Museum shares Cape Flats heritage

Guitarist Cameron Ward played his song, Sophia Town.

A new museum in Mitchell’s Plain explores the rich heritage of the Cape Flats, including its triumphs and its heroes but also its ills and its pain.

Ricardo De Reuck, the director of the Cape Flats branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), says the idea for the YWise Up Museum came to him after his nephew was shot dead in 2019.

“It dawned on me that I needed to do more to help those caught in gangsterism and those who are victims to gang-and-crime activity. Visiting the Khayelitsha museum also sparked the need for Mitchell’s Plain’s very own museum,” he said.

The museum is sited at the Rotary Camp in Strandfontein and is due to open in December, but local artists and the Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Anroux Marais attended a pre-launch function there on Tuesday September 29.

Displays in the museum tell the stories of, among other things, Cape Flats heroes and the history of District Six. But there is also a memorial to victims of gangsterism and crime. One room is set up as a mock prison cell where those who have experienced life behind bars will be able to tell their stories. There will also be a chance for visitors to experience the culture of the Cape Flats, including its food and games.

“Visitors should experience part of our culture. There are children and some adults who are not aware of their history and what contributes to it,” Mr De Reuck said.

Strandfontein CPF chairwoman said she wouldn’t hesitate taking the young people she worked with to visit the museum.

“This place will drive young people and empower them. I think the most intriguing room would be the mock prison cell. It will tell a story and open their eyes to a reality within their communities… I am honoured to have been in such an enriching place.”

Poet Haroldene Tshienda, djembe drummer Azola Mgogo, guitarist Cameron Ward, pianist Donovan Williams and rapper Michael “MP” Palmer were part of the pre-launch.

Ms Marais said it was a beautiful way to end the month in which South Africans celebrated their heritage.

“Much of the history is preserved in the minds of the storytellers. To truly understand our past from a unique perspective, it’s important to drive a formal programme to capture the unique stories. Through the YWise Up Museum, personal histories and community experiences will become shared heritage while promoting social inclusivity and community development,” she said.

Artist in Athlone founder Kenneth Alexander created the District Six murals on the museum’s walls.

“These murals,” he said, “are part of who we are. It represents us. It is an honour to have been a part of the pre-launch – only positive things can come from this.”

Anyone who would like to contribute to the museum can contact Mr De Reuck at cflatsy@mweb.co.za or 083 461 8763.