Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum

  • Mapping Bo-Kaap: History, memories and spaces

    Ongoing exhibition

    A number of historic and contemporary findings, providing a glimpse into the fascinating history of the Bo-Kaap. More info
  • Pattern of Beauty

    Ongoing exhibition

    Islamic decorative art is mainly expressed in geometric forms in calligraphy, architecture and textile art, as the depiction of human and animal figures are forbidden in Islam. More info
  • New Year Carnival and the Alibama

    Ongoing exhibition

    An exhibition on the history of Cape Town’s New Year carnival in particular, the stories behind the famous Afrikaans song, ‘Die Alibama’. More info
  • Who built Cape Town?

    Ongoing exhibition

    This exhibition explores early expansion of the city, racial discrimination even prior to apartheid, and working life in the city. More info
Hire this venue

This venue, in the heart of the historic Bo-Kaap, provides a charming setting for traditional Cape Muslim fare. A partially covered courtyard can also be used during conferences and other gatherings.

Bo-Kaap Museum Community Hall

Status: Available

Ideal For: workshops, meetings, weddings, corporate functions, birthday parties, photo and film shoots

  • Indoor Venue
  • Pax Capacity: 80
  • Catering Options: None (own catering)
  • Bathrooms Available: 1 (if you have over 50 guests, we advise a portable toilet hire to accommodate)

Please note:

  • Capacity can be dependent on the details of the event.
  • No alcohol or non-kosher food allowed in the venue.
  • We do not provide catering at this venue.
  • Chairs and tables provided (please contact for number and availability).
  • If this event would fall outside of normal operating hours and days an overtime fee for staff would be applied.
  • A kitchen is available for use, however, please note restrictions below.
  • Parking is very limited to what is publically available – we recommend the use of shuttles and taxis for convenience.
  • As the venue is a public access venue, if you have your event during regular operating hours, please note that members of the public may be found walking past your event as they tour the Bo-Kaap Museum.
  • The museum will be closed on Islamic Religious Holidays.
  • A courtyard is also available for use, however, use of this courtyard must not impact on visitor access (if during regular operating hours.)
  • AV Equipment is available on request at extra cost.


  • No cooking of food / open flames are allowed on site – however, you are allowed to use electric heating trays to warm food up and the kitchen as a staging area.
  • If music is to be present and it is over 80 decibels, you are required to inform neighbours of the noise of the upcoming event.
  • Dancing or other physically vigorous activities are allowed in the hall but the event must be cleared with staff in advance.
  • No alterations of any kind may be done to the grounds – this includes removing or damaging items from walls, ceilings etc, removing artefacts/art work/plants etc or hanging/sticking items to the walls/ceiling etc without prior consent.


  • Please note that the below fees do not include overtime fees or other costs that may arise depending on your event.
  • If you are a Bo-Kaap resident, you will qualify for the Special Rate listed below.
  • Please contact venuehire@iziko.org.za for a full quote or more information.
  • Venue Fee: Full Day: R2,000; Half Day: R1,000; Evening: R3,000; Special Rate: R750


Terms and Conditions apply to any and all Venue Hires and Events.


The Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum provides a partially covered courtyard and community hall amongst other attractions for your venue.
The Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum community hall.
Courtyard facilities ideal to entertain guests.
Courtyard facilities ideal to entertain guests.
A lecture held within the community hall at Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum.
A lecture held within the community hall at Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum.
Search Collections
The collections of African Art in the Permanent Collection of the South African (SA) National Gallery mirror the histories of independence, division and democracy that have shaped the character of our country over the last century and a half.   Read more
The Ancient and Classical Cultures are well represented by artefacts from Egypt dating from the Predynastic to Graeco-Roman Periods.    Read more
This collection comprises mostly indigenous African artefacts, with a special emphasis on southern Africa. Objects from all over the world have also been collected for comparative purposes, such as Inuit artefacts to provide an example of hunter-gatherer material culture in environmental conditions very different from those in Africa.    Read more
The Modern Painting and Sculpture Collection contains excellent examples of many leading South African artists of the early and mid-20th Century, such as Gerard Sekoto, Alexis Preller, Irma Stern and Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef, all of whose artworks are very much in demand today. Modernism is not easy to define, but refers roughly to a period dating from the 1860s through to the 1970s, and is used to describe the styles and ideologies of art produced during that era.   Read more
The bird study skin collection focuses on South African species, but includes species from elsewhere in Africa as well as other regions of the world.   Read more
The Cenozoic period spans the Palaeogene (66 million years ago (Ma)) to the Quaternary (Holocene - present).   Read more
The ceramics in our collection originate from many parts of the world, mainly Asia, Europe, Africa, and in particular South Africa. Contemporary works by South African ceramic artists form an import and developing part of the collection.   Read more
Collection of Contemporary Paintings and Sculpture extends temporally from approximately the 1960s-1970s to the present day, and consists predominantly of works by South African artists. This is one of the most actively acquiring collections, and while the Art Collections acquisition policy considers the redress of historical omissions as vital to the collection, it is also forward-looking with regard to the output of emerging and established artists in South Africa.   Read more
The Iziko Slave Lodge hosts a display of Egyptian artefacts within the Iziko collection. The collection of Egyptian artefacts, however, span greater than what can be viewed in the upper level of the Iziko Slave Lodge.   Read more
The entomology collection includes about 1,000,000 pinned insects and about 30,000 alcohol preserved samples of insects, arachnids (scorpions, spiders, etc.) and myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, etc.). It is the oldest entomology collection in South Africa with specimens dating back to the 1860's, and it contains about 7,000 primary types, mainly those of Péringuey (beetles), Hesse (flies), Arnold (aculeate Hymenoptera), Purcell (arachnids) and Barnard (mainly aquatic insects).   Read more
The furniture collection contains a substantial amount of South African furniture, dating from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries. The emphasis of the collection is on Cape Furniture, originating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and is particularly well represented in the chair, table and armoire collections. Country and town furniture are represented; this collection includes some rare and unique items.    Read more
The glass collection includes items bearing the monogram of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and the Rosa van Gelderen Collection, a small but representative collection depicting English Victorian glass. In the bottle collection is an empty bottle of Constantia Pontac, dating from 1791.   Read more
The Historical and Maritime Archaeological Collection is housed at the Iziko Social History Centre. The collection has an extensive variety of artefacts from several sites in and around Cape Town. The artefacts represent 87 land sites as well as 45 shipwrecks sites.     Read more
The historical collections of painting and sculpture within the Art Collections Department of Iziko Museums embrace a wide range of works for art that are both South African and foreign in origin.    Read more
Invertebrate palaeontology is the study of fossils of animals with no backbone or spine. Fossils are the remains or impressions of a once-living plant or animal found in rock and often hardened through natural processes. Invertebrates as the name suggests are animals that do not possess a vertebral column and this especially applies to the soft-bodied and smaller invertebrates such as worms and amoebae whose remains are poorly fossilised.    Read more
Invetebrates are animal species that do not posess or develop a vertebral collumn. Familiar examples of invertebrates include insects, worms, clams, crabs, octopuses, snails and starfish.     Read more
The Karoo is a vast semi-desert region that covers much of inland South Africa, and is considered a national treasure for its abundance of desert-adapted plant and animal life, as well as its world famous fossils. The Karoo rock outcrops have long been regarded as the largest and richest collecting grounds for fossils of a long extinct group of vertebrates known as therapsids or “mammal-like reptiles”.   Read more
The mammal study skin collection includes a wide range of southern African large and small mammal species. Plains zebras Equus burchelli, which formed part of Reinhold Rau’s initial quagga project are particularly well represented.   Read more
Being situated near, the Atlantic, Indian and Antarctic marine systems has resulted in a wide diversity of southern African and other marine fauna being held in the collections at Iziko South African Museum.   Read more
Invertebrates are animals with no spinal column who dominate the animal kingdom, making up at least 95% of known animal species. Similarly, marine invertebrates make up the vast majority of ocean life; or at least those visible to the naked eye.    Read more
