District Six was home for many first generation South African Jews – most of whom had arrived from Lithuania and Eastern Europe between 1880’s and the introduction of an emigration quota act for Jews in 1930. Living memory of their early community has all but disappeared.
This exhibition, at the SA Jewish Museum, aims to rediscover the essence of what was once a very visible community. A community that was an integral part of the kaleidoscope of cultures and colours that defined life, in what was then Cape Town’s most integrated and vibrant neighbourhood. The history of the Jewish presence in District Six has largely been forgotten. The exhibition recalls the lives of those early immigrants. It shows the impact they had on the development of the Cape Town as a city and a society - and on the future of South Africa’s Jewish community.
The exhibition brings together memories that have been collected in the form of personal interviews, candid recollections and character filled photographs, all of which evoke the vibrant history of District Six and the Jewish presence therein.
From stepping off the boats, and arriving at the “Golden Medina” (the golden land) - as South Africa was described by Jewish immigrants - in the early 1900’s, faced with a language barrier, little money and often having left their loved ones behind, the exhibition offers a first-hand account of the early years of the Cape Town Jewish community, and how in this neighbourhood, the Jewish community took root in the city. Its legacy remains to this day.
District Six has rightly gained iconic status as a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man. But it is important to remember why District Six was so unique. It was the last vestige of when Cape Town was truly a port city with an eclectic and vibrant mix of cultures living side by side. The exhibition brings to life a unique and fascinating time in South African history when multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities lived together in a peaceful coexistence.
The Jews of District Six exhibition was developed in partnership between the Kaplan Centre, UCT and the South African Jewish Museum. Over the past two years, curators and researchers have documented, photo researched and conducted interviews in order to present a comprehensive insight into the lives and experiences of the Jews of District Six.
The exhibition will be on show from November 2012 to 19 May 2013 and is sure to bring back fond memories that will take you back to another time and another place.