Four hundred years before Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg became the popular hangout for surfers, dog walkers and beach lovers that it is now, KhoeSan settled here and scoured the coastline for food.
Since then freed slaves, political exiles, and Filipino mariners found a home at the False Bay coast. Families lived in mixed neighbourhoods. Fishermen from the Pilippines 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.
The City of Cape Town, in collaboration with the local historical associations in Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, have now installed a collection of interpretive storyboards along Main Road which tells the remarkable story of the people who lived in this part of the city over the centuries.
Where are the interpretive storyboards
A total of 21 historical interpretive boards are located along the section of Main Road which passes through Muizenberg, St James, and Kalk Bay, most at places with views of 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 Surfers Corner, and at Muizenberg Park at the corner of Camp and Main Roads.
What stories do the storyboards tell
The boards tell the story of those who lived in close close to Main Road long before it became an important access route to the Southern Peninsula. They have 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.
In total, 11 themes are depicted on the storyboards:
- Indigenous people: the story of the indigenous KhoeSan 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 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. The City and its partners have worked for nearly two years on finalising this project, which is in line with the City’s new Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP). One of the outcomes of the ODTP is to build an inclusive Cape Town where we commemorate the people and events that influenced the character and culture of the city.