Writing out of Ruins

Stories of District Six, Food and Home

In: Matatu

Abstract

This hybrid autobiographical/critical paper takes its cue from Yvonne Owuor’s paper in this volume, “Reading our Ruins: A Rough Sketch.” In her piece, Owuor combines a meditation on ruins—as physical, human, social and political—with the perspective of an autopsy, or “seeing for oneself”. In my paper I try to “see for myself” and in myself what it means to consider the ruins of District Six and the responses, individual and institutional, to its violent destruction. More specifically, I try to account for a recent oral history project completed by the District Six Museum which resulted in the writing of a food story and cookbook, District Six Huis Kombuis Tafel: Food and Memory Stories Cookbook (2016). My paper intersperses this critical account with italicised fragments of my own memoir (a work in progress) on District Six, apartheid’s psychic violence, home and food, that relate directly or tangentially to the critical segments. The memoir fragments provide a parallel tale of inner life that at times relates to and supplements the critical discourse, but also at times casts it into doubt.

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  • “District Six Museum Strategic Plan 2018–2021.” (Cape Town: District Six Museum, 2018).

  • La Guma. Alex. “Nocturn.” Quartet: New Voices from South Africa, edited by Richard Rive (London: Heinemann, 1963).

  • Nasson, Bill. “ ‘She Preferred Living in a Cave with Harry the Snake-Catcher’: Popular Leisure and Class Relations in District Six, c. 1920s–1950s”. In Nasson, Bill. History Matters Selected Writings, 1970–2016 (Cape Town: Penguin, 2016): 165–186.

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  • Smith, Tina (Ed). District Six Huis Kombuis Food and Memory Cookbook. Quivertree, 2016.

  • Soudien, C. “Holding onto the Past: Working with the ‘Myths’ of District Six.” In C. Rasool and S. Prosalendis, eds. Recalling Community in Cape Town (Cape Town: District Six Foundation, 2001): 97–105.

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