The Story of Bo-Kaap: How the iconic neighbourhood escaped gentrification

A new podcast series from Eyewitness News investigates the history of the iconic area lined with brightly painted houses on cobbled streets, unravel a number of myths and tries to determine the future of this close-knit community and famous, old family businesses in the area. The Story of Bo-Kaap is a three-part podcast series written and produced by Haji Mohamed Dawjee and Rebecca Davis. Subscribe so that you don't miss out on the series, here.

The Story of Bo-Kaap

Set against the majestic backdrop of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s colourful neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap is home to a rich cultural heritage that has attracted thousands of travellers.

Over the years, the country’s oldest Muslim community have opened up their hearts and homes, welcoming tourists to share in their heritage; one that once came under the looming threat of gentrification.

Gentrification is a complex word loaded with two different meanings for two classes of people:

To the working class, whose families have called Bo-Kaap home for over 200 years – the word gentrification represents the destruction of shared culture, heritage and devastating loss. It is the rising costs of property rates and cost of living that ushers out the poor families of Bo-Kaap to make room for the rich, urban elite.

To the urban elite, the word represents a belief that the deteriorated neighbourhood could benefit from a process of improvement that will conform to middle-class standards. Not considering that, throughout this process, old family businesses that have been in operation for over half a century are progressively being driven out and replaced by modern, hipster businesses piggybacking off Bo-Kaap’s authentic Cape Malay culture.

Situated at the foot of Signal Hill, the adjacent neighbourhood of De Waterkant has fallen into the clutches of gentrification. As a result, the suburb has become one of the most expensive suburbs in the Cape Town area, housing prime property for investors with deep pockets.

Despite being located in the middle of a gentrified Cape Town city centre, the long-time residents of Bo-Kaap have continued to champion the fight against the destruction of centuries-worth of history and heritage and, have succeeded in getting 19 sites declared national heritage sites.

As you will hear in the podcast series, there is great irony in the fact that the Islamic enclave that was not affected by forced removals at the height of apartheid, later faced the prospect of gentrification.

EPISODE 1: THE HISTORY OF BO-KAAP

In the first episode, Haji Mohamed Dawjee and Rebecca Davis take a look at the original inhabitants of Bo-Kaap and, find answers to the thorny questions of how Bo-Kaap survived apartheid demolitions and why those houses are painted in bright colours.

EPISODE 2: THE BUSINESSES OF BO-KAAP

In the second episode, Haji Mohamed Dawjee and Rebecca Davis speak to the store owners of famous, old businesses of Bo-Kaap, Rocksole Leather and Atlas Trading Company to get an idea of how they’ve survived despite the emergence of hipster joints.

EPISODE 3: THE GENTRIFICATION OF BO-KAAP

In the third episode, Haji Mohamed Dawjee and Rebecca Davis talk about Bo-Kaap’s heritage status and gentrification and, try to determine whether there are advantages for locals when the architecture of spatial planning in urban areas changes in order to make them appealing to the more affluent.

The story of Bo-Kaap is an EWN production presented and produced by Haji Mohamed Dawjee and Rebecca Davis with sound engineering and editing by Gavin Deysel. Our thanks to Beat Bangaz featuring Youngsta CPT for the use of the song Bo-Kaap.

Photo credits go to Barry Christianson at GroundUp, Shakirah Dramat and Wayne Hipe at THAT Network, Bertram Malgas at Eyewitness News, Estee de Villiers at Cape Town Tourism and **Benny Marty at iStock.**


This article first appeared on 947 : The Story of Bo-Kaap: How the iconic neighbourhood escaped gentrification


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