Cultural Diversity of Cape
Town's Townships and Malay Quarter by Bronwen E. Roberts
Town is a place of consummate beauty, but behind the façade of Table
Mountain is a complex culture. South Africans live in a multi-cultural,
polyglot society, which can be culturally confusing for people who live
here, but for visitors it presents a haven of opportunity and a rich culture
of diverse entertainment.
Gugulethu: Wine, Dine
and Dance in 'Gugs'
Gugulethu (meaning 'our pride')
is one of the oldest and fastest developing black townships in South Africa.
This township boasts many shebeens, restaurants and jazz clubs. A shebeen
is a good place to enjoy the local beer and savour the sounds of township
jazz. You can spice up your dinner at The Thuthuka Café that plays
smooth live Cape Jazz: another hot venue is the famed Yellow Door jazz
club. Kwaito, South Africa's answer to house music originated in the townships.
This music genre has subsequently made a name for itself in the global
People can eat at Cyn catering
services, which specialises in traditional food. Skilled unemployed people
are involved in the cooking, baking and waitressing. You can also dine
at the Meat Market situated at Ezoni, the oldest building in Gugulethu.
Varied meats are served; from sheep heads to the African cultural feast
"umbengo" or braai. The market also serves as an entertainment center,
providing pool games and a number of local shebeens. There are several
licensed shebeens in 'Gugs' as well as some illegal ones. Local people
frequent shebeens to have a drink and chat about politics, music, or soccer.
Popza's Place and Frances in NY 3A are popular haunts.
A Place to Stay
Although there is not much
tourist accommodation in Gugulethu: a good example of the hospitality of
township life is to be found at the Salmonberry Guest house situated at
24 Dubua Crescent in Station Park.
Gugulethu has the the Ubuntu
arts promotion and Cyn Catering service situated at Yellow Door Jazz Café,
which is popular for its drama, art and craft stalls, marimba music, and
top class jazz. Ubuntu (humanity) is a community-based organization, established
to promote township tourism by bringing local people together.
Bo Kaap: A Multicultural Treasure
This community lives right
below the slopes of signal hill, regarded as prime real estate in Cape
Town. Follow the cobble-stoned streets with their brightly coloured houses,
though a community bustling with activity. This is the traditional residential
area of Cape Town's Muslim Community. Muslim 'saints' shrines ("kramats")
and many beautiful Mosques including the first established Muslim Mosque
in South Africa can be found here.
Most of the residents are
descended from slaves brought here by the Dutch in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. They came from Africa, India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, and elsewhere
in Asia. The common term for people of this community is "Cape Malays",
although most of them are not descended from Malaysians.
The early Muslim slaves in
Cape Town included famous scholars and religious leaders. Many others were
skilled artisans. This community has played a major role in the language
and culture of Cape Town and South Africa.
The Muslim community has
also had a large influence on the cooking of South Africa. Cape Malay cuisine
is a delight. It consists of a combination of fruit, spices, vegetables,
and meat. You can enjoy this artful combination of sweet and sour when
visiting a restaurant in the Bo Kaap; eating in the traditional way, with
your hands, while sitting on the floor.
A well-known restaurant in
the Bo Kaap is the 'Noon Day Gun'. Famed for its exquisite Malay cuisine,
and run by a welcoming Muslim family that know everything you need to know
about this burgeoning community. The 'noon day guns' are overhead, so if
you're there at 12pm, watch out for the 'bang'.
The Bo Kaap's character started
emerging during the period of 1790 and 1840. The architecture is characterised
by both Dutch and British influences. Houses are mainly semi-detached,
but free standing homes also exist. The Facade of the houses is what charms
visitors the most, ending at the top in the parapet, and a molded cornice
will be found directly below that. The entrance to the houses is mostly
elevated from the streets.
No. 71 Wale Street, known
as the Bo Kaap Museum was an original "huurhuisie" (house for hire) one
of the first constructed houses in the Bo Kaap. The house has been restored
to represent an original "Malay dwelling" of the 19th Century. Even the
roof is in yellowwood to keep the feeling of the old Cape Dutch beams.
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