The City of Cape Town, in collaboration with the local historical associations in Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, has created and installed a collection of interpretive boards along Main Road in the Southern Peninsula which tells the story of the people who lived in this part of the city over the centuries.
A total of 21 historical interpretive boards have been installed recently along the section of Main Road which passes through Muizenberg, St James, and Kalk Bay.
This section covers a distance of approximately 4.5km and is regarded as one of the Southern Peninsula’s most scenic routes.
“Locals and tourists who stroll along the new sidewalks that we have constructed along this section of Main Road will see the new storyboards as they are taking in the views of the impressive Muizenberg mountains and False Bay. Some of the boards are placed at other popular public open spaces – for instance, at the pedestrian rail crossing at York Street for those who are passing through towards Surfer’s Corner, and at Muizenberg Park at the corner of Camp and Main roads,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for area south, Eddie Andrews.
The interpretive boards tell the story of those who lived in close proximity to Main Road long before it became an important access route dotted with railway stations and holidaymakers in modern cars.
“The project forms part of the rehabilitation of Main Road from the intersection with Atlantic Road in Muizenberg to the intersection with Clovelly Road just past Kalk Bay. A team of experts – including a spatial historian, historical archaeologist, social historian, narrator, and the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society and Kalk Bay Historical Association – formed part of the committee who selected and developed the themes depicted on the storyboards. A number of archives and individual collectors contributed to this project by making their postcards, family collections and other useful photographic images available. Thus, this can be described as a collective effort by the City, local residents and non-profit organisations who are passionate about the diverse history of Cape Town,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron.
In total, 11 themes are depicted on the storyboards:
* Indigenous people: the story of the indigenous Khoisan hunter-gatherers and herders who were the first to settle around this area.
* Memories of Die Dam: the area between Rouxville and Belmont roads in Kalk Bay with the tiny Muslim Jasjid at its heart, occupied by fishermen, crafts people, lace-makers and shopkeepers
* Die Land and Middedorp in Kalk Bay: a melting pot of cultures with residents from the Ukraine, Greece, Latvia, India and Portugal.
* Religion and education: chapels, mosques, and synagogues, as well as surfing culture, hippie and New Age movements all added to the mix.
* Colonial occupation and defence: the Battle of Muizenberg in 1795.
* Fishing: the earlier residents had sturdy wooden boats, whaling took place, and silverfish and yellowtail were plentiful
* Kalk Bay Harbour and Fishery Beach: a small fishing community was established here in the early 1800s, the railway was constructed in 1883, and the area declared a White Group Area in 1967.
* Architecture: local sandstone, sea-facing frontages, and alleys stepped down the steep slopes formed part of the local layout.
* Transport: wagons from Cape Town delivered goods, access became easy after the railway reached Muizenberg in 1883, and Boyes Drive was built in 1929.
* A coastal resort: Muizenberg aspired to be the Brighton (royal British coastal resort) of South Africa where women did surf-riding in the 1930s.
* Mountain and sea: the people have always been affected by the forces of nature, be it storms or fires on the mountain.
“The storyboards are cleverly designed, with maps, photos, drawings and text telling the stories of the people who have lived in this area for over 400 years. It shows how the peninsula has evolved from a food provider to a fun holiday destination, and the conflict and development that came with it. It is the collective story of our rich and diverse cultural heritage,” said Mr Herron.
He said that it was interesting that freed slaves, political exiles, and Filipino mariners found a home at the False Bay coast. “Families lived in mixed neighbourhoods. Fishermen from the Philippines were Catholic and St James was their patron saint. Many slaves and exiles were
Muslim and summer visitors and the owners of villas attended the Jewish
synagogue on Saturdays,” said Mr
The purpose of the storyboards is not to create a complete historical overview of the area, but to give locals and tourists a glimpse of the Southern Peninsula and its people.
“ I encourage residents to take a closer look at these boards next time they are strolling along Main Road,” he said.