The Colorful Heritage of Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap Neighborhood

  In the Islamic world in recent years, “Islamic finance” operating in accordance with religious norms has flourished.
  Such financial institution loans do not charge interest and are invested in accordance with Shariah principles. In addition to religious reasons, many Muslims also give priority to financing through this method when buying a house because of the interest-free benefits. There are also many “Shariah housing” products in the real estate market, and the process from house design to purchase is carried out in accordance with Shariah principles.
  South Africa is not an Islamic country, but has a Muslim population of more than 800,000. A large South African bank has also launched an “Islamic finance” business under its umbrella. When customers buy a house, they can sign an “equity participation” contract with the bank. For example, the customer contributes 10% of the capital and the bank contributes 90%. The customer needs to pay the agreed amount year by year until it is bought back 90 percent funded by banks, this business also attracts non-Muslim customers.
  As a country with complex ethnicities and religions, the scarred colonial history has shaped the distribution of the population of various ethnic groups in South Africa. The regions of the world are sometimes like flowers that grow out of sorrow.
  Perched on a hillside slope, the brightly colored Upper Cape (Bo Kaap) is certainly one of Cape Town, South Africa’s most distinctive neighborhoods. In the 1750s, Jan de Waal, an official of the East India Company, built his own house here, and then built many low-rent houses for freed slaves who were freed at that time. Many of Cape Town’s place names come from the colonizer’s name, and he also named the place Val Town, but later people used to use the Afrikaans “Upper Cape” to name it, which means higher terrain.
  In the early days, the East India Company transported many slaves from Indonesia and Malaysia to Cape Town. In the 19th century, as the number of freed slaves gradually increased, they gathered to live in the Upper Cape and successively established 10 small mosques, becoming the most important mosque in South Africa. Muslim community, Islam and Malay culture are also considered to be the most fundamental features here. However, according to more detailed research, the composition of the residents of the Upper Cape was originally more mixed, and the appearance of today was formed because the apartheid regime relocated many non-Muslim residents from the area.
  The evolution of Upper Cape neighborhoods has been ambiguous over time, such as when did the colorful facades become characteristic? Some say it was painted for the joy of slaves being freed in the 19th century, while others say it was to make it easier for drunk residents to recognize the house. People who have been to Southeast Asia may guess that this may be a tradition brought by slaves from their hometown. Isn’t Singapore’s Little India neighborhood full of colors? But there are problems with these claims. Historical photos show that colored houses are probably a late 20th century phenomenon.
  The colorful exterior does provide visual appeal. Most residents of the Upper Cape neighborhoods did survive forced relocation during the Apartheid era, instead of being sent to shanty towns on the outskirts of the city, and instead remained in their own neighbourhoods. But now this area is facing the challenges of gentrification and commercialization. Various fashionable restaurants, shops and rich people have settled here because of the charm of this place, gradually shaking and replacing the original life of the community.
  Housing is the core issue of social inequality in South Africa. During the era of apartheid, blacks and people of color were forced to be sent to shantytowns in the suburbs with poor conditions, forming a basic pattern of stark difference between the city center and the slums. After the new government came to power in 1994, it began to build free housing for poor people. However, people often have to wait more than ten to twenty years after registration. This policy has now been proven to be a failure.
  The size of the shantytowns remains enormous, and the attractive housing and business opportunities in the town centers remain out of reach of the poor. Even though no one now has to worry about getting caught by the police for entering a white neighbourhood, the disparity in real estate prices shows up instead.

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