Bo-Kaap

As we were turning the car to leave the B0-Kaap, another was coming up Wale Street. It turned right and stopped at the entrance to one of the many side streets, the passenger wound down the window, took a photo and then they were off again.

That seems to be what the Bo-Kaap means to many visitors — a quick photo opportunity because of its brightly painted houses and nothing more which is sad because the area has a rich history, both in its own right and as a microcosm for South Africa as a whole.

We were a little more conscientious and had tracked down Shireen Narkedien who escorted us on a three hour journey through its cultural and political past.

Originally known as Wallendorp, the Top Cape was founded in the 1760s by Jan de Waal as homes for the slaves that the Dutch brought from their eastern colonies.

Those slaves brought Islam with them and the first mosque in the southern hemisphere was built here. That does not means that the population is predominantly Muslim — around 50 per cent practice Christianity — although it was declared a residential area for Cape Muslims under the Group Areas Act of 1950 and people of other religions and ethnicity were forced to leave.

The brightly coloured buildings are a relatively new phenomena. Previously they were painted in pastel shades, but this changed in the 1990s. As a result, the Bo-Kaap is a much sought after back-drop for fashion photography.

Shireen was a terrific guide and we spent an informed three hours in her company, trying the local delicacies, visiting the impressive spice shop and learning more about the history than I have time to record here. But you can see more of my photos if you wish.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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