The Slave Route Challenge was born out of an idea to highlight the history and heritage of Cape Town, a city built by slaves. Thousands of slaves were brought to Cape Town between the 1650s and 1834, when the practice was abolished. They came from all over Africa and the Middle East, especially Indonesia and Malaysia. Many Capetonians can trace their ancestors through slavery, and the Malaysian and Islamic influence has shaped the city we know today.
The Slave Route honours this past, and takes in some of the most important areas and heritage sites tied to slavery in the city.
The Slave Route Challenge takes place just before the start of winter every year, around mid-May. The 2018 event takes place on Sunday, 13 May.
There are four different events which take place each year: the half marathon, a 10km run, 10km Big Walk, and a 5km fun run/walk. This means it’s open to everyone from seasoned athletes to total novices!
The main route takes you from City Hall through District 6, the Company’s Gardens, the Bo-Kaap, Sea Point and Green Point, then finally through the City Bowl and back to the Castle of Good Hope, finishing in the Grande Parade.
There are many important heritge sites along the route, all linked to Cape Town’s slave history. The race starts and ends at the Grand Parade, where slaves were first kept. From there, you’ll pass the Whipping Post on the corner of Darling and Buitenkant Streets, which was once a place of torture and execution. There are a number of mosques on the route, which were significant to the Islamic faith slaves brought with them to the Cape. The Slave Tree Plaque marks the spot where slaves were bought and sold, adjacent to the Iziko Slave Lodge, which was a windowless structure built to house the slaves, and is today a fascinating museum.
The Bo-Kaap features highlights such as the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum, which remembers the slaves and their descedndets who have occupied the area for hundreds of years. The route then climbs the hill to Tana Baru Cemetery, where many important Islamic leadres are buried. From there, it moves on to Gallows Hill, where slaves were executed, and Fort Wynand, the historic armory.
While the Slave Route Challenge has a really serious theme, the atmosphere at the event is one of unity and celebration. You’ll find laughter, fun, and new friends at each bend! They also have traditional Malay koesisters in the Bo-Kaap, which make for a deliciously sweet break after climbing the hill.