the years the sporting codes have produced great stories, great players and great administrators. Numerous associations were dealt a severe, often crippling, blow as a result of established communities being uprooted and scattered. When these codes were destroyed, it was not only a material loss but a spiritual loss as well.
The District Six Museum and MEWUSA, along with community sports personalities, worked together on this exhibition. Workshops, which were well supported by representatives of the various sports organisations, proposed valuable suggestions for the exhibition. Collections, rich in photographs, brochures, trophies and other artefacts, were identified. Memories provided the potential for the collection of a rich oral history and for an innovative and creative construction of the past. In the process of this exhibition, the Museum crossed new boundaries in recounting history, with partnerships, and in the creative construction of displays.