Colour is an emotional issue in South Africa. It gets in the way of both national politics as well as individual common sense. It’s almost as if people have forgotten to celebrate diversity and the wonder of individuality. To form a Rainbow Nation – so it is thought – people have to coalesce to embrace a concept that requires the amalgamation of the masses into a single culture.
In the Bo-Kaap (Upper Cape Town), this is not the case. Culture, tradition, religion and individuality are joyously exhibited – and lived – for all to see. The community welcomes inquisitive tourists into their homes. They know their neighbours and their families. They spend endless hours in the streets, swapping stories and discussing family matters. It is surely the most colourful place in South Africa.
Take a walk down the cobbled street with me. These stones used to be ballast in the old sailing ships visiting the Cape.
The drab suburb suddenly erupts in a kaleidoscope of colours, overwhelming the senses.
Here street art does not follow the trend to deface buildings with amateurish graffiti.
How to camouflage your dustbin? Easy! Add colour and suddenly nobody sees the garbage bin anymore!
The mosque towers over it all. The community (mostly) follows the Muslim faith, but you won’t find them excluding other religions. Live and let live – in kindness – is the philosophy of the people you meet here.
The Bo-Kaap is almost like an arched gateway to a new way of thinking about society. Colour? Yeah, man! It shouts optimism, whispers hope and asks so little. Just be…and let be.
And maybe, at the end of your walk through this historical area, you’ll see the smile we all hope to have – the smile that says: “I’m me. And you know what? That’s good enough.”
Ah, yes, colour! We don’t have to build a monument for it.
We already have one, right here in the Cape…