Friday, December 5, 2014

Bo-Kaap is a historical suburb, instantly recognisable for its brightly coloured houses, cobbled lanes and Cape Malay cooking. It’s one of the Mother city’s oldest residential areas. When the Bo-Kaap’s original inhabitants arrived at the Cape in the 1600s they brought with them their cooking techniques, aromatic recipes and exotic spices. In fact, Cape Malay influences have played an important part in shaping Cape Town’s diverse traditions and food culture. So much so that Cape Malay inspired dishes feature regularly on the GOLD Restaurant menu and in many other top eateries in Cape Town.

“Cape Malay” is a collective term for the people who were brought here from foreign countries as slaves. They came not just from Malaysia but also India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South East Asia and other parts of Africa. A bit of a misnomer then, Bo-Kaap is sometimes also referred to as the Malay Quarter.

Irrepressible centuries old community spirit

Regardless, the area is steeped in a multicultural and intriguing past. Similar to District Six and De Waterkant, its story is one that’s closely linked to the development of the city of Cape Town. Upon entering the Georgian style 17th century house in which the Museum is situated, it is soon evident that without this incredible community of people (and others like it), the City of Cape Town might not have existed. Yet, even though they laboured to help build Cape Town's colonial foundations, they were prevented on racial grounds from living in it as free and full citizens up until fairly recently.

Powerful black and white and colour images with captions reflect the oppressive political and social climate of the apartheid years. In spite of the politics of the time, visitors will get a sense of the very rich cultural life of the community. The Museum also includes intricately designed porcelain, silver, an ornate wooden chest and a kitchen with old pots and an alcove stove. All of these items help to recreate the lifestyle of a 19th century working class Muslim family.

Oldest Muslim Mosque and Cemetery in South Africa

Predominantly Muslim, Bo-Kaap is home to the oldest mosque and oldest Muslim cemetery in South Africa. In fact, by 1930 it was already predominantly Muslim with the last black inhabitants forcibly removed in 1950 as part of the Slum Clearance Act and neighbourhood ‘improvement’ programmes. 

By their own admission, people enjoy living in the Bo-Kaap because of the community spirit and the history. Plus, it’s within easy walking distance of the city. Simply walk up Wale Street in the direction of Signal Hill and you’ll easily find the museum on your left.

Important Museum information

Tel: +27 21 481 3939
Address: 71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday from 10:00 until 17:00
Closed on Sundays, 1 May (Workers Day), Christmas Day, Eid-ul-Fitr, Edi-ul-Adha and 2 January 

Adults R20
6 to 18 years R10
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) R50
South African students and pensioners free
Children under 5 and under free



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