The vibrant diversity of District Six comes alive with a new photographic exhibition about one of the area’s famously fabulous residents known simply as Kewpie. The exhibition will run at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre in Cape Town from September 21 until January 18.
Cape Town - She was an adorable and colourful part of the fabric of District Six. Now the story of Kewpie, a famous drag artist and hair stylist, will come to life in a photographic exhibition at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre.

The exhibition, titled Kewpie: Daughter of District Six, will run from September 21 until January 18. Kewpie was born in 1941 and this exhibition features a selection of photos from an archive of 700 prints and accompanying negatives. Of these, approximately 100 photos will go on show dating from the 1950s to early 1980s.

Art lovers will become familiar with Kewpie, who was a well-known hair stylist and drag artist who would often perform on stage to packed audiences at District Six’s Ambassador Club. Kewpie also ran Salon Kewpie in Kensington.

She passed away in 2012. The District Six Museum and the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (Gala) are joint hosts of the exhibition, with funding from the Norwegian embassy in South Africa.

The District Six Museum focuses on preserving narratives and artefacts from the area, which was demolished during apartheid. Gala is the keeper of a uniquely African archival collection. Through exploring Kewpie’s life story and queer culture in District Six, this exhibition is expected to promote diversity.

District Six Museum director Bonita Bennett said: “A wonderful story of resilience, zest for life, style and community lived out against the backdrop of forced removals.”

The exhibition depicts the full and complex lives of Kewpie and friends, showing both the carefully crafted public personae of the drag queens and also their private “off-duty” lives.

The museum’s exhibition curator Tina Smith said: “Gala has a valuable resource which records a thriving and celebrated queer culture within a community that has since been displaced. The collection reinforces historical understandings of District Six as a close-knit community where diversity was accepted, while highlighting a lesser-known aspect of District Six history. ”

Gala director Keval Harie said: “Kewpie’s legacy raises important and necessary questions for the LGBTIQ+ community in terms of issues of identity. We need to move beyond binary approaches of identity and support communities, particularly the trans community, and focus on being gender affirming.” A number of events are planned, including a panel discussion and exhibition walkabout on September 22. A Heritage Day celebration on September 24. The documentary A Normal Daughter: The Life and Times of Kewpie of District Six directed by Jack Lewis will be screened in October.


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Cape Argus