Marine mammals are a large and diverse group of 129 species that include seals, whales, dolphins, walruses and even polar bears. They share relatively few biological characteristics, but are instead grouped together because of one common factor – they all rely on the ocean for their existence.  The Marine Mammal Collection includes a comprehensive collection of cetacean and Cape fur seal skeletal material, as well as those from other marine mammals.  Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are the largest and most diverse order of marine mammals.   Read more
Marine vertebrates have a vertebral column, i.e. a spine and are by comparison to their invertebrate counter parts small in number, constituting only 4% of the sea’s animal kingdom. They are nonetheless considered among the most structurally complex organisms.     Read more
Cape Town's famous collection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings on view at the Old Town House.   Read more
The Iziko Natural History Collections stand among the oldest, richest and most distinctive collections in the country. Together, the millions of specimens chronicle the natural history of animals and plants from Southern Africa and across the world. In so doing, they tell a fascinating story of life on Earth – from the earliest origins to how life has evolved into what we have today.   Read more
The Numismatic Collection includes currencies, tokens, scrip, medals and medallions. The world coin collection ranges from ancient and classical times to the present.   Read more
Palaeontology is the study of the preserved remains or traces of plants, animals and organisms that died thousands to millions of years ago. These preserved remains are called fossils and are found in rocks and sediments. Fossils allow us to understand how the Earth has changed over time and how animals evolve to what they are today.   Read more
The collection has been augmented by welcome donations, such as the presentation of 50 photographic prints by Arthur Rothstein in 1976 by the US Government. In addition, individual photographers have supported the Gallery with extraordinary generosity: in 1981, Paul Alberts presented 76 photographic prints and, in 1986, David Goldblatt presented 182 prints of his work. More recently, Struan Robertson donated 505 prints and his entire archive of negatives in 2003. Without such open-handedness, the Photographic Collection of the Iziko Department of Art Collections would be infinitely poorer. Between 2002 and 2005, we were fortunate to have been awarded funding for acquisitions by both the National Lotteries Board and the Department of Arts and Culture, which directly benefited the Photography and New Media Collections   Read more
All drawing media, except silver-point, are represented and all types of print media are covered in its holdings. The early historical prints include examples by artists such as Martin Schongauer, Michael Wohlgemnut and Albrecht Dürer. The collection has a representative collection of South African prints and drawings from the early 20th century onwards and this area is its main focus with regard to acquisitions.   Read more
The Rocks and Minerals Collections at the Iziko Museum of South Africa include a fine collection of calcite, a large collection from the former Tsumeb Mines in Namibia, rhodochrosite, which is found in Hotazel in the Northern Cape as well as diamonds of many different shapes and colours. There is also a unique meteorite collection, including both iron and stony chondrites and a rare carbonaceous chondrite.      Read more
Of special interest is the silver collection, especially the Cape silver. There are several interesting items of Cape commemorative silver. Apart from European silver, there are also silver items from Malaysia and Russia   Read more
The bulk of this collection, which boasts works by British artists such as Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir William Beechey, Sir Henry Raeburn, Henry Alken, Samuel Alken Junior, Charles Henderson, John Herring Senior, James Pollard, John Sartorius and Dean Wolstenholme Senior.    Read more
A gift of British Art to South Africa, part of the permanent collection at the Iziko South African National Gallery.   Read more
The nucleus of the original collections was established in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of the historical, archaeological and ethnographic collections of the South African Museum (SAM), and later the South African Cultural History Museum (SACHM).   Read more
Terrestrial vertebrates are commonplace, distributed across the globe even though vertebrates, as a whole, make up a fraction of animal diversity. Other than that they’re land-based animals with vertebral columns (spines or backbones) they’re also characterised by their well-defined joints and digits (fingers and toes). In scientific jargon, terrestrial vertebrates are known as Tetrapoda, in reference to these limbs.    Read more
Iziko holds an extremely large textile collection which includes flags, household linen, Indonesian ikats and batiks, Oriental carpets, samples and embroideries, as well as tapestries.   Read more
Toys are important for understanding the material world of childhood and changing patterns of socialization. The Toy Collection contains mainly commercially-manufactured dolls, marionettes, soft toys, games and a range of metal and plastic vehicles and trains, as well as indigenous African toys.    Read more
The transport collection contains about thirty coaches, wagons and carts – most being part of the Isaacs Collection – and bicycles.   Read more
The weaponry collection is yet another rich and diverse collection within the Iziko Social History Collections department, containing different types of firearms, stabbing weapons, artillery, protective garments, shields, throwing weapons and many more.   Read more
The William Fehr collection is exhibited at the Castle of Good Hope and Rust en Vreugd. The Castle, Cape Town’s oldest existing building, houses the component of oil paintings, furniture and decorative arts. Rust en Vreugd, a fine example of colonial eighteenth century urban architecture, houses the art on paper – prints, drawings and watercolours.    Read more
A large collection of woodworking tools enhances the furniture collection and the majority of the tools were documented and donated by Captain W. J. Van der Merwe.    Read more
Open: Mondays to Saturdays from 10h00 to 17h00
Closed: Sundays, Workers' Day, Christmas Day, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha and January 2
Tel: +27 (0)21 481 3938/9
Address: 71 Wale Street, Cape Town
Disabled access
Entrance fees:
Adults R20
6-18 years R10
Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children, 6 years & older): R 50
SA students & pensioners (on provision of valid student/pensioner card): R 10
School groups (booked): R 5
School groups (unbooked): R 8
Under 5’s enter for free
*SA students and pensioners enter free on Fridays on provision of valid cards
*ICOM and SAMA members enter free on provision of valid cards
*50% discount for kids accompanying an adult during local school holidays

