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Finding your way back home after being ‘uitgesmyt’

Dr Siona O’Connell, University of Pretoria’s academic and filmmaker. Picture: Supplied

Dr Siona O’Connell, University of Pretoria’s academic and filmmaker. Picture: Supplied

Published Sep 22, 2023


Pretoria - Uitgesmyt – cast out – is a documentary by Dr Siona O’Connell which tells the story of the first land restitution case in South Africa.

The story centres on the coloured community in Elandskloof, in the picturesque Cederberg region of the Western Cape.

The community was forcibly and violently removed from this area in 1962 when, as a result of the Group Areas Act of 1950, the land was sold by the Nederduitse Gereformeerder Kerk or Dutch Reformed Church, and people’s homes and belongings burned and bulldozed.

In 1996, this community was the first to have their land returned to them by the post-apartheid South African government. However, returning to their land was not the end of their struggle.

Elandskloof was home to a community of farmers whose initial dispossession created an economic and social vacuum that has entrenched a repeating cycle of poverty and attendant ills.

According to O’Connell, Uitgesmyt tells the story of the challenges, failures and opportunities of the land restitution programme, as well as of restorative justice in the post-apartheid country.

Through his assistance, the acclaimed late South African sculptor David Brown helped University of Pretoria academic and film-maker O’Connell reshape one of her studies of forced removals.

In 2015, Brown shared photographs he had taken in the 1970s when he was a student at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at UCT.

The pictures show members of a community living in Harfield Village, in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.

Thanks to the notorious Group Areas Act, Harfield Village, like District Six, Claremont, Newlands and Simon’s Town, saw many of the coloured, black and Indian communities forcibly removed to an expansive and inhospitable area of the Cape Flats on the outskirts of the city centre.

Brown’s photographs became a window for O’Connell to tell the story of how the lives of those in a community, with their camaraderie and closeness, were physically ripped apart, and they were forced to cope with the alien and hostile environment of the Cape Flats.

Areas like Manenberg, Lavender Hill and Mitchells Plain became fertile ground for the escalation of poverty, crime, drugs and gangs, which continue to plague people on the Cape Flats today.

Pretoria News