Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Remembering Protest

In an earlier blog-post sent through by Leslie Witz entitled 'Securing Hostel 33 for the Museum purposes' he described:

'When the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum was initially conceived of it was only Hostel 33 that was intended to be the museum. However, the museum had been unable to take possession of Hostel 33 as there were people living in it and alternative accommodation had not been found for them either in the Hostels to Homes project or in the RDP houses that were being built in Lwandle. The museum could not evict the residents but it did suggest that they place themselves on the waiting list for new houses. They did this, but for several years those living in Hostel 33 were not allocated new housing in Lwandle. Visitors to the museum (which had relocated to the Old Community Hall in Vulindlela Street) were still taken to Hostel 33 but with permission of those residing there.'

On the 1 May 2000, the day that the Museum opened, residents of Hostel 33 expressed their concern about losing accommodation and a protest sign was displayed on the door of Hotel 33 expressing residents' concerns. Leslie Witz was there and took the photograph below, recording the beginning of the Museum's struggle to assist with finding new accommodation for these residents and to secure the hostel for museum purposes.

Image of Protest sign of the sign displayed on the door of Hotel 33 by residents on the day that the LMLM opened on 1May 2000. Photograph: Leslie Witz.

In thinking about restoring Hostel 33, we have been concerned that this important struggle is somehow recorded in the exhibition at the Hostel. But the original sign has long since disappeared and all that we have is Leslie's photograph.

In this instance the team decided to remake the sign as an artifact, and artist Vivienne Gray was commissioned to do this. Using the photograph she carefully remade the sign, using similar materials - an old cardboard box - and slowly and meticulously copied the handwritten lettering in khoki pen.

Image of the reconstructed sign - 'on the drawing board' - commissioned by the LMLM's designer Jos Thorne and made by artist Vivienne Gray, 6 April 2010. Photograph: Vivienne Gray.

Once the sign was made, the team debated how to use it in the Hostel, now in 2010. Instead of securing it to the door, where it was originally displayed, it was decided that the sign will be hung inside the hostel. It has been framed (see image below), so that it is noticeably and artifact with the intention of marking this important moment on its history, and not simply reverting to the day, now almost 10 years ago, when it was first displayed.

On the 1 May 2010 the sign will be part of the new exhibition, and in this way, acknowledging the recent history of people living in Hostel 33, after 2000.

Image of the sign - remade for museum purposes by Vivienne Gray - and framed, ready to be installed in Hostel 33, 22 April 2010. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Lunga Smile, LMLM's Curator admires the recreated sign as new artifacts are being accessioned at the Museum, 28 April 2010. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reoccupying Hostel 33

Please join the staff of Lwandle Museum and women of Lwandle in symbolically reoccupying Hostel33 - Wednesday to Friday next week 28,29 and 30th April. In preparation for the Museum's 10th birthday on 1 May 2010, the museum will be exhibiting recreated living spaces in parts of the hostel as part of the experience of visiting the Hostel. Siboniwe Tyeku, Kholiswa Ngcane and Christine Makabane will be rejoining us all of whom were present for the reenactment of the space on Women's Day in 2007.

The Museum staff and exhibition team have been very busy collecting oral histories from previous residents and many, many artifacts (such as old beds and blankets or 'irugi's shown below) and we are now ready to begin the process of re-inhabiting the space to show, in more detail, how people lived - from the time of the single sex hostels to the later periods when women and families joined men in Lwandle.

The examples below show beds and blankets from the emerging collection, some of which are original (mainly through donations), others have been specially purchased for exhibition purposes after studying photographs and in consultation with people who lived in Hostel 33 and others.

These, along with other artifacts have been accessioned and meticulously recorded by Museum Staff, Simpiwe Khonono and Mphumzi Nzuzo.

Image of an old bed - we have collected many beds through the kind donation and interest of Lwandle residents. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

'Irugi's' - typical blankets used by residents, research courtesy Nonkululeko Gogo and Jos Thorne. Photograph courtesy: Jos Thorne.

Images of blankets purchased after research to re-create life in Hostel 33. Photograph courtesy: Jos Thorne.

'Basotho' types of blankets with decorations became more popular purchases for township dwellers in recent years, since the 1990s. Photograph courtesy: Jos Thorne.