The façade, with its curvilinear Baroque parapet, is characteristic of early Cape Dutch architecture. The house has a small courtyard at the back, which is connected to the street by a narrow lane. Courtyards were usually paved with Kaapse klippe or stone sets of cobbles, and were often planted with trees or a vine.

The height of stoeps (verandas) in the Bo-Kaap vary according to the slope of the street. Most stoeps have solid seats at both ends, making the stoep a convenient gathering place for family and friends.

The flat roofs of this dwelling and others of its era were often disguised with decorative roof edging such as this to help cover the flat, sloping roof behind the decorative edging. In the 1700s roofs were typically “waterproofed” by mopping the roof with a mixture of whale oil and molasses, to repel rain. 

Another distinctive feature of the house is the front door, with a separate top and bottom panel known as a boenonder (above-and-below) door. The door has an additional upper panel, fitted with glass window panes, which slides down and rests on the bottom panel of the door, thus providing light in the entrance hall when the door is closed.

The sash-windows, fitted with teak shutters, are a typical feature of Cape Dutch architecture. When the house was restored in the mid-1970s, many alterations that had been made over the years were removed, to approximate the building’s original features. During the restoration, the width of the entrance hall was narrowed to its original width. Yellowwood floors and ceiling boarding were installed throughout the house, and the roof beams were given a layer of yellowwood, to simulate the old Cape Dutch beams. The original wrought iron fittings of this house were replaced with replicas, based on Cape Dutch patterns of the period.

The building was declared a National Monument in 1966. It was officially opened as a museum on 22 April 1978, by Mr Julius Tahija from Jakarta, Indonesia.

Façade of the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum.
Restoration plans for 71 Wale Street, erf number 2780, depicting the Wale street elevation. Image courtesy of the City of Cape Town.
Upper door panel, fitted with glass window panes providing light in the entrance hall when the door is closed. Photo by Carina Beyers, 2010, (c) Iziko Museums of South Africa.
Floor plan of the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum

The Bo-Kaap Museum is situated in one of the oldest urban residential areas in Cape Town. The earliest development of the Bo-Kaap area, which became known as Waalendorp, was undertaken by Jan de Waal in the 1760s. The house that today incorporates the museum building is the only one built by him that retains its original form. It dates to 1768.

The Bo-Kaap is a unique part of old Cape Town. It is situated above the central business district of the city. It is a small residential area, less than two kilometres in length and less than half a kilometre at its widest point.

Most of the Bo-Kaap was built between 1760 and 1840. It is comprised of four areas: the Malay Quarter, Stadzicht, Schotsche Kloof and Schoone Kloof. The precise boundaries of each area are unclear.

Prior to the 1760s, there was very little residential building development in the space that would later become known as the Bo-Kaap. In this period, there were just two blocks of erven and the market garden in Schotsche Kloof.

After 1780, the Cape settlement grew and the town grid was extended above Buitengracht Street. The occupation of the Cape by the British in 1795 resulted in further residential growth. Development of the area continued to be in the form of modest huurhuisjes (hire houses), which were typically flat-roofed and consisted of a single storey. Many huurhuisjes were let to immigrant artisans and craftsmen of European origin, who worked in town. However, the area was also home to free blacks and freed slaves.

After the emancipation of slaves in 1834, there was increased pressure for modest housing, and many freed slaves moved into the new parts of the Bo-Kaap. They took over houses from the immigrants, who had begun to move to suburbs south of the city.

