Was Bo-Kaap been painted white? JiVE’s “Dala Your Colour” campaign brought the Bo-Kaap community, Mayor, MEC and Iziko together on 22 October 2020 to celebrate the vibrant colours and colourful people and traditions of Bo-Kaap.

The use of bright colours has great cultural significance in the Western Cape and in celebration of this heritage, the quintessentially Western Cape brand, Jive Cooldrinks, has brought Capetonians together to celebrate the significance of another iconic and colourful local cultural institution, Bo-Kaap.  

In order to raise awareness and create an opportunity for dialogue about the special character of Bo-Kaap’s colourful houses – and more significantly the rich culture of its people that deserve celebration – Jive received permission from four Bo-Kaap homeowners and the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum to repaint their façades white.  

Bo-Kaap Museum and houses painted white for Jive’s campaign. (Image supplied)

Seeing these buildings, right at the postcard entrance to Bo-Kaap in upper Wale Street, without colour for a few days was intended to be a surprising reminder to Capetonians and visitors alike not take the tradition of the painted houses in Bo-Kaap for granted and to take renewed interest in this famous heritage area ahead of the summer tourism season – the first ever without its usual throngs of international tourists.  

Recognising and celebrating the significance of colour for the community, Jive hosted local historians, community leaders and dignitaries including Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato, MEC of Cultural Affairs and Sport Anroux Marais and Iziko Museums council chair Rod Solomons, for a collective and symbolic repainting of the façades of the Bo-Kaap Museum and the four adjacent homes in a ceremony in Wale Street. The festive occasion featured the Cape Town Seven Steps Minstrels band and cuisine that is typical of Bo-Kaap.    

Seven Steps Minstrels (Image supplied)

Mr Sharief Parker, founder of Jive, a brand that like Bo-Kaap is synonymous with colour, community and celebration, spoke about the power of community, cultural heritage and celebration, and how resilient and caring South Africans were. Addressing the community, he made a surprise announcement, that Jive would be donating funds to the Bo-Kaap Community Garden, which is run by local community member Abieda Charles, and which provides food to hungry local families, as well as to the Bo-Kaap Cultural Hub’s feeding scheme, which is run by community member Masturah Adams.  

Bo-Kaap is indisputably one of South Africa’s most colourful and culturally unique neighbourhoods. Formerly known as the Cape Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap’s origins date back to the 1760s, when numerous rental houses were built and leased to slaves.   

Some historians believe the colourful houses could be attributed to the fact that the community was originally required to keep the houses white, and in response later embraced the freedom to paint their homes in colours that signified important dates on their religious and family calendars. Other historians and community leaders say the neighbourhood’s colourful palette dates back to the mid 1980s, when homeowners began painting their homes as an act of self-expression, pride and community spirit.  

Dan Plato, Mayor of Cape Town, said: “When you walk through Bo-Kaap it is so beautiful. At the end of the day, we want to see Bo-Kaap becoming a real tourist attraction. Although we all still need to adhere to the Covid regulations – we don’t want a second wave – the economy needs to be revived. Mr Parker is right, there are still an awful lot of hungry people. Thank you, Bo-Kaap for your rich contribution and your resilience. This area is part of the rich history of Cape Town – keep it like that, and where the City of Cape Town can support you we definitely will support you.”

Mayor Dan Plato and Jive Founder Sharief Parker repaint the houses to bring back the colour. (Image supplied)

MEC for Cultural Affairs Anroux Marais said Bo-Kaap’s unique colours had placed it on the global map, inspired emulation in other communities in places like Saldanha and Paarl, and played an important role in the cultural heritage and identity of the Western Cape. “The symbolism of colour, especially in our rainbow nation, reminds us of the beauty in our diversity and that we have more in common than we have things that set us apart. It is through events like this that we create an environment in which our cultural expression can flourish, and in which we can encourage tolerance and keep alive our untold stories.”

Shireen Narkedien, the Bo-Kaap’s longest-serving tour guide since the early 1990s, says: “For me living and working in Bo-Kaap amongst the kaleidoscope of bright colours definitely makes the area a happy vibrant yet very busy place.  The different colours speak of a boldness and pride of the rich cultural heritage the community celebrates. While each colour has its own individual character like the people who live in them, without each other it will not make it such a vibrant but close community.

Today, a world-renowned tourist attraction, it is the proud home to locals and final destination for the annual minstrel carnival.  

Parker said the point of the bold campaign was to inspire reflection on what Bo-Kaap and other cultural treasures would have been without its colour and to inspire people to celebrate the rich culture and colourful character of the people of the Bo-Kaap, and the Western Cape. “After this grey and difficult year, let us look to the bright colours of Bo-Kaap and remember that we are resilient, creative people, with a vibrant spirit, people who bring positivity to others’ lives.”  

Jive chose to call the initiative #DalaYourColour to celebrate the rich and colourful heritage of the people of the Western Cape. Dala is a South African slang word for “getting a job done”, “doing something with intent” or “making a plan” – a phrase that reminds us of the unique character, tenacity and resilience of the South African people.