Taken on the corner of Chiapinni St and Helliger Ln, this striated sky depicts the sun shining in on the colourful homes of the Bo Kaap. Bo Kaap is situated on the slopes of Signal Hill in Cape Town between Buitengracht St, Strand St and Carisbrook Street. The area is home to the largest collection of pre-1850 architecture in South Africa as well as the oldest Mosques. Previously known as the Malay quarter, the area was where free slaves settled in the 18th Century. Most slaves were from South East Asia and the name Malay is not necessarily correct but is what history gives us.
I sat for many hours reading up on the internet and watching videos about the Bo Kaap to decide what I should write about and what to name this piece. All the information reminded me how in society we are so often polarised, black or white. Bo Kaap was once a microcosm of different cultures but Apartheid took that away with the group areas act making the Bo Kaap a “Cape Malay” area.
One topic that is hot right now is the gentrification of the Bo Kaap. Given its close proximity to the city, makes the Bo Kaap a great place for outsiders to buy up homes that are in disrepair and to restore them. Many people see this as a great opportunity as house prices increase and the area develops. The down side of this is that original dwellers can no longer afford to live in the area and are “forced” to sell their homes thus resulting in a loss of the cultural heritage of the area.
The question we have to ask is: are the Bo Kaap’s true colours not in the culture of the residents as opposed to the brightly coloured buildings. What attracts tourists to the area? I believe that we need to make sure that the areas cultural heritage is kept in tact and that while the upliftment and development of the area is required it should not come at the expense of local’s heritage and history.
The beauty of the Architecture in the Bo Kaap is one aspect of the area, I would suggest a visit to see the amazing beauty but look at learning a little about the people of the area, this is some advice that I need to take up myself.
Some of the Sources of my information:
In 2012 Helen Gibb released a series of documentaries on YouTube which give a personal account of history and the current state of Bo Kaap (unfortunately part 5 of the series is muted to apparent copyright infringement).
Siteseer.tv encourage tourists to visit the Bo Kaap as well as many other Cape Town destinations.
Anouk Zijlma writes a great article o the Bo Kaap here
Cape Chameleon Cover Story
Bo Kaap Museum website
Cape Town Hoods Bo Kaap Page