Sunday, October 26, 2008

Red Location Museum and Cottages

Red Location is one of the oldest settled Black Townships of Port Elizabeth. It derives its name from a series of corrugated iron barrack buildings, which are rusted a deep red colour. Building materials for these sheds stem from the First South African War (1899-1902) structures - the Boer concentration camp at Uitenhage as well as the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at De Aar.

Visitors to the Red Location Museum are not treated as consumers but active participants. The conventions of representing history as a single story are challenged through the design of the Museum spaces. The past is represented as a set of memories that are disconnected yet bound together by themes. The concept of the Memory Box is used to achieve these ends. The Museum comprises a series of 12 unmarked, rusted boxes offering a set of different memories of struggle in South Africa. The boxes are housed in the main exhibition space and each box is 6 meter by 6 meter and twelve meters tall. The contents of the boxes are revealed only on entry and while there is no sequence the experience in each box is a total one.
Unfortunately the historic cottages outside the museum are disappearing fast. This as they are vandalised and their building material stripped to sell to scrap yards.The well known old Red Location cottages are an important reminder of South Africa's past. They were originally built by the British Army from corrugated iron sheets dating back to South African War concentration camps in 1903. Later, the then South African government used them to house migrant workers.
Some of the most historically significant events took place in the Red Location in New Brighton. Liberation struggle activists such as Raymond Mhlaba used to hold secret meetings in the cellars of these cottages.The cottages are rare in that they are preserved in their original form. But if the vandalism continues on these priceless structures, the municipality says it will have no choice but to break down what remains of them and reconstruct them in a more secure area.


  1. What is happening to the cottages is a sad indictment of our society, where a few rands have more value than a priceless heritage.

  2. Omigosh, what an interesting museum. If I were to visit South Africa, this is one of the first places I would like to see.

    Is there any way of protecting those historic cottages?

    I am just catching up on your past couple of posts as well. The Colchester Dunes look amazing!

    Do you have any idea how interesting your country is?

    My mother lived in Port Elizabeth, and also in Cape Town. It's magical for me to see pictures of these places!

  3. Looks like quite and interesting and unique place - how sad that those cottages are vandalized so badly. It might actually be better to relocate them, rather than losing them altogether.

  4. so glad you did this post this week, we have a BUNCH of overseas visitors here for our son's wedding, and I have been telling them about how amazing this place is.They are really keen to go there, and to South End Museum, so we are going on Thursday.

  5. My list of stuff to see next time I come home to PE is growing daily. Definitely keen to see the museum - it reminds me in a way of how the Jewish Museum in Berlin is constructed - a very sparse space where memories tell the story of history. It's really sad to see that the historical cottages are being destroyed systematically. He who forgets his past has no future.

  6. I spent a lot of time there in the early 1990s. I am happy to see them go but not in this way. There was a lot of history there, as much bad as good.