When? 10h00 each day
Where? at Hostel 33. For directions see

Buildings contain stories of everyday life

The built fabric of Hostel 33 - specifically the additions made by those who lived in the space -contains many clues to the lives of its residents as they brought back remnants from their places of work and other sources to decorate and personalise the spaces they lived in.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum published a fascinating link this week, describing their on-going research through the respectful handling of the building and the artifacts it contains. This is a form of 'archaeology' of the site that shows how through research and continuous reflection, buildings give many clues to the stories of lives in spaces such as the Tenement Building at 97 Orchard Street New York and similarly in Hostel 33 at Lwandle.

In a similar manner there are a number of intriguing remnants emerging in Hostel 33, a selection of which are shown below. We will continue to post details such as this as we document the building.

Image from one of the partition walls at Hostel 33 showing cardboard box panels from Rainbow Chickens, wall paper pastings from Sunlight Soap bars, all nailed onto a timber superstructure with the characteristic 'bottle top' method. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Traces of more recent inhabitation of the Hostel post 1994, show election stickers for the African National Congress (ANC) from Nelson Mandela's time as head of the party. Photograph: Laura Davies.

There are many pages from popular magazines which were pasted onto walls inside hostel rooms, such as this one from the 1990s. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

In all likelihood workers residing in the hostels brought home materials from their places of work in nearby industries with which to create privacy in the hostel, such as in this image or to create insulation below the ceilingless roof. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Some remnants can be easily dated, such as this box which forms part of a screen wall in originates in the Gants canning factory which we know was a major employer or labour from Lwandle. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Locating the Corobrik Hostel

While on site at Hostel 33 on Thursday 22 April 2010, long-time resident of Lwandle and ex-migrant labourer, Tembisile Madyihi visited to see progress on the restoration. We asked him about the whereabouts of the Corobrik Hostel referred to in the Urban Foundation report of 1987 and he directed us to the hostel.

Tembisile Madyihi talks to residents of the previously Corobrik Hostel (now belonging to the City of Cape Town along with the others after the Hostels-to-Homes housing project). Photograph: Noeleen Murray, 22 April 2010.

The long hostel block, now named 'Block 1', is similar in character to the rest of the hostel units but is identifiable by an ablution block at the northern end of the hostel row which, according to Madyihi, was added by Corobrik for their workers. Other workers in the old hostel compounds were forced to share ablution blocks and this was the only accommodation with its own facilities.

View of Block 1 from the South, the hostel is subtly different to the others with different windows and is slightly shorter. Photograph: Noeleen Murray, 22 April 2010.

The characteristic ablution block added by Corobrik for their workers at what is now Block 1. Photograph Noeleen Murray, 22 April 2010.

One of the old ablution blocks near Hostel 33, now used as premises for a welding business, since bathrooms were built as part of the Hostels-to-Homes Project. Photograph: Noeleen Murray, 22 April 2010.

For the rest of Lwandle's hostel dwellers communal ablution blocks were 'separate shower blocks for every four hostel buildings' (Urban Foundation Report, 1987 p.19). The report records: 'c) Dissatisfaction with the ablution facilities: Hot water is only available between 3.30am and 5.ooam, and nothing for the rest of the day.' (Urban Foundation Report, 1987, p.26). In thinking about this, we considered the difficulties of being a labourer returning from a hard day of manual work and only being able to take a cold shower in the evenings.

From talking to current residents of Block 1 it appears that some of them were labourers employed by Corobrik and the Museum will be visiting them to record their stories as part of the on-going research into hostel life at Lwandle.

Documentary Photographs

Thursday 22 April was a busy day on site at Hostel 33. In addition to glazing the windows, academic and photographer Svea Josephy joined the Museum team, to photograph the interiors of the hostel in detail as part of the on-going documentation process. Equipped with studio lights, tripods, cables and other high-spec photographic equipment, Svea was able to capture a series of photographs which reveal the interiors of the Hostel in detail. Hours were spent in this process, carefully working in the cramped conditions of the interior spaces of the hostel in setting up lighting and capturing shots which will provide the museum with a substantial photographic record of the space – as it is in April 2010 – which has been previously difficult to do with poor light. These images will form part of the Conditional Report prepared by the architects and Renchius van der Merve and the Heritage Report prepared by the Museum. Photographs will be related and annotated in detail along with the on-going large scale drawings that Renchius is preparing to accurately record the materiality of the lived space of the hostel.

