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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

A Day full of colour in Bo-Kaap and beyond - Day 398

Today was visiting Bo-Kaap, a vibrant place in Cape Town, plus I also had my hair issue resolved, so what a day, full of colour!

The area of #BoKaap is just a 30-minute walk from here and a place we definitely wanted to explore. We’d passed it a few times in the car, and it certainly stands out from the rest of the city. We walked up the cobbled lanes admiring the small houses, a mix of Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture, all painted in vibrant colours; rich purple, shocking pink, lime green, burnt orange, saffron yellow and the list goes on.

This area used to be known as the Malay Quarter and dates back to 1760s when many Muslim slaves were brought over from Malaysia and Indonesia, with their future generations staying here. It is located at the foot of Signal Hill. I imagine that the residents’ watches are very accurate here as just above them on top of the hill, a cannon fires precisely to the nearest millisecond at noon each day.

The colourful houses remind us of Totterdown, in Bristol. We were curious to find out why the houses are painted this way. Was it right back in the days when the slaves were freed, and the former dull coloured houses were painted bright colours by their owners as an expression of their freedom? Or was it connected to the end of apartheid and representing being part of the Rainbow Nation? Or is it partly linked to Ramadan where the local Muslims paint their houses in preparation for celebrating Eid? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer. But whatever the reason, the place looks terrific.

The downside, some would say, is that many tourists (and travellers) are attracted to the area and stand gawping and snapping photos of people’s homes. Recently, it is becoming gentrified, like many parts of London, with wealthy outsiders wanting to live in this striking area, very close to the city centre, or worst still, build high rise buildings which will spoil the essence of the place. There is currently a petition for the area to get National Heritage status and recently local women protested and successfully stopped a crane from developers entering the neighbourhood.

Sadly, there was quite a lot of rubbish on the ground, and we saw one resident manically trying to clear it all up. At the weekend a group from District Six came to rehearse for The Klopse, known as the Coon Carnival, which takes place on 2nd January. We had a chat with a This was the only day of rest that the slaves had during colonial times, and so it is celebrated in a big way, with preparations taking the whole year with people making their shiny, colourful suits, and practising their music for the big event. Sadly we are going to miss it, but we will be in Rio by then!

We were going to visit the Bo-Kaap Museum situated in one of the oldest houses here, but it was busy and first impressions, it didn’t look very inspiring. Instead, we popped into an Art Gallery. Here we met Anthony de Klerk Fine Artist. What a lovely guy. He moved here just a week ago and co-runs Bright Day Studios in Salt Bay, where he paints, exhibits and teaches.

His art is big, bold and beautiful and mainly of inspiring young people who he meets, with his mission to show their spirit, optimism and hope for the future. He is compelled to tell their story through his art.

One such painting of a young lady called Esther from the Congo whose ambition is to become a medical doctor. Anthony asked if he could paint her, but she misunderstood and thought he wanted her to clean his Art studio. She was somewhat bemused when he requested that she stood still while he magically created her on the canvas. The result is stunning. The blue, gold and red represent the flag of the DRC, and for her, the blue symbolises freedom, the gold what the war is about and red is the blood of war. We wish him and his models every success for the future.

Now, as you may have read, I went to have my hair cut and coloured on Saturday and was slightly disappointed with the result. I didn’t want subtle, but that is what I got. I was more frustrated with myself for not saying anything, so on Monday, I wrote a friendly private message to the hair salon’s Facebook page explaining the situation. After some communication with a charming lady called Dominique, she said that Nikki at the Partners Hair Design V & A Waterfront branch would look after me. She certainly did. Needless to say, I am thrilled. Nikki was very professional, caring and listened to what I wanted. She explained what she was doing every step of the way. The result is that I have wonderful locks of bright purple in my hair. This suddenly reminds me of the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph “When I grow old, I shall wear purple.”

As we walked back, we saw Chris, the homeless guy in his usual place. He looked neater than usual, and I could see that he was drawing. As he saw us, he beamed from ear to ear. “I have 6 more clients”. My heart sang, we are so thrilled for him and hope that this is the turning point for this young man. As we left, he yelled out thanks for what we had given him. How lovely.

Our colourful day ended with a long chat and much laughter with our good friends Hugh and Fiona, and I did notice a gorgeous new colourful blanket behind them. Rather apt for our day, don’t you think?

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