One of the most unique neighbourhoods in Cape Town is the Bo-Kaap area. Formally known as the Cape Malay quarter, it is nestled into the slope of Signal Hill. Although a multicultural neighbourhood, it is considered the heart of Cape Malay culture and history in Cape Town.
The Colours of Bo-Kaap – History
The oldest house in the area dates back to the 1760s and, returned to its original form, now serves as the Bo-Kaap Museum (sadly, it was closed on the day we went so we missed out on this). The first mosque in South Africa can also be found in this neighbourhood. The Auwal Masjid Mosque was made possible through the endowment of a freed slave woman named of Saartjie van de Kaap and was built sometime in the late 1790s/early 1800s.
Taking a walk in Bo-Kaap, it’s easy to be charmed by this place. The streets are cobblestone and the houses are painted incredible colours – from bright lime greens and canary yellows to sky blue and bubble-gum pink. For this reason, Bo-Kaap is a photographers heaven – amateur or professional, there are seemingly endless opportunities to capture this colourful neighbourhood.
Why The Colours of Bo-Kaap?
So why ARE the houses painted these amazing colours? Well, there are a few reasons that seem to circulate. Initially, we were told the bright colours were in celebration of the former slaves emancipation while others were saying that since many of the new homeowners didn’t have much money, they simply used whatever colour was cheapest.
The most commonly believed (and most likely even though no one seems really sure when it started) is the colours of Bo-Kaap are in honour of Ramadan – the Islamic month of fasting. At the end of Ramadan, the Eid al-Fitr celebration takes place and it is customary to dress up in bright colours – a tradition that has seemingly transferred over to the houses themselves. Many residents repaint their homes at the end of Ramadan each year as part of the celebration – meeting with the neighbours in advance to make sure the same colour isn’t used twice and to avoid clashing.
See The Colours of Bo-Kaap for Yourself
Free walking tours of the colours of Bo-Kaap area are readily available, but it is also an easy place to stroll on your own if you prefer to move at your own pace. Regardless, if you come toCape Town, be sure to check out the colours of Bo-Kaap. It’s truly a gem of the rainbow nation.
Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum
71 Wale Street,
Open from Mondays to Saturdays from 10h00 to 17h00
Closed on Sundays, Workers’ Day, Christmas Day, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha and January 2
Adults (19 years and older) R10
Students, SA Pensioners R5