Svea Josephy squeezes into a tight corner to capture the detail of Hotel 33's interior. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Once again Svea’s has given LMLM freely of her time, effort and creative expertise spent in doing this which is really appreciated by the Museum - she previously contributed to the Lwandle Designers Exhibition – and we are excited to have this invaluable resource to assist us in the restoration process.

Thanks are also due to Kadephi Mtiya's kind assistance in allowing us to use the electrical connection from his home across the road, as Hostel 33 awaits being rewired and reconnected to electrical supply by the City of Cape Town.

New glass for the windows

Historian Premesh Lalu’s blog comment last week asked the question ‘what is glazing?’ Well here’s the answer to his question. On Thursday 22 April the windows of Hostel 33 were reglazed – or put simply – new glass was put into the old windows. Expert glazer Errol Hendricks and his team arrived on site to do the work. Over the years glass has disappeared from the small paned windows at Hostel 33, some through vandalisation in the past by children playing and throwing stones and some from breakages caused by missing or broken clasps on the old galvanised steel windows.
February 2010, broken window panes at Hostel 33. Photograph: Laura Davies.

With winter rains coming, the Hostel was increasingly vulnerable to wind driven rain and an urgent concern in the restoration process has been the simple repair of these windows – the replacement of glass and the ironmongery of the clasps to enable the building to be properly secured. Errol Hendricks and his team – John ‘Max’ Malgarte, Japie Pretorius and Suleiman Thornton – accompanied by Lunga Smile and Renchius van der Merwe were on site to do the repairs, which provoked much interest from passers bye that came to find out what we were doing with the old building.
Glazers John 'Max' Malgarte and Error Hendricks at work on site preparing the windows for re-glazing. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

As the team worked to clean the windows and prepare them for the new AGI N/S1 Safety Glass as specified by the architects, Lunga Smile and neighbour Kadephi Mtiya consulted neighbours who generously donated old window clasps from their own hostel-homes so that Hostel 33 would have matching original window clasps. (The Museum has replaced their own windows with newer style clasps which are commercially available).

Old ironmongery. Original window clasps were sourced by Lunga Smile from neighbours to replace those missing at Hostel 33. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Glazing in process - showing the new safety glass panes and the widow putty before being scraped down and finished. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

The old steel windows proved to be in remarkably good condition despite being located near the sea, owing to the fact that they were galvanised. This enabled the glazers to install the glass with minimal intervention as no primer was needed and only the areas affected were lightly scraped to receive the glass panes and putty, affixed in a manner faithful to the original glazing techniques. This was great news as the historic character of the windows can now be left untouched, revealing layer of old paint which has peeled off over the years and no interventions around the edges of the windows and cills as these are all in good order.

Thank you to the various neighbours who donated window clasps. Their support, interest and neighbourliness in the restoration of Hotel 33 is a vital part of the sustainability of the space as a Museum. In particular Kadephi Mtiya’s initiative in watching over the Hostel, and explaining its significance to children who might otherwise vandalise the building is an example of these good relations.

Neighbour Kadephi Mtiya and Lunga Smile hand over the donated window clasps to glazer John 'Max' Malgarte who was servicing and repairing the windows. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.
The delight expressed during surprise visits by Charmion 'Mama' Plummer and Siboniwe Tyeku - previous Board Member and champion of the Museum - captured the sense of relief felt by museum staff as the windows were secured.

Charmion Plummer photographed outside Hotel 33 showing the newly glazed windows in the background. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

So what do we do with the broken toilet building? PART II: THINKING THROUGH MAKING AN EXHIBITION

A fist step to answering this question from a Museum exhibition design perspective has been to research the history of the bucket system in South Africa. There is very little published material available and so our research approach entailed tracking down and speaking to engineers and officials in local authorities who had been responsible for the decommissioning of the bucket system toilets. Chemical engineer and waste water specialist Shehnaaz Moosa’s help was invaluable in this regard. She directed us to Denver Damons (Technical Services) at the Theewaterskloof Municipality who had been responsible for decommissioning the bucket system toilets most recently in Genadendal where black plastic buckets were used up until recently in makeshift ‘out-house’ structures. (See Image 1).

