Officially named Bo-Kaap pushes for heritage recognition

Bo-Kaap is instantly recognisable by its bright homes. It was formally known as the Malay Quarter, but locals have always affectionately called it Bo-Kaap. Now that name is here to stay. ​

File: The court battle to protect historic Cape Malay area, Bo-Kaap will drag on in 2019.


CAPE TOWN - Bo-Kaap residents want their colourful, historic area declared a heritage site.

On Saturday, the 300-year-old area was officially named Bo-Kaap, after being called this, unofficially, for years.

On paper, it was previously called the Malay Quarter.

The Arts and Culture Department approved the name change, paving the way for a doepmal, or naming, ceremony.

While residents are happy, they fear commericalisation will affect their beloved suburb.

Mohammed Groenewald from the Bo- Kaap Civic and Rate Payers Association says, "The entire Bo -Kaap must be declared a grade heritage area. Point number two both tangible and intangible must be defined as heritage and the third thing is to develop a trust for Bo-Kaap that a trust can buy up homes."

WATCH: The battle to preserve the Bo-Kaap heritage

Rich in Cape Malay culture and steeped in history, this colourful community is a well-known, and loved, landmark in the city.

For years it's been home to mostly Muslim residents. Formally named the Malay Quarter, it originally housed slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar.

"What gentrification will also do is uproot communities that has been living here for over 300 year and they will destroy the entire culture."

"Tourists don't come to see buildings they want to taste the samoosas, eat the food and smell the spices and the culture of Bo- Kaap that keeps this place alive."

But authorities say it’s all about striking a balance.

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel says, "Government wants to work with communities to find ways of avoiding the gentrification of the area. Bo-Kaap has economic potential. Its location is incredible. It has deep cultural significance and it’s a magnet for tourism to SA.

Patel says the aim is to empower the community, which is an integral part of the city's history.