Assessing sense of place amongst returnees of District Six, Cape Town
Burgess, Ashleigh Georgia
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District Six was a pre-apartheid community destroyed by racialized forced relocations. Under the Group Areas Act of the apartheid rule, all District Six residents were forcibly relocated and scattered around the city and elsewhere. The area was obliterated and only places of worship were spared destruction. An affluent white inner-city suburb was one of the state's plans, but it was never realized as former residents protested this apartheid development objective. In the wake of the apartheid’s demise, a land restitution programme was enforced as one way of addressing the country's national recovery through the operations of the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights, performed congruently with the Restitution of Land Rights Act (Act 22 of 1994). But this process has been dilatory and intermittent with respect to District Six, characterised as prolonged experiences of disappointment and occasional bursts of increased efficiency. Accordingly, only a handful of claimants have returned to District Six to date. Little is known about how the returnee community have reclaimed a sense of place in the re-settled District Six where only the immaterial memories still remain. This study thus seeks to fill that research gap through assessing sense of place amongst returnees of District Six. The study also recognizes that District Six is part of the corridor of rapid gentrification and seeks to explore how the by-products of gentrification stand to threaten the returnees’ reconstituted sense of place. The study adopted a qualitative research methodology approach using the phenomenological/interpretivist approach. The qualitive methods used were semi-structured interviews, photo-elicitation interviews, and fieldnotes. These methods allowed for an in-depth exploration of the returnees’ experiences of a sense of place in the re-settled District Six. The findings revealed complex renderings of place in District Six composed of memories and meaning-making from the past and present, contributing to geographical literatures on home, community and place. The findings of this study conclude that the relational geographies of District Six returnees are complex, multiple and ever-evolving while their struggle for home and a new sense of place is incomplete.