For those of you that haven’t read my previous post on the Bo-Kaap it’s a colourful community in Cape Town. The homes in the area are brightly painted. Many of the original residents are descendants of slaves. The Bo-Kaap was officially a slave community. Because of the bright and beautiful homes, the Bo-kaap is a tourist hotspot. People take photos in the streets and in front of pretty multicoloured homes.
Sadly gentrification is occurring in the area driving out long-time residents. Gentrification occurs when the middle-class flocks to an area and urban development occurs, this in turn leads to a sharp increase in the rent prices driving out the current occupants. The development in gentrified areas often does not benefit the local community. The apartment, hotel, B&B, restaurant, and store owners are often outsiders, not residents.
The tourist appeal of the Bo-Kaap is therefore a blessing and a curse. I have previously written about responsible travel and its importance. There are locally owned businesses in the area. Local ladies who offer cooking classes and local tour guides. Taking the time to visit the Bo-Kaap museum and the Mosques in the area also allow visitors to learn about the history of the Bo-Kaap. When I visited I buy koeksisters (spice-filled doughnuts) from stores with the coke n cola sign on them. These are little shops called tuck shops in South Africa. I don’t buy things at bigger shops because I know they aren’t locally owned. And yes bigger businesses need support as well but, I know that these businesses don’t have corporate social investment plans.
I may visit one of the establishments which have caused gentrification. I’m not saying I’d boycott every business but I try my best not to. If I know the place isn’t locally owned then I take my money and spend it elsewhere. The worst part of recent events is that protests in the Bo-Kaap were tear-gassed by the police. Protestors were trying to stop a crane from entering the area. A new apartment building is being built. The property developers stated that they informed the community and got their consent. However, the protestors have reported that no one in the community was consulted. It is a pity that an area with a history tied into oppression and slavery once again is facing another obstacle threatening the welfare of Bo-Kaap residents.
I intended to write this post at another time. But the protests of Tuesday have again put this issue in the media spotlight and it weighs on my mind too. Travel should never harm others. Travel should always be positive. I’m hopeful that travelers will become more responsible. That they won’t just sign up to photo tours and then leave the Bo-Kaap without actually experiencing it.
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Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
xxx Nikki xxx