Bo-Kaap , Cape Town
The Bo-Kaap (“above the Cape” in Afrikaans) is an area of Cape Town, South Africa formerly known as the Malay Quarter. It is a former township, situated on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre and is a historical centre of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town. The Nurul Islam Mosque, established in 1844, is located in the area.
Bo-Kaap is known for its brightly coloured homes and cobble stoned streets. The area is traditionally a multicultural neighbourhood, and 56.9% of its population identify as Muslim. According to the South African Heritage Resources Agency, the area contains the largest concentration of pre-1850 architecture in South Africa, and is the oldest surviving residential neighborhood in Cape Town.
In 1760 Jan de Waal bought a block of land at the foot of Signal Hill, between Dorp and Wale Streets. A year later he obtained an adjacent parcel, extending his holding to Rose/Chiappini/Shortmarket Street. Starting in 1763, de Waal built several small “huurhuisjes” (rental houses) on this land, which he leased to his slaves. The first three are at 71 Wale Street (now the Bokaap Museum), above Buitengracht Street, and 42 Leeuwen Street respectively.
Because the aboriginal tribes in the (Cape Town) area resisted the Dutch, slaves were initially imported from Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Africa, hence the name “Malay”. Most of the new residents were Muslim, and several mosques were built in the area. The first one was Auwal Mosque, in Dorp Street in 1794. Between 1790 and 1825 more housing in both the Cape Dutch and Cape Georgian styles was built for the expanding population of tradesmen, craftsmen, and artisans. More Muslims continued to move into the area, including a wave of political exiles from Java and Ceylon circa 1820. After the emancipation in 1834 and the arrival of liberated slaves, developers constructed numerous rows of narrow, deep huurhuisjes.
The brightly coloured facades are attributed to an expression of freedom by the new homeowners, as all the houses were painted white while on lease.
Preservation of the area began in 1943 when 15 houses were restored by a group of prominent citizens, with the support of the Historical Monuments Commission. In 1966 a portion of the area was designated as a National Monument. From 1971 the City Council began restoring houses and streetscapes, with 48 units completed by 1975.
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