Memory project maps the history of D6

Members of the Peninsula Maternity Hospital Memory Project gather at the District Six day hospital to install the new mural.

Participants in the Peninsula Maternity Hospital Memory Project have adorned the old hospital building with another mural.

The building is being extensively renovated, and they aim to complete the “installation of memories” before the new hospital is finished by next month.

According to the provincial health department, the community health centre, which was initially set to open later this year, will open in 2018.

The opening of the District Six day hospital will also see Woodstock day hospital and the Robbie Nurock clinic close down, as the two will amalgamate and move to the new facility.

But with most of the work on the building done, the former District Six residents have placed their second mural at the entrance of the hospital, this time with silhouetted images of some of the residents, spray-painted with symbols which remind them of their old community.

Project co-ordinator Jasmina Salie said the images, called body maps, symbolise the past, present and future.

“The entire project is about restoring the dignity of a community that was lost. This mural is about preserving the memory of the people. When the community centre opens, we want people to feel welcome.

“We want peace and equality, and we don’t want people to feel displaced.

“The body maps were painted by the members of the project. We were all taught to spraypaint, and then we took pictures of the old residents and painted them with symbols that mean things to us – like flowers for growth and doves for peace. It’s so beautiful and colourful. We are proud of this project.”

Christine Julius of the District Six Museum, which is facilitating the memorial project, said it was exciting to see all the work coming together.

“We are like children in a sweet shop. We are very proud of the participants today, and it’s their day.”

She said the participants, most of whom are elderly, had to learn how to embody their emotions through movement. “We got (actor) Quanita Adams to come and show them how to move. It was fun, but it was also a healing process for them. It wasn’t an easy task, but the body map, at the end of the day, is a part of their lives and emotions that they have on this wall.”

The curator of the project, Ayesha Price said it was a wonderful feeling to get to a place where everything comes together. “I think the process is better than the product though, and it was good to witness the full commitment from each of the participants.

“This project started late last year, and it was about connecting physically and plotting thoughts and expressing it through movement and the body. However, only a limited amount of bodies could fit on the wall, so we chose to have a diverse picture – we have ex-residents, current residents, nurses and matrons of the hospital staff, a four-year-old and her mother – we tried to include all the memories of everyone.”

District Six resident Mymoena Kreysler, who featured on the wall, said she is in awe of the body maps. “It’s beautiful to see now that the colours are up and it is coming together – you don’t see it while working on it laying flat on the ground, and I appreciate it so much more now.

“This is the culmination of our work. It is so colourful and divine. I did the pose of give and take – I tried to express the fact that this hospital is a caring environment.”

Washiela Mosaval battled to describe her emotions. “I feel honoured to be on this wall – it’s a blessing. I’m actually from Bo-Kaap, but my family is from District Six, so it was still my community. I feel like crying. It’s so awesome.”

Susan Lewis said it was an emotional moment for everyone, not only for those featured on the wall.

“We are one big family, and when people from our family come to visit the health care centre, I can proudly say ‘that’s me on the wall’.

“I am proud to be part of this project. We are so proud that it is coming together. The nostalgia is such a good feeling.”

Solly Ariefdien, who lives in Lansdowne, felt good about his body map. “I’m happy that it’s going up. I’m one of the oldest ex-residents here, and this project gave me an opportunity to move and get creative.

“I hope to see some poetry on the wall too, though.”

Amelia Brinkhuis, from Vanguard Estate, spoke on behalf of her son, Ravaughn, who was also one of the artists, and her mother-in-law, Marina, who were not able to attend the event, but featured in the body maps. “It is an accomplishment to see what we have created. I helped with some of the finer details, like the bubbles on my son’s body map. He showed me how to do it, and it feels amazing that my signature is on his body map. It is an honour.”

Ms Price said: “The wall now represents what we wanted it to, and when people walk into the community health centre, they will feel welcome. To see it go up and to see everyone happy with the result is the greatest joy for me.”

She said the members of the memorial project will still put up an installation of the Flower of Fatima, a traditional flower used at the Peninsula Hospital that was placed in water when a woman went into labour; once the flower was fully opened, the woman was ready to give birth.

Other memorabilia and pictures of the old hospital staff and patients will also go up later this month.