Image 1: Photograph of the bucket system in operation in Genadendal until 2009. Although the makeshift structure is noticeably different to those at Lwandle, the system of a seat and buckets used are similar. Photograph courtesy Shehnaaz Moosa.

Exhibition designer Jos Thorne approached Damons, and Vivienne Gray went through to meet with him. Through discussions with him as well as interviews and oral histories conducted by the Museum it appears that prior to these black rubber buckets were in use, then subsequently blue plastic buckets with ribs down the sides were used. It appears that first buckets used were zinc buckets. The Museum has now acquired nine buckets for use in the restored bucket system area (see Image 2). According to Jos ‘we have 9 buckets as per the 'bucket system'. 3 older ones, which are made from rubber and are black, 3 blue plastic buckets with the ribs down the sides, and 1 with the new shape, black and looks like the ones in photograph from '90s. We also have 2 galvanized buckets from the '50s or '60s, we think, but only imagine them being used as latrines.'

Image 2: Lunga Smile and Lundi Mama show off the buckets acquired by Vivienne Gray as artifacts for the display in the bucket system area of Hostel 33, LMLM 22 April 2010. Photograph Noeleen Murray

Having understood what the toilet cubicles looked like - what shape and form the seats took, how they were fixed to angle iron supports and with an idea of the conditions in these spaces when the bucket system toilets were in use - the Lwandle Museum team set about debating ways to represent this important story in the space. In designing an exhibitionary approach we are mindful of the needs and tensions between architectural conservation and interpretation of the space. Current conventions in architectural heritage debates favour a ‘conservation’ approach, which entails leaving the layers of a building evident, and clearly marking any new interventions, rather than attempting literal recreation or restoration by making ‘authentic’ replicas to a specific past.

There are many ways in which this can be achieved and we have debated different approaches in detail. We have decided on an approach which draws on a number of philosophies, from various precedents and sources explored in the process of research and design. While the overarching notions are those of conservation and interpretation, we have at times deemed it important to remember, restore, preserve, reconstruct, and rehabilitate.

The Museum’s main aim is to retain a strong sense of the history of the space and provide an interpretive framework. In order to do this it has been crucial to identify appropriate approaches to both the historic built- fabric as well as the senses of history of use over time. In the case of the bucket system toilet area, these approaches are applied as follows:
• the overall structure is to be conserved, allowing for the building to be experienced through a concept of layers over time.
• in order to achieve this we propose to rehabilitate the space to make it compatible for inclusion and use as part of the Museum complex at Hostel 33.
• this will necessitate repair to the building to be undertaken in such a manner that is in accordance with the Burra Charter notion of ‘doing less’ (See blogpost 'Experts Visit').

We have decided to remake three toilet sets which will be installed in the space as part of the exhibition, which – along with the buckets – will recreate the conditions underwhich the toilets were used (See Image 3). The fourth cubicle, which contains the fragment of the old toilet seat will be left as is, and the first two cubicles as one enters the space will be left untouched, respecting the way the building has aged. Minimal structural repairs to the brickwork will be made and a new brick screen wall will be built – to replace the walls that have entirely disappeared at the entrance to the toilet area.

Rather than recreating new elements in different materials as a means of marking their newness – an approach which Jos Thorne cautioned could be overly ‘postmodern’ - all new interventions and reconstructions will be noticeably new while containing a sense of authenticity and remaining faithful to the original materials used. So the materials for new elements used in the bucket system section area are based on the research mentioned in the previous post - toilet sets are being made from old Oregon Pine similar to the originals; bricks have been hand-picked to match the originals; the buckets that will be used in the space are original buckets kindly donated by Denver Damons and the Theewaterskloof Municipality or sourced and purchased for the Museum by Jos Thorne; and stories to be used on the Museum Tour are based on oral histories of peoples memories of the space. This was a point of much vibrant debate amongst the design team, resulting in a careful process of recreating and sourcing of artifacts based on research, which has become a key principle in our approach.

Image 3: From 18 April shows the template that is being used to remake the three toilet seats by Dave van Wyk. Below is the Oregon Pine timber being used. Photograph: Jos Thorne.