The Bo-Kaap developed as a mixed neighbourhood, and included a characteristically large number of Muslims, with a small number of Africans.

By 1885, the Bo-Kaap had taken on its current form (apart from the Schotsche Kloof Flats built in the late 1930s and a few new mosques). Social life in the area was vibrant and varied. Popular social events included sports, religious gatherings, picnics and Guy Fawkes, Christmas and New Year celebrations. Informal street performances by members of singing clubs – which were often allied to sports clubs - were common around New Year.

Before mid-1960, when the apartheid government razed District Six to the ground, there were close community ties between the inner-city neighbourhoods of District Six and the Bo-Kaap. In 1957, certain sections were reserved for Coloureds except for the Schotsche Kloof area where a separate ‘Malay’ identity was retained. Some ‘non-Malay’ and Christian coloured, Indian and African families were forcibly relocated to areas such as Gugulethu and Mitchell’s Plain, amongst others. Despite the protests of some residents, parts of the Bo-Kaap were declared a ‘Malay Group Area’ under the Group Areas Act.

The Group Areas Act profoundly dislocated peoples’ lives across South Africa. District Six was declared a ‘white area’ in 1966 and residents were forcibly removed to outlying areas such as Manenberg, Mitchell’s Plain and Hanover Park. By the end of the 1970s, it is estimated that 150 000 people were removed under the Group Areas Act in the Western Cape.

Resistance to apartheid and racial segregation continued in the Bo-Kaap and elsewhere, until the demise of apartheid in 1994. The City Council, which by this time owned the majority of properties in the area, was initially opposed to conserving the architecture in the Bo-Kaap, even demolishing several historic houses that had become dilapidated.

Although the Bo-Kaap has over centuries been home to people of various origins and religions, the area is closely associated with the Muslim community of the Cape. The ancestors of the majority of the Muslims in the Cape arrived from 1658 onwards as slaves, political exiles and convicts from East Africa and South East Asia (India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka). The first mosque at the Cape, the Auwal Mosque, was built in the neighbourhood in 1804 and is still in use, although much altered over years. By the beginning of the twentieth century roughly half the population in the area was Muslim.

The history of the Bo-Kaap reflects the political processes in South Africa under the Apartheid years. The area was declared an exclusive residential areas for Cape Muslims under the Group Areas Act of 1950 and people of other religions and ethnicity were forced to leave. At the same time, the neighbourhood is atypical. It is one of the few neighbourhoods with a predominantly working class population that continued to exist near a city centre. In the mid-twentieth century, most working class people in South Africa were moved to the periphery of the cities under the Slum Clearance Act and neighbourhood improvement programmes.

Over the years the Bo-Kaap has been known as the Malay Quarter, the Slamse Buurt or Schotcheskloof.

Aerial view of the Bo-Kaap. Photograph: Carina Beyer, 2010, Iziko Social History Collections.
One of the earliest photographs taken of the Bo-Kaap in 1892, looking towards the slopes of Signal Hill. Elliott Collection, E1939, Western Cape Archives Repository.
Freed slaves celebrating in Cape Town, 1854. George Duff of Liberated Africans, Paapendorp, 22 September 1854, watercolour, Museum Africa.
In 1907, the first minstrel competition, organised by the Green Point Cricket Club, took place at the Green Point Track to raise funds for the club. This also marked the beginning of the traditional road march from the City to Green Point. Photo: National Library of South Africa, Cape Town Campus.
Guy Fawkes in the Bo-Kaap, 1907. Cape Times Weekly, 13/11/1907, National Library of South Africa, Cape Town Campus.
District Six was demolished and one of the few surviving buildings is St Mark's Anglican Church. (c) Ray Ryan in E van Z Hofmeyr & Z Luckhoff Collection, Iziko Social History Collection.
Restoration project in Chiappini Street, 1976. National Library of South Africa, Cape Town Campus.

In 1755, Governor of the Cape, Ryk Tulbagh, granted the land on which the Museum is located to Alexander Coel, a member of the Council of Justice. Five years later, the land passed to landowner Jan de Waal. After De Waal’s death in 1768, the property was carved up into six portions. The property on which the Museum stands today was sold to Johannes Vermeulen in 1768. The deed of transfer states that the ‘house, erf and everything on the property lies in Table Valley – a part of Schotsche Kloof’. It remained the property of the Vermeulen family for 64 years, between 1768 and 1832. It then passed to Bartholomeus Hendricus Eyberg, who owned the property for sixty-two years, until his estate was declared insolvent. Hadje Magmoet Effendi (a family member of the influential Imam Abu Bakr Effendi, who was dispatched to the Cape Colony in 1862) took possession of Eyberg’s land in 1894.

