The museum represents a living memorial and is more than just a static display. Through this space we have created an arena which enables us to reaffirm our identity, celebrate our heritage and confront the complexities of our history.
Vincent Kolbe, ex-resident and founding member of the Museum
Using this guiding principle, the Museum has produced many diverse exhibitions involving a multitude of talented individuals. Visual artists, conceptual artists, sculptors, painters, musicians, curators, teachers, academics, youth and writers have all left their indelible mark on these creative expressions.
The current permanent exhibition, Digging Deeper, was launched in 2000 and builds on the conceptual narrative of the initial Streets: Retracing District Six exhibition which launched the Museum in 1994. It is a rich visual experience documenting various aspects of District Six life. In 2004 an extension to the core exhibition entitled Memory Traces was introduced. It marked the transition between Digging Deeper and the future work of the Museum as a site museum of consciousness.
Visitors are invited to navigate deeper into the lives of ex-residents, giving insight into their social, cultural, economic and political identities both past and present.
Digging Deeper was chosen as the title and organising framework for the exhibition that opened in the newly renovated and restored District Six Museum building in Buitenkant Street in September 2000.
The 170 year-old building, formerly the Methodist Mission Church, was closed for 18 months for restoration and alteration. The exhibition has attempted to 'dig deeper' into the Museum's collections, processes, and meanings. Digging Deeper engages with the multiple ways in which the collections, resources and spaces of the museum are used, and expresses the central intention of the Museum to enquire into the pasts of South African society and the workings of memory. The documentary material, oral histories and themes of the exhibition emerge from the collections of the museum.
The form of the exhibition is both multi-media and interdisciplinary, combining simple direct techniques (the immediacy of material, hand-mixed colour and hand-generated processes), with documentary, digital and sound elements. The voices of narrators and transcribed life histories of ex-residents are the major resource and departure point for the choice of exhibition themes. The title Digging Deeper has multiple implications. We have sought to deepen our knowledge of District Six, to ask deeper questions, and to begin to look beyond the geographic space of the District. We wish to keep alive the symbolic value of District Six's name as representative of other instances of displacement and forced removal throughout South Africa. The space is a living one, dedicated to working with memory: in remembering the events of forced removals, in considering the varied impacts of apartheid legislation on the lives of people and in choosing to focus on historical experience and subjectivity as ways of creating community and shaping society. We believe that the work of remembrance, within the context of the present, has a continuing significance for all South Africans.
The exhibition attempts to provide a framework for interpretation and for the active engagement of visitors, in particular ex-residents of places affected by forced removals, and their descendants. The aesthetic form of the Museum and its displays are rooted in the visual, verbal and material contributions, interventions and rituals of visitors. Some elements such as the large painted map in the central space and the street signs are permanent aesthetic features that signal the actual space of the District. But much else of the visible surface of the Museum will continue to shift and grow and be layered with new knowledge.view gallery