Image 4: Three remade seats made by Dave van Wyk are delivered, ready to be installed in the Hostel bucket system area. 28 April 2010. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

The Museum hereby acknowledges the expert assistance of Shehnaaz Moosa in exploring how the bucket system worked in places like Lwandle and in identifying the appropriate people to speak to which resulted in the generous donation of buckets from Denver Damons (Technical Services) at the Theewaterskloof Municipality which is hereby gratefully acknowledged. Thanks also to Dave van Wyk and Vivienne Gray's professional assistance with the curatorial aspects of the exhibition.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So what do we do with the broken toilet building? PART I: RESEARCHING

This is the question that the restoration team at LMLM has been debating over the last weeks. Following the clearing out of the old bucket system area at Hostel 33, the Museum team has been documenting and researching the space. The bucket system area is the only remaining structure of its type following the Hostels-to Homes housing project of the 1990s. Once this was completed, residents of Lwandle’s converted hostels received waterborne sewerage which effectively eradicated the bucket system from the old hostels. (For more on the Hostels-to Homes project visit the Museum’s permanent exhibition). The small lean-to structures that can be seen at the ends of alternate buildings in the 1987 photograph by Andrew Bermann were removed (Image 1). ‘Every alternate hostel has an addition containing a row of bucket toilets’. (Source: Urban Design Services [Bermann and Penz], 1987, Lwandle Investigation into the potential for Black Housing, Draft report for the Urban Foundation, February 1987, p.19) In their place, new units were added to the ends of each hostel building using larger concrete block construction.

In the light of this Hostel 33’s bucket system area, is hugely significant in telling the stories of living conditions prior to the housing project. Image 2 shows the state of the structure prior to cleaning out, more than ten years since it was last used.

Image 1: Lwandle aerial. Photograph: Andrew Bermann 1987

Image 2a: The derelict state of the bucket system before clearing. Photograph: Alan Middleton (Jakupa Architects), 2010, Draft Condition Report, photograph taken December 2009

Image 2b showing where new untits were added onto the ends of hostel bocks to increase the number of units and how the bucket system areas were removed from the ends of buildings, leaving the structure at Hostel 33 as the only remianing structure. Photograph: Noeleen Murray 22 April 2010.

Section 2.24 of the 1987 Report entitled ‘Exiting Conditions and Residents Problems’ cites a meeting with the Hostel and Women’s Committees in which a range of problems were communicated to the group which attended the meeting. (See Image 3 and 'Lwandle in the 1980s' on this blog). First among these was point a:

‘a) dissatisfaction with the bucket toilet system: Night soil is removed only 3 times a week. However the day after removal the buckets are already full of excrement, remaining there till the next day and in the case of weekends, for 2 days. The outside toilets are also far from the hostel rooms.’

Image 3 from the Report shows what a typical cubicle looked like, and Image 4, shows cubicle #5 at Hostel 33 which is the only cubicle containing a remnant of a timber toilet seats. From this evidence, cross checked with and careful measurements on site, Renchius prepared drawings of the seats – See Images 5 and 6. Samples of the timber remnant were carefully removed from the underside of the old seat and this revealed a fine grained hardwood, probably Clear Oregon Pine or Baltic Deal (views from William Martinson and Renchius van der Merwe). It was suggested that the samples be sent for testing.

Image 3: Photograph 5. Caption: ‘A bucket toilet cubicle. The floor is flooded with excrement making use of the system very difficult.’ Source: Urban Design Services (Bermann and Penz), 1987, Lwandle Investigation into the potential for Black Housing, Draft report for the Urban Foundation, February 1987, p.28

Image 4: Toilet cubicle #5 showing remnant of toilet seat. Photograph: Laura Davies March 2010

Image 5: Architectural detail drawings prepared by Renchius van der Merwe and sent for comment.

Image 6: William Martinson’s comments were ‘the drawing looks good’ with a few notes.

500 bricks arrive on site!

On Monday 19 April 2010, 500 NFP bricks arrived on site from Corobrik in Somerset West, kindly donated by Corobrik.

This followed in-depth investigations into the size, colour and type of bricks to be used for repairing the hostel and rebuilding the screen wall at the entrance to the bucket system area, which disappeared somewhere around 2005/6.

Bricks securley stored and carefully stacked ready to be hand-picked for colour and size. Photograph: Noeleen Murray, Hostel 33 22 April 2010.

500 bricks donated by Corobrik. Photograph: Noeleen Murray, 22 April 2010.