In 1911, Hadje Magmoet Effendi appealed to the City Council to pay for damages ‘to the walls, floors, carpets and furniture because the drain in the lane was blocked and after a severe storm the area flooded.’ This they refused, asserting that it was the owner’s responsibility (WCAR, KAB, 3/CT, 4/2/1/1/1/103, 481/11, 1911). With a lack of services from the City Council, maintaining the upkeep of this old property would have proved difficult for the Effendi family.

After Hadje Magmoet’s death in 1917, the estate was bequeathed to his children. Assistant chemist Mochamat Dervies Effendi (also referred to as Mr Dervies, Mr Derris, Mr Gamat Dervies Effendi, and Mochamet Dervies Effendi, in correspondence files) became the sole owner of 71 Wale Street, after a court settlement with his siblings.

The property today looks very different to what it looked like under Mochamat Dervies’ ownership. The house had many more rooms.

In 1928, Mr Dervies built extra rooms at the rear of the building, despite being cautioned about the risk of overcrowding by the Medical Officer of Health (Western Cape Archives Repository [WCAR], 3/CT, 4/2/1/3/34b, B1507). At this time, no. 71 Wale Street comprised a stoep (porch), four rooms and a kitchen, with ten rooms and three toilets in the backyard. The main building, according to the City Council, was occupied by a ‘respectable Malay family and the ten rooms in the courtyard by tenants, Boltman, Povie, Roultman, Maldie, Meyer, Jacobs, Williams, Van Ass and one whose name was unobtainable … total 27 adults and 10 children all sleeping in rough beds in the rooms in the yard.’

In 1934, the City Council declared portions of the house a slum and made strenuous efforts to expropriate the property from Mr Dervies. The Council claimed that it wanted to purchase the property as ‘one of 41 properties comprising an area named the “Dorp Lane Area” which was to be cleared for a tenement scheme’. The City Engineer and the Medical Officer of Health were called in to investigate the site.

On inspection, the Acting City Engineer, Mr W.J. Houghton, maintained that ‘the walls are roughly plastered, woodwork defective, concrete floors and paving in the yard need to be hacked up and relaid ... the W.C. is defective and all woodwork etc. needs to be repainted.’ He questioned whether ‘repair is economic or whether the nuisance can only be removed by demolition’. (Report by W.J. Houghton, 28/10/1935 in KAB, 3/CT, 4/2/1/1/1327).

The final decision to repair or demolish became the task of the Medical Officer of Health, Mr Tom Shaddick Higgins. He was in support of Houghton, arguing that the property was:

‘..damp, paving broken, drains leaky; infested with bugs and rats. The premises are occupied by coloured people and natives for dwelling-house purposes as one five-room letting and ten single room lettings (31 occupants). Two rooms overcrowded, one room is used as a kitchen it is contact with one toilet. No kitchen in single-room lettings cooking is done in their sleeping rooms by oil stoves.’(sic) (Report by W.J. Houghton, 28/10/1935 in WCAR, KAB, 3/CT, 4/2/1/1/1327)

Three months later, Mr Dervies was summoned to court and the rear part of the building was declared a slum. However, the City Council was still not satisfied and, a few months later, proposed to acquire the land by agreement or expropriation. In March 1937, an agreement was reached and a new Deed of Transfer was issued. Demolition of the rear part of the building was only completed in 1940. The Effendi family continued to live on the property, even though the City Council owned the property. When Mr Gamat Dervies Effendi died on 28 July 1940, his wife and children continued to reside there, until it was declared a National Monument in the late 1960s. Restoration of the house started in the 1970s.

