Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die

Life is a broken winged bird, that cannot fly

This is the short poem on the back of the T-shirt I bought at the District Six Homecoming Centre on Tuesday 11th Feb.  They were marking 24 years since Nelson Mandela was released from prison, 20 years of democracy – and in a few months, the birthday of the District Six museum – and 48 years since the District was declared a White Group Area. Events not to be forgotten.

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On the front of the T-shirt is an image of a hand releasing a winged bird flying to freedom. It’s a piece by veteran artist Peter Clarke inspired by the couplet by American poet Langston Hughes, his friend and correspondent. Peter created this archive piece 30 years ago in 1984. The District Six Homecoming Centre have used it in turn as a 3D interpretation on the new forged steel gates at their entrance.

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To celebrate the gates, the art, the dream, the hopes and the memories – after the speeches by Director Bonita Bennett, artist  himself Peter Clarke with testimonies by his contemporaries, artist Peggy Delport and poets James Matthews and Gladys Thomas…..everyone marched peacefully up to an empty site in District Six to lay a stone on the cairn – with a banner that read ‘No matter where we are, we are here.’ Twenty white doves were released into the air and a brass trio played the haunting hymn, Abide with me. What a wonderful new memory.


You can hear some of the recorded event on Sunday 16th Feb between 13.00 and 16.00 on SAfm Literature 104-107 when I’ll also be talking to Peter Clarke to hear his story.  



  1. Elaine O'Dwyer 14/02/2014 at 4:43 pm

    Nance, that is a beautiful piece, worthy of such a momentous celebration xx

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