Keeping maternity memories alive

2016-11-15 09:56
Former staff and residents are taking part in a project to memorialise the Peninsula Maternity Hospital.

Former staff and residents are taking part in a project to memorialise the Peninsula Maternity Hospital. (Gary van Dyk)

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With a new health facility in Caledon Street set to open soon, the rich legacy of District Six is being kept alive.

The new healthcare centre is under constrcution on the former Peninsula Maternity Hospital site.

Since August, a team comprising former nurses, staff and residents who were born there have been working on the project to memorialise the role the facility played in the community.

Art teacher Ayesha Price is the curator of the project. She says with the history of forced removals from the area the process is sensitive but very rewarding.

She explains they are working very closely with the District Six Museum with a team that includes Chrischene Julius, acting head of collections at the museum, researcher Terry Jo Thorne, artists Donovan Ward, Gary Frier, Garth Warely and Mo Hassan and dramatic arts specialist Quanita Adams.

“Our process is based on full participation and empowerment of community representatives to ‘write’ their own history for generations to come and our role as lead artists and curator becomes one of being responsible for facilitating this collaborative process with integrity and providing extensive technical support,” she says.

“Every Saturday in the introduction to the project in August we hosted a variety of workshops designed to stimulate creative ideas and solutions followed by a practical or experimental session.

“The ideas and works produced during these workshops will provide the format, content and concept for the memorials. The installation of these works take place in January and February next year.”

She adds that there are about 30 participants with ages ranging from five to 93 years who are former residents of the area, residents who have returned to the area and, most importantly, former staff members from the facility.

Working with the health department the project will feature a number of installations at the new facility.

“There will be a wall with a steel sculpture symbolising the nurturing and life-supporting function that the hospital played in District Six and surrounding areas,” explains Price.

“Another wall will feature a collage incorporating the main concerns and concepts that arise from the creative workshops.

“There will also be a video wall. There we will feature all the archival material we feel needs to be in the public eye, including photographs and video footage collected by researchers and project participants.

Another interesting feature will be the wall of mixed media installations where the participants have designed body maps alluding to the sense of community that the hospital inspired and the hope for the future of the area, Price says.

“With the design of the new facility there will also be additional spaces for smaller items of historical value. This will include artworks produced by individual artists during the course of the creative workshops.”

Jasmina Salie, from Kensington, is one of the former residents of the area taking part in the project who is very proud of her part in the project.

“The story and legacy of Peninsula Maternity must never be forgotten,” she says.

“So many of us were very sad when it closed, but the biggest sadness was the forced removals that broke the spirit of so many people. This project will be telling that story of a sort of victory for us.

“The many lives that started here, the staff in the medical and admin fields who went on to bigger things in their careers were all inspired and motivated by the lives of those in the area, and now that story is going to be told.”

The history of the maternity hospital started in Woodstock, when, towards the end of World War I, the Cape Hospital Board felt the need to establish a training hospital specialising in midwifery.

When the existing training hospital outgrew its rented facility in Woodstock, the Cape Hospital Board looked to relocate it to District Six and rented Buckingham Lodge in Zonnebloem from the Eastern Telegraph Company for this purpose from 1921 onwards. The early hospital initially shared the building with the Lady Buxton Home, an orphanage, which occupied a third of the building.

The Peninsula Maternity Hospital in District Six was amalgamated with Mowbray Maternity Hospital in 1992.

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