Project manager Renchius van der Merwe's efforts in this respect have been meticulous and after meeting with David Mellem and Allistair Cloete of Corobrik at Hostel 33 on Wednesday, 7 April 2010, Allistair suggested the possibility of Corobrik donating/sponsoring the bricks and their transortation to site.

Renchius van der Merwe's image of Hostel 33 bucket system area external wall shows precisely how uneven the existing brickwork and coursing is on site. Repair will entail hand-picking bricks for colour and size, which Renchius will do on site with the local contractor who is appointed to do the works! Photograph: Renchius van der Merwe 15 April 2010

Corobrik's kind donation is hereby gratefully acknowledged.

A close reading of the Urban Foundation Report by Urban Design Services (Bermann and Penz), 1987, Lwandle Investigation into the potential for Black Housing, Draft report for the Urban Foundation, February 1987, p.19. reveals that Corobrik once had a hostel in Lwandle, which makes this donation even more significant.

An extract from p. 19 of the 1987 Report reads:
" At present there are 41 permanent hostel buildings with 1 hostel privately owned by Corobrik."

We hope to find out more about this hostel and its whereabouts from residents through the Museum's on-going oral history programmes.

If anyone has any information in this regard, please could you let us know?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Visitors record their experiences at Hostel 33

Leslie Witz sent through the following link by Katy Beinart & Rebecca Beinart who visited Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum earlier this year.

Post #34 [9 February 2010]

View images such as this from the Beinart blog showing one of the rooms in Hostel 33.

Receiving and listening to feedback of visitor experiences is an important aspect of LMLM's approach as it sets about further developing its exhibitions and programmes, At Hostel 33, visitor accounts such as this one, often emphasize the experience of being taken through the old hostel (in which there are currently no exhibition displays in the conventional museum sense). Instead people are confronted with being inside the space and they have to imagine the conditions in which people lived up until relatively recently, as the Beinhart’s mention: overcrowding, lack of privacy, beds forming homes and the like.

Another Museum, with which the Lwandle Museum has shared experiences, gleaned creative ideas, and leant about curatorial approaches is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York. Earlier this year the U.S Consulate in Cape Town organized a tele-conference connection between the Tenement Museum and Lwandle Museum in which museum staff, along with consultants (Jakupa Architects) and designer Jos Thorne, were able to learn more from their innovative approaches to various aspects of the museum, from ways in which they restored the building, developed exhibitions and tours, to details about the collection of artifacts and oral histories of life-stories.

To learn more about this innovative museum visit:

Officials take an interest

On the 23 October 2008 Mark Canning from the US Consulate in Cape Town visited Lwandle Museum along with Sisa Ngondo and other representatives from the City of Cape Town who have supported the Lwandle Museum in numerous ways.

Museum curator Lunga Smile and Board Members Leslie Witz and Noeleen Murray met the party at the Museum which was followed by a walking tour (without Leslie Witz who was injured!) before returning to the Museum to find out out more about U.S Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation which the Museum and the City (as the land owners) were keen to know more about.

Lunga Smile takes the party through the exhibtions in the Old Community Hall.
All photographs Noeleen Murray.

Seeting out on the walking tour. ( Left to right Sisa Ngondo and CCT colleague, Lunga Smile, US Embassy visitor and Mark Canning).

Mark Canning was instrumental in informing the Museum of the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation that his country had set up. Following this visit the Lwandle Museum set about making an application to this fund, with the aim of restoring Hostel 33, which by this time was beginning to need repairs which the Museum could not afford. The Museum was however mindful of the international competition and received the news of its nomination as the South African entry with great excitement, which was amplified when the final announcement came that Lwandle migrant Labour Museum’s application was granted the award internationally.

Standing outside the fast deteriorating Hostel 33 building.

Lunga Smile's accounts of hostel life inside Hostel 33 , with Mark Canning (left).

Without this substantial grant and the support and enthusiasm of the U.S Consulate in Cape Town - Mark in particular - the restoration of Hostel 33 would in all likelihood not be happening.

