Alien Nation

As we have discussed District 9, the film, has links to District Six. This is an interesting article that gives you lots of information about District Six.

Science fiction has always provided the best metaphors for isolation and anomie, and District 9—the two-week-old box-office hit from South African director Neill Blomkamp about a population of alien “workers” from another planet whose ship crash-lands in Johannesburg—is no exception. The government confines the aliens to a quarantined neighborhood called District 9 for several years until, one day, there are too many of them and too little space; they have to be moved. Most of all, though, the film is a morality play: segregation hurts its architects as well as its victims. And, without giving anything away, the most salient fact about aliens isn’t their difference, but their likeness. Yet District 9 isn’t necessarily the metaphor everyone thinks it is. Of course it’s about apartheid and segregation, but to South Africans it’s also about Cape Town’s now-defunct District Six, and the real-life slums that rose up when it was dismantled.

At the turn of the 20th century, District Six (which Blomkamp studied for clues about the effects of social engineering and the resulting community disintegration) was a hive of activity not unlike New Orleans’s French Quarter: a warren of clogged streets filled with butcher shops and bakeries, churches and mosques, old Victorian houses, bars and clothing retailers. While it was known primarily as a so-called Colored community, it was also home to a large Jewish population, and it is not a romantic exaggeration to say that Muslims, Christians, blacks, and whites all lived together in relative harmony. Because of its proximity to Cape Town’s port, District Six was a frequent stop for the American, British, and Italian sailors whose ships made frequent ports of call there—making it extremely cosmopolitan. “District Six was and is probably the most celebrated piece of land in South Africa,” says Anwah Nagia, a longtime resident and former anti-apartheid activist. “It was a microcosm of what modern societies were later to enjoy.”

Read the whole article here.

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