The Value of Bo-Kaap is in its People

The significance of Bo-Kaap in the history of our nation in general, and the people of the Cape, in particular, is great. Bo-Kaap represents an integral part of our national heritage.


Once called the Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap is sometimes considered the most photographed area of the city of Cape Town. This is a reflection of Bo-Kaap’s unique landscape and its architectural character that has made it a special tourist attraction.


More importantly, however, the value of Bo-Kaap, lies in the living memory of her residents, a community who simply call the area, home. The residents’ historical ties to the area date back by generations.


Their laments that are getting louder and louder, as process to drive them out of the area is underway, echo the cries of distress of the past, when many of our people would be driven out of their homes and had to be confined only to certain localities, inside their hometowns.


Over the years, Bo-Kaap has been well-kept and has not suffered desertion, state of disrepair or decay. Rather, her residents have taken pride in their neighbourhood, painting homes in a tapestry of colours, in a manner that symbolically showcases our nation’s vibrant tapestry.


We should resist the unbridled urbanisation whose only winners would be those of high net-worth, driving the less-resource endowed further into the periphery, an effective exclusion of a section of society on economic basis.


Rather than pushing low income residents of cities through purported ‘redevelopment,’ to the outskirts of the centres of economic activity, sharing in the wealth of the city requires that neighbourhoods such as Bo-Kaap should be part of the plan of preserving the diversity of our urban centres.


It will be a sad day when Bo-Kaap will be remembered only in models that will deny future generations to walk its roads and experience the atmosphere that many have come to associate with the area.


Even sadder, will be the day when we will see residents of Bo-Kaap, driven out of their homes, into destitution, while we claim to fight inequity and poverty.


We support the people of Bo-Kaap in their resistance to the so-called ‘gentrification’ of the area. Bo-Kaap should be considered a national heritage site, preserved and not destroyed by the dictates of insensitive urbanisation.


Bo-Kaap should be a turning point.