Iconic houses whitewashed for cultural awareness

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato and Jive founder Sharief Parker were the first to do the repainting of the colourful homes in the community.

Four Bo-Kaap houses were painted white – and remained that way for a few days – last week as a stark reminder not to take culture and tradition for granted.

The initiative, spearheaded by Jive Coldrinks, which saw four Wale Street homes as well as the Bo-Kaap Museum painted white, was launched on Thursday October 22.

The aim was to raise awareness about the special character of Bo-Kaap’s iconic colourful houses and the rich heritage of its people.

Jive founder Sharief Parker said the initiative was intended to inspire reflection on what the community and other cultural treasures would have been without their colour.

“After this grey and difficult year, let us look to the bright colours of Bo-Kaap and remember that we’re resilient, creative people with a vibrant spirit,” he said.

He said seeing the houses including the Bo-Kaap museum without colour for a few days was meant to be a surprising reminder for residents and visitors alike not to take the tradition of the painted houses for granted and take the renewed interest in the area ahead of the summer tourism season without its usual group of international tourists.

Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato, Cultural Affairs MEC Anroux Marais, representatives of the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum and local community leaders, historians and tour guides, were present at the event at which tour guide Shireen Narkedien spoke about history of the community.

She said the different bright colours in the area spoke of boldness and pride of the rich cultural heritage of the community. “While each colour has its own individual character like the people who live in them, without each other it will not make such a vibrant but close community,” she said.

Mr Plato said it was important to thank the community for its contribution to the Cape Town tourism industry.

“This area forms part of the rich history of Cape Town, keep it like that and the City will always support this community,” he said.

Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association chairman Osman Shaboodien said the painting of the homes in the area, which started in 1985, had been a spontaneous expression of pride, independence and cultural heritage. “During that period, most residents became homeowners and this was their way to express that fact,” he said.