Constantia heritage project to exhibit the pain of apartheid forced removals
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Cape Town - The Constantia Heritage and Education Project (CHEP) is calling on the those impacted by apartheid forced removals to share their stories and photographs for archival purposes, as it prepares for an exhibition to honour the past and the lives of Constantia’s displaced community.
Launched on Heritage Day in 2016, CHEP began with a spontaneous memory walk initiated by former Constantia residents forcibly removed under the Group Areas Act of 1950. The NGO was formally registered in 2018, and led by former and current Constantia residents.
UCT’s Centre for Curating the Archive, Christ Church Constantia, Iziko Museums and photographer Kent Andreasen are involved in the month-long exhibition titled ‘Hidden Rivers: the Untold Story of the People of Konstansie’, to be held in September, Heritage Month.
The exhibition will be an ongoing project and will be mobile for the purpose of accessibility, in particular in areas where families had been displaced to.
CHEP founding member Dr Claire-Anne Lester said: “The exhibition deals with questions of place, home, dispossession and longing. People were moved from farms to blocks of concrete flats in Parkwood estate. Many died of depression following this. These are the sorrows that could not be captured by national projects like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which our project seeks to honour.”
Her father, aunt, late uncle and grandparents were forcibly removed from their flower farm in Strawberry Lane, Constantia.
The exhibition is scheduled to be launched at Groot Constantia. Lester said any former residents who would like to be photographed or provide images to scan for archival purposes can reach out to them as well as those who would like to share their stories.
On the exhibition, Lester said: “It is significant because it is highlighting a period and space in the history of the city that has been relegated to the sidelines. We all know about Sophiatown, and District Six; but how many people are aware that forced removals happened all over – Constantia, Claremont, Harfield Village.”
CHEP aims to build a permanent community centre in Constantia, dedicated to the preservation of heritage and education
Musician, heritage artist, and CHEP co-director Ernestine Deane grew up in Grassy Park, following her family’s forced removal.
“I have always been of the view that the trauma that we experience on the Cape Flats, which was a massive area designated around the time of the forced removals that we were all shoved onto, it's become a breeding ground for the social ills that we see, whether it is gangsterism, drug abuse, substance abuse, broken families, because communities were broken.
“Men were emasculated from providing for their families, having subsistence farms and suddenly you’re cast out and zoned into another area. You're on a bicycle to work in a factory or to garden the very same land that you’d farmed. These are massive blows to the roots of a family. The pain must be witnessed and must be spoken about.”
The public can assist by donating via Backabuddy under ’Constantia Heritage and Education Project Exhibition’. For more information or to get involved, email [email protected] or call 078 198 1156.