Zonnebloem and District Six Cape Town South Africa

Street Scene District Six
Artistic Street Scene District Six
District Six

Next week I begin volunteering at The Shine Centre. The centre is located in Zonnebloem, an inner-city residential neighborhood that’s part of Cape Town City Bowl District Six. The area includes Zonnebloem, Lower Vrede, and Walmer Estate. District Six’s interesting history began in the 1800s.

Andre de beers View of District Six – Kenneth Alexander Artist

In 1838 during the British Era after the release of slaves, South African families needed inexpensive housing in Cape Town. To meet the needs of a growing population of laborers, former slave owners turned ‘slumlords’ developed areas where they rented low-cost housing.

Monrovia Chapel District Six Table Mountain in Background

There were no building restrictions in Cape Town until the 1860s. As a result, housing in lower Cape Town and District Six was in cramped spaces between narrow alleyways without running water or plumbing.

District Six Street Scene
Home of Cape Jazz

In spite of poor, overcrowded housing conditions, District Six became a vibrant multi-racial working-class community and cultural centre. Those who lived there were supportive, tolerant, and enjoyed lively entertainment. As the heartbeat of Cape Town, District Six became the home of Cape jazz.

District Six Street Art – Cape Town Photos
Artist Street Scene Cape Town Lion’s Head in Background
Diverse Population

The eclectic community included former slaves, artisans, merchants, Portuguese and Irish sailors, Xhosas, Cape Malay, Jewish and other immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia, Muslims, and people brought to South Africa by the Dutch East India Company. There were fewer Afrikaners, whites, and Indians.

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District Six Fishmonger
district six8
Lion’s Head and Table Mountain Backdrop District Six
Hanover Street District Six


Today, Capetonians think that in spite of poverty, District Six was “rich in spirituality and community character”.


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District Six Street Scene
District Six – Blogilvy
1930s and WWII

During the 1930sDistrict Six began a dramatic transformation. By the beginning of WWII, developers had built thousands of new homes in the area. Sadly, most existing residents couldn’t afford higher rents for the new housing.

Woodstock Street Art – vacorps
Artistic Depiction District Six
1950-60s Government Redevelopment

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Cape Times ran a series of articles challenging District Six’s reputation as a “dirty infested place full of gangs and brothels”. Many saw redevelopment as a government scheme to introduce racial segregation. A series of articles in the Cape Times emphasized District Six’s positive aspects and fought back against forces pushing for destruction of the area because it was considered “crime-ridden, unsightly, and full of vice”.

Woodstock Street Artist Nardstar* – Design Indaba
Tale Mountain
Table Mountain Backdrop District Six

In 1966, South Africa’s National Party declared District Six a “White Group Area”. As part of a “slum clearance” redevelopment project, they destroyed all except religious buildings. Politicians claimed District Six was “squalid and dangerous”. During redevelopment, the government proceeded with “forced removal of about 150,000 people from unplanned residential areas“.

District Six – graffitisouthafrica.com
District Six Street Scene

The removal areas included coloured and African homes in District Six and Cape Flats. Many residents suffered the humiliation of being removed from their homes.

Woodstock District Six – graffitisouthafrica.com
St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Zonnebloem – digital.lib.sun.ac.za
1970s Zonnebloem

In 1970, the government renamed District Six Zonnebloem (Dutch for sunflower), after the area’s original Dutch farm, Zonnebloem Farming Estate. They wanted developers to transform the area, but activist organizations were successful discouraging further building in Zonnebloem.

Woodstock Streetart – Vagabundler
District Six Museum – blog.agetaways.co.za
Hanover and Tenant District Six – Kenneth Alexander Artist
Cape Peninsula University of Technology – Yellosa
1980s Oriental Plaza and Cape Technikon

By the 1980s, Zonnebloem population was mostly middle-income Afrikaans-speaking whites. There was no new building in Zonnebloem other than Oriental Plaza developed by Indian traders. The South African government-built Cape Technikon, aka Cape Peninsula University of Technology, including accommodation for its staff.

Cape Technikon Zonnebloem – UCT Libraries Digital Collections
AL Azhar Mosque Oldest Mosque District Six
1990s Fall of Apartheid

Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, District Six is still largely barren. Schools, churches, and mosques are all that remain of the original buildings. Today, Capetonians think that in spite of poverty, District Six was extremely “rich in spirituality and community character”.

District Six

Many consider District Six a symbol of “what apartheid did to families and communities”. The South African government recognized the claims of former District Six residents, pledging its support for rebuilding in the area.

Nelson Mandela Mural District Six – TripSavvy


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