District Six is an area of central Cape Town, with a rich and vibrant history.
In so many ways, the story of District Six mirrors the story of South Africa. Situated just above the port of Cape Town, at the foot of Table Mountain, it was part of an area originally inhabited by the Khoe-San people of Southern Africa. Later this became an important trading post on the spice route round the Cape, before being colonised by the Dutch and English.
Over time, a veritable United Nations of cultures, languages and backgrounds made District Six their home. While not a wealthy area, and with its share of ruffians and 'ne'er-do-wells'; it was a lively place to live, full of humour and wit, with a completely unique identity and strong sense of community.
During the apartheid years, District Six was declared a 'whites only' area and the residents evicted; thereby dismantling a multi-cultural, ethnically diverse and religiously tolerant community (an affront to the Nationalist government of the day).
I grew up in South Africa and while still at school, my mother gave me a book by Richard Rive called Buckingham Palace, District Six. In it, he affectionately tells the stories of the people and events from his childhood. It made a great impression on me.
The book paints such a colourful, joyful and frequently amusing picture of life in District Six, and through the exploits of Zoot, Pretty Boy, Moena Mooies, Mary, Katzen and many others: we share in the tale of a remarkable community.
When naming my business 20 years ago, and having visited the District Six museum a few months before; this book was fresh in my mind and so provided the inspiration.
While many people only associate District Six with the forced removals of the 1960s, I like to focus on what it once was in all its richness, colour and humour.
To find out more about District Six, I highly recommend reading Richard Rive's book and visiting the District Six museum in Cape Town, where many of the people and places are brought to life through photographs, artefacts and personal stories.