71 Wale Street, at the time the Effendi family lived there, 1950s. National Library of South Africa.
Deed of Transfer No 7734, property registered in the name of Mochamat Devries, 26 September 1917. The site was estimated to be worth £240 and £570, including the buildings. Deeds office, Cape Town. Photograph: Lailah Hisham, Iziko Social History Collections, 2010.
Corner of Rose and Wale Street, with 71 Wale Street (the museum today) in the background, 1950. E van Z Hofmeyr & J Luckhoff, Iziko Social History Collections.
Restoration plan of 71 Wale Street, erf number 2780. Courtesy of the City of Cape Town.
Elevation to the front area of 71 Wale Street. Courtesy of the City of Cape Town.
Side view of the elevation from Lion Lane. Courtesy of the City of Cape Town.
Elevation of the courtyard. Courtesy of the City of Cape Town.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, slave owners at the Cape did little to encourage slaves to embrace Christianity, and Islam, increasingly, was regarded by slaves as a religion of freedom. After the Batavian government granted religious freedom in 1804, the influence of Imams grew in Cape Town and the number of Muslim slaves also rose significantly. By 1824, there were two mosques, five prayer rooms and four madressas (Muslim schools) in the Bo-Kaap. Mosques originally looked like ordinary buildings, and minarets were only added in the mid-1800s.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, St Paul’s Church in Bree Street and St Stephen’s Church on Riebeeck Square served the Bo-Kaap community. However, the idea of a Cape Malay culture was actively promoted by the Nationalist Party government. In the mid-1960s, the implementation of the Group Areas Act by the apartheid government, in an attempt to create a Cape Malay enclave, expelled many Christians from the area. The category ‘Malay’, as used by the apartheid government, was not synonymous with ‘Muslim’ and excluded, for instance, South African Indians who arrived later.

The St Paul’s Anglican Church and its primary school today remain a strong presence in the Bo-Kaap community.

For many Muslim residents today, daily life and social relationships are organised around prayer and the mosque. Mosques perform a spiritual function and also provide spaces for community and social interaction.

Under the Dutch East India Company, Muslims were not allowed their own places of worship, so prayer meetings were held in private homes.

Auwal Mosque was the first mosque that came into existence, in 1798, during the time of the first British Occupation. The land was donated by Saartjie van die Kaap ‘als een Mohamedaansche Kerk’, securing a home for Islam and a base from which it could spread. There are seven mosques in the Bo-Kaap today. However, residents consider the Palm Tree and Hanafee mosques, located in Long Street, as well as the Quawatul Islam Mosque, located in Loop Street.

The Jamia Mosque in Lower Chiappini Street, built in 1850. Photo by Carina Beyer, 2010, Iziko Social History Collections.
The Nurul Mohamadia Mosque in Vos Street, built in 1899. Photo by Carina Beyer, 2010, Iziko Social History Collections.
Nurul Huda Mosque in Leuwen Street, built in 1958. Photo by Carina Beyer, 2010, Iziko Social History Collections.

An important spiritual space in the Bo-Kaap is the Tana Baru (‘new ground’) which refers to the Muslim cemetery at the top of Longmarket Street. It is comprised of three burial grounds. These were the first burial grounds for Cape Muslims and were granted to Frans van Bengalen on 2 October 1805 by the Batavian Republic, after religious freedom was declared. Some of the earliest and most respected Muslim settlers of South Africa are buried there.

The Tana Baru has always been regarded as the most hallowed of the Muslim cemeteries in Cape Town. On 15 January 1886, as a result of the application of the Public Health Act of 1883, the Tana Baru was closed. Although the administration of this act curtailed people’s religious rites, this did not go uncontested. On 17 January 1886, in defiance of the act, a 3 000-strong funeral procession, led by Abdul Burns, marched to the Tana Baru and buried the child of Amaldien Rhode.

This was a significant example of civil disobedience in nineteenth-century Cape Town. Since then, the site has been under threat on various occasions. In the 1960s, there were attempts to declare it a ‘white area’, under apartheid, and, more recently, the threat has been posed by property developers who consider it to be prime property. Fortunately, the Tana Baru is protected by the National Heritage Resources Act and the Muslim Judicial Council has declared a fatwa (Islamic decree) on the development of the land.


In addition to being spaces for worship, madressa, or Muslim school is conducted in some mosques. Madressa takes place in the afternoon, after secular school. Here children, and sometimes adults, learn about Islam, and Qu’ranic readings are held. There are several informal madressas held in private homes throughout the Bo-Kaap. Madressa and evening classes are also held for members of the community, ranging from marriage classes and Hajj classes to Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Arabic classes. After completing madressa, scholars graduate in a ceremony called tamat.

