This study is a contribution to the programme of memorializing District Six through the site-specific stories that are shared in research, education, and the co-curated spaces of the District Six Museum. When buildings, streets, street names and place names are erased from a landscape; when cultural, economic, religious, and educational spaces are shut down; then people’s connections to place are disrupted, diverted, reimagined, often lost to future linked generations. These connections, however, continue to live on in people’s memories - individual and collective, sometimes lying dormant waiting to be triggered into wakefulness and visibility. In the case of District Six, these memories have lived on as nostalgia about a recent past with the trauma, often, edited out. Consequently, District Six has frequently been rendered as a stereotype - a friendly, unproblematic, tolerant, kanala place, where grand narrative re-enactments provide a sense of closure for some or evokes a sense of renewed anger about the stories not told and the unfulfilled restitution process. The stories of women factory workers are a case in point, where the closing down of factories and the subsequent loss of livelihoods are remembered in two ways. Firstly, through a lens of nostalgia premised on the idea that the past was a better place when we had jobs and could feed our families. Secondly, this recent past is also remembered with a sense of unresolved anger that people are less important than profit margins and real estate - a mentality that resulted in the export of cheap labour factories overseas and gentrification. This study explores the stories of two women clothing workers from District Six. I mapped out the important clothing factories contained in the stories of the two women I interviewed like, for example, the Ensign Factory that was in a section of District Six now rezoned as part of Woodstock. The site and its surroundings have taken on a new corporate brand but still lives with the spectral traces of the old District Six. I make these and other District Six fragments more visible through the stories of Ruth Rosa Phala-Jeftha and Farahnaaz Gilfelleon, using the District Six Museum’s oral history methodology – one steeped in a critical pedagogy where the storytellers have agency and are invited into a co-curated sense-making and interpretive process.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2020.