Unlike District Six, which was destroyed by the apartheid-era Group Areas Act, the Bo-Kaap and its people survived.
The Bo-Kaap was built by and for artisans between 1790 and 1825. Later it was largely occupied by Muslims, including political exiles from Java and Ceylon, who moved into the area around 1820, according to an article in the Heritage Portal by Lesley T Townsend.Liberated slaves arrived after 1834, developing into a close-knit and relatively homogenous community.
Unlike District Six, which was destroyed by the apartheid-era Group Areas Act, the Bo-Kaap and its people survived. In the 1970s the Cape Town municipality began to restore many of the area’s homes, built in a mix of Cape Dutch and Cape Georgian style. Townsend says: “The scale of the street is of the pedestrian; it is a social space, where people gather and talk and children play.”
The charm of the area and its closeness to the CBD has led to problems for the community. Tourists throng the narrow cobbled streets, prompting Professor Aslam Fataar of Stellenbosch University to slam the busloads of tourists visiting the area. In a press article Fataar also refers to the “humiliation” associated with gentrification. “Many homes are being bought by wealthy people, forcing locals to take up residence elsewhere.”
Recently residents have been outraged at a plan by local owners to sell 20% of the 1837 Tana Baru cemetery, South Africa’s oldest Muslim cemetery, for development.
After protests from the community, the auction was cancelled – for now.