RED LOCATION is one of the oldest settled black townships of Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. 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 structures derived from the First South African War (1899-1902), namely the "Boer" concentration camp at Uitenhage as well as the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at De Aar.
It became a site of struggle during the years of Apartheid. Many prominent political and cultural leaders were either born or lived in Red Location and a number of significant "struggle" (umzabalazo) events occurred here.
For example, the first MK (umkhonto wesizwe - former military wing of the African National Congress) cell in South Africa was established in Red Location and the first arrests after the passive resistance campaign (Defiance Campaign, 1952) against the notorious pass laws occured at the Railway Station in the area. Red Location offers the opportunity to draw together the strands of struggle that mark the attempts by different groups in South Africa to free themselves.
It is ironic that the activists of Red Location occupied the same sets of spaces that their so-called enemy, "the Boers", occupied as spaces of incarceration during the First South African War.
THE RED LOCATION MUSEUM is a primary development of the Red Location Cultural Precinct which is a not-for-commercial urban renewal development under the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality . It is designed to challenge conventional views of Museum design.
It draws on the work of Andreas Huyssen who had written extensively on the concept of memory and history.
Visitors 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. These boxes are inspired by the boxes that migrant workers used to accommodate their prized possessions when separated from their families. These memory boxes were highly treasured. 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 - there is no sequence - the contents and themes of the boxes are juxtaposed - the experience in each box is a total one. The spaces between the boxes are spaces of reflection - what Huyssen calls the twilight of memory.