• LOCATION 21 | Cape Town on Foot: From the Slave Lodge to Bo-Kaap

    Stop at this corner

    Stop and have a look at the narrow side street on your left – you will feel transported to some Mediterranean island, a countryside village.

    Now you will notice that Dorp Street is turning more colourful. There have been many theories around why these buildings were painted such bright colours. Let me take this opportunity to set the record straight. These colours neither reflect the occupants’ profession, nor are the residents so illiterate that the colours show them the way home! Equally inaccurate is the story that Bo-Kaap was the Dutch East India Company's slave quarters and that to inject some life into their drab lives the slaves painted their homes vivid colours.

    Can you imagine that the company was generous enough to build houses for their slaves? This theory might be because so many slaves moved into the area after emancipation in 1834 that it was often mistaken as being former slave quarters. But emancipated slaves were poor and it is unlikely that they would have wasted precious resources on dazzling paint, even if it had been available in the 1830s in Cape Town.

    The truth is that the bright paints appeared for the first time in the late 1960s when the Bo-Kaap was partially restored, and were simply an expression of joy.

    Continue walking up the hill.

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Cape Town on Foot: From the Slave Lodge to Bo-Kaap