For more information about the Fund see:

Securing Hostel 33 for the museum purposes

When the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum was initially conceived of it was only Hostel 33 that was intended to be the museum. However, the museum had been unable to take possession of Hostel 33 as there were people living in it and alternative accommodation had not been found for them either in the Hostels to Homes project or in the RDP houses that were being built in Lwandle. The museum could not evict the residents but it did suggest that they place themselves on the waiting list for new houses. They did this, but for several years those living in Hostel 33 were not allocated new housing in Lwandle. Visitors to the museum (which had relocated to the Old Community Hall in Vulindlela Street) were still taken to Hostel 33 but with permission of those residing there.

By January 2007 the situation had altered. Some of the residents of Hostel 33 had been allocated houses but once they had moved out a new group of young people had moved in without the permission of the museum. The museum had no authority to evict the new inhabitants but the curator was directed by the museum’s board to put up a sign indicating that the hostel was the museum’s property. Although this was done the youth took little heed of this. Problems continued to mount and it was reported from the neighbours that criminal elements were operating from the hostel. Evidence of the number 28 painted in one of the rooms is an indication that these reports were accurate. This is a number of one of the gangs that are formed in South Africa’s prisons. In the end the museum board decided that to ask Xolani Sotashe (the Lwandle councillor) to assist. Together with Cllr Sotashe the museum staff undertook some difficult and sometimes dangerous negotiations with these youth. Ultimately in June 2007 they vacated the premises. The museum, for the first time since opening was actually able to take possession of the hostel and secured the premises with a gate and a lock.

28's gang image painted onto the walls of Hostel 33.
Photograph by Noeleen Murray, February 2010.

Women’s Month of 2007 provided the ideal opportunity to formally mark the possession of the Hostel 33 by the museum. In choosing this moment the museum was signifying that despite the fact that under apartheid these hostels had been established as male spaces, from their inception women had stayed in the hostels. They had been subject to considerable harassment as under the laws and regulations of apartheid these women were illegally in Lwandle. It was also fortunate that at the time in 2007 Nungu Nungu, a student from the African Program in Museum and Heritage Studies, jointly offered by University of the Western Cape and the Robben Island Museum, was doing his internship at the museum. He came up with the idea to combine two events, the celebration of the Women’s Month and the securing of Hostel 33.

Nungu Nungu and classmates for the African Programme in Museum and Heritage Studies outside Hostel 33. 18 August 2007.
Photograph by Leslie Witz.

Nungu Nungu gave the title to the celebrations ‘Ubomi booMama emaholweni’
(Women’s Life in Hostels). The Women Ambassadors, who had been selected by the museum the previous year to publicize the activities of the museum to the community, were asked to decorate the Hostel 33 the way they remembered it. Lockers, beds, bedding, pictures from magazines, photographs, coat hangers and cooking utensils were all brought in an attempt to re-inhabit the hostel and depict their lives as they remembered it. On Saturday 18 August 2007, the group of women formally opened the doors to Hostel 33 and re-enacted elements of their lives. This included showing how a shebeen had operated in the hostel, how they made their lives around a bedstead and the ways they tried to deceive the police who were constantly raiding the hostels. Mrs. Kholiswa Ngcani, for instance, showed everyone how she used to hide away from police in the four door cupboard that was meant for luggage. One of the woman ambassador’s carried a small poster with the words that reflected on their conditions in the present compared with those that they had endured in the past. It read: ‘Lwandle today: a taste of freedom’.

Stories remembered inside the old hostel space, 18 August 2007.
Photograph by Leslie Witz.

Women re-enact a shebeen run from one of the spaces in Hostel 33. Soon after this image was taken a dratised police raid had on-lookers amazed as the women made themselves invisible by hiding in small spaces like cupboards, reminding their audience that women were of course not legal occupants of the hostels. 18 August 2007.
Photograph Leslie Witz.

Charette with the neighbours of Hostel 33, 12 November 2009

The Board of the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum was excited when the architects from Jakupa and Associates, whom we had appointed to provide professional services for the restoration of Hostel 33, suggested to us at the inaugural client-architect meeting held on 1 October 2009, that the first phase in the process be a series of charettes. The initial one would be largely with neighbours of the Hostel, and then a follow-up with the board and staff of the museum. They explained that a charette could be seen as a type of gathering together of ideas, concerns and challenges in quite an open-ended and from there honing in on specific issues which emerged from discussion that related to the envisaged project. The word charette means a cart or barrow, and quite literally the concept is to throw the ideas into the cart to begin working out a design solution. From the charettes the architect’s brief would be developed. This opened up the possibilities for the close involvement of those living in Lwandle and near to Hostel 33 in the museum activities and contributing towards the remaking of Hostel 33. The minutes of the client-architect meeting also indicate that one suggestion made was that 'the charette process could be documented and form part of the museum display'.

