Koeksisters, Colorful Towns and Kudu. What more can You Ask For?
Bokaap which means Upper Cape is a vividly colorful neighborhood with a unique flair with buildings painted in shades that run the gamut of the color spectrum. It is located in Capetown, South Africa.
Perhaps, I may have seen a play of color in the architectural context in parts of Florida, New Orleans and even Los Angeles, but nothing like Bokaap. This was different – its warmth, its draw, the seemingly unplanned intentionality in the details, in the symmetry. It is all of that and then some. Represented, are almost all the hues of the rainbow on this town’s concrete canvas, a town that is also a part of this rainbow nation.
While researching “things to do” in Capetown, being the planner that I am, I stumbled upon pictures of Bokaap on the web. For a minute, my mind and eye coordination grappled with the images before it finally registered. Intrigued that’s the word. This piece of artwork almost seemed too good to be true and just like that, my mind was made up. Without a doubt, Bokaap was now officially on my “must-see” list. So you can imagine how antsy I was when I realized with less than a day to the end of my trip and I still had not made it to this quaint historical town. Finally it happened. I experienced it first hand. Breathtaking. I must confess it is a sight worth more than a thousand plus words.
Located on the slopes of Signal Hill, it is home to the Cape “Malay” Muslim community. Most of the Bokaap residents are descendants of slaves brought in by the Dutch in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries from Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and other parts of Asia.
Cape Malay may be considered a misnomer since most of these people are not descendants of Malaysians. Although “Cape Malay” is used to refer to Coloreds that are Muslims, some are of the opinion that a more accurate description would be “Cape Muslims”.
Just like District 6, the 6th (sixth) municipal district of Capetown, originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers and immigrants, Bokaap was also affected by the Group Areas Act of 1950. This Area Act divided urban areas into racially segregated zones and it was a criminal offense “for a member of one racial group to reside on or own land in an area set aside by proclamation for another race” (O’Malley, Heart of Hope). District 6 was designated a white-only area and Bokaap, a colored area.
Here are a few points of interest on my visit to this beautiful town:
On the corner of Wale and Rose streets in Bokaap is the Wale Rose Lifestyle Restaurant It almost seems out of place given its more mellow outer brick red appearance, different from its surrounding pastel colored neighbors.
Across from Wale Rose is Rose Corner Café, an establishment that has been around for generations. I got some great tasting Koesisters, Cape Malay style. These unevenly shaped, midsized spongy dough balls, a little bigger than a golf ball, are deep fried and topped with a sprinkling of shredded coconut.
In contrast to the Cape Malay version of this pastry is the Afrikaner version spelt, Koeksisters (pronounced “Cook Sisters”). It is a braided or twisted deep fried dough that is more sticky because it is coated with a sweet syrup.
I can almost taste the warm spongy texture along with the blending of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and aniseed flavors that melts in your mouth combined with a delicate touch of sweetness. This delight is very different from the all too common sacharrine taste of alot of pastries and to top it off is the shredded coconut…Talk about a winner. YUM!
Koeksisters – Origin: from Afrikaans koe(k)sister, perhaps from koek ‘cake’ + sissen ‘to sizzle’.
Koesisters (Cape Malay) or Koeksisters (Afrikaner) remind me so much of a different pastry popular in Nigeria, “puff-puff“. The major difference between the two being the addition of the shredded or desiccated coconut.
And for dinner, Marco’s African Place at 15 Rose Street also in BoKaap. We started with some warm, moist slices of sweet bread. It was so good I shamelessly asked for seconds. For my main course, I selected from their authentic African menu, creamed spinach and the Pan African Platter. This platter of grilled filets of ostrich, springbok and kudu was served with either a choice of rice or fries. Kudu is antelope. The creamed spinach was tasty, not heavy on the cream. The meats were well seasoned and cooked to order and juicy. The atmosphere was just right with the live band entertaining us with some African numbers. These are just a few of the interesting stops and experiences I had on my visit to Capetown.
There we go, off my bucket list, visited a colorful town in my lifetime, check! check!