The Tana Baru Muslim cemetery, photographed by Carina Beyer, 2010, Iziko Social History Collections.
Boys attending madressa in the Bo-Kaap. Photo: Carina Beyer, 2010, Iziko Social History Collections.

Food is a key marker of identity and is intimately connected to daily life, religious festivals, rites of passage and celebrations. Ramadaan and Eid are two of many religious traditions practised in the Bo-Kaap community and in Muslim societies generally. Food and celebration are central to many other social traditions in Cape Town, including the minstrel (klopse) New Year Carnival and Christmas celebrations.

New Year Carnival in Cape Town is an old tradition, which officially started in 1907, and the klopse have become synonymous with the New Year celebrations. Crowds of performers and spectators gather on the streets of the city, to participate in the parade on Tweede Nuwe Jaar (2 January). The traditional route of the Carnival began in District Six, wound its way up Wale Street and ended at Green Point Track. This demonstrated the strong link between the Bo-Kaap and District Six.

Christmas bands open Carnival season on Christmas Eve. Christmas and New Year are the culmination of months of preparation and rehearsing in klopskamers (club houses) of the klopse, Christmas bands and nagtroepe (Malay choirs).

Some klopse troupes were associated with sports clubs and often performed at matches. In the Bo-Kaap, sport has always been a popular pastime. Under apartheid, there was a lack of adequate sporting facilities, such as rugby grounds and cricket pitches. Nevertheless, the sporting community in the Bo-Kaap persevered and triumphed. Sporting legends such as Yusaf Zahier, his son Zahier Ryland, and Faghmie Solomons, as well as cricketer Basil D’ Oliveira, all hailed from the Bo-Kaap.

Traditionally, there was no need to travel outside of the area for daily needs. Most retail outlets in the Bo-Kaap are passed down from generation to generation, making them family businesses. Examples are Biesmiellah Café, Rose Corner Café, Atlas Trading Centre and Rocksole. Similarly, trades such as tailoring and cooking were also passed along generational lines.

An important feature of everyday life in the Bo-Kaap is the corner shops, which provide households with goods and also act as meeting places. A popular gathering place for people in the 1950s was the corner of Rose and Wale Streets. Even today, residents of the Bo-Kaap use the streets as a communal space to meet, to play and to socialise. Streets are also viewed as safe spaces, where children play freely. This is true for the Bo-Kaap’s early history and its more recent history, as the two images indicate.

Traffic is controlled by sharp corners, steep inclines and cobbled surfaces. Colourful single and double-storey houses line the streets. A number of architectural influences and styles (Cape Dutch and Georgian) can be seen in the area.

Owners Wahab Ahmed and Cassiem Ahmed have been running Atlas Trading Centre since 1971. Photograph Carina Beyer, Iziko Social History Collections.
Photo by Ray Ryan, E van Z Hofmeyr & Luckoff Collection, Iziko Social History Collections.
District Six street minstrels leading guests to the opening of the Ghoema & Glitter exhibition at the Castle of Good Hope in 2010.
Children playing with marbles in Upper Wale Street, 1950s. E van Z Hofmeyr & J Luckhoff Collection, Iziko Social History Collections.
Children playing the same game of marbles on the same square decades later, 2010. Photo: Carina Beyer, Iziko Social History Collections.

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About the Museum

The Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum (IBKM) is one of the earliest homes built in the Bo-Kaap area, dating to the mid-eighteenth century. The museum, situated in the historic area that became home to many Muslims and freed slaves after the abolition of slavery, showcases local Islamic culture and heritage. The house was declared a National Monument in 1965 and restored in the 1970s.

The Museum was established in 1978 as a satellite of the SA Cultural History Museum. It was furnished as a house that depicts the lifestyle of a nineteenth-century Muslim family.

The Museum is managed by Iziko Museums, an amalgamation of five national museums that includes the SA Cultural History Museum and its satellites. The museum,  is a social history museum that tells the story of the local community within a national socio-political and cultural context. Originally furnished as a house, it depicted, in a picturesque and stereotypical way, the lifestyle of a nineteenth-century Cape Muslim family.

The Bo-Kaap itself is well worth a visit. Colourful houses, steep cobbled streets, the muezzin’s calls to prayer, and children traditionally dressed for Madrassa, add to this unique Cape experience.