Neighbours, Board and Staff of the LMLM gathered for the Charette.
All photographs by Leslie Witz.

Key to the success of the charette was ensuring attendance and participation. Lunga Smile, the museum's manger, spent days speaking to the neighbours of Hostel 33 explaining to them what was being envisaged around the restoration and how it was essential that they become part of the process. Carefully and in detail he explained and answered questions about how the museum wanted them to become stakeholders in the future of the hostel as a proposed heritage site. The results of his efforts were evident when the first of the charettes was held in the restaurant annex to the museum (a converted large container) on 12 November 2009. Approximately forty people from Lwandle attended the charette which was facilitated by Khalied Jacobs and Renchius van der Merwe from Jakupa and Lunga Smile and Masa Soko from the museum’s side.

Staff from LMLM and Jakupa seting up for the Charette.

Each participant was given three small cards on which they were asked to write briefly and anonymously what they perceives to be the problems or challenges associated with the proposed development of Hostel 33. Masa and Lunga assisted some of the participants with explanation, translation and writing their ideas, so that all could make their contributions to the discussion. These were collected and grouped on the wall of the container with the audience participating and clarifying the points they had made. This took longer than anticipated as the response was overwhelming as participants debated and challenged the ways their points were being represented and grouped as they were being placed on the wall. When the idea was expressed in isiXhosa Lunga or Masa would translate into English, with the enthusiastic help of other participants in the workshop.

Broadly the responses can be categorized as concerns with memory, preservation, cleanliness, security and jobs. Conserving the memories of migrancy for future generations was a major motivation expressed for the project. What the process of preservation entailed though was quite ambiguous. Some saw it as keeping the hostel as it was before and not being re-built while others wanted it tidied up and made beautiful. Preservation was seen to involve painting, clearing up the litter, repairing the door, installing electricity, fixing the ceiling and putting up pictures and curtains. Issues of security were a major concern, mostly aptly expressed in the term ‘iburglar’. Ideas were put forward ranging from installing burglar guards, ensuring that children did not throw stones and break the windows to putting up a fence around the hostel. Finally there was a concern that those who live in Lwandle would benefit from the project especially in terms of job creation, both while the restoration was taking place and when tourists visited the hostel.

Neighbours describe details of the hostel.

After the ideas were posted on the board the participants divided into two groups to discuss and draw on paper what their vision was for Hostel 33. In both cases what the groups tried to do was represent diagrammatically what they thought the hostels had looked like: the divisions into compartments (one group drew 8, the other 12), the heights of the walls between compartments, the location of beds, tables and cupboards, the outdoor bucket latrines, and siting of the two light bulbs in the hostels. In one group there was an indication of how the hostels had changed over time, with initially no separation between the compartments, then with residents installing self-made curtains and later making divisions by hammering together pieces of wood in a frame. The discussion around what to include in the diagrams was heated and energetic. As a result the workshop began to run over time and the Rise and Shine Dance Academy who use the venue to practice their ballroom dancing during the week decided to practice on the lawn outside the museum.

Schemes were presented showing ideas and drawings, which were discussed energetically as Lunga Smile (right) kept everyone informed with running translations.

At the end group presented their vision of the envisaged restored Hostel 33, as the participants argued about what should be added or excluded from the diagrams. In the case of both groups there was an attempt to present the hostel in realist terms, with claims to accuracy being paramount and, almost inevitably, highly contested. There was also a sense that change had to be central and that the different lives of various inhabitants of the hostel for the over almost 50 year of its existence needed to be incorporated. At the end of the first charette there no firm decisions had been made, but most importantly the neighbours of Hostel 33 were being informed about the process of restoration and were making a substantial contribution to it. Probably the most apt summing up was from Christine Makabane, a museum board member, who voluntarily attached her name to the suggestion she put forward: ‘Arise and Shine Hostel 33 After Aparteit’, she wrote.

Participants at the Charette wrote comments on cards which recorded their ideas.