Photo: Herman Eloff, Channel24
Many of South Africa’s main city centers have become notorious spaces that accommodate theft, break-ins, smash-and-grabs and other dodge dealings. It is because of this, many people and travellers are (justifiably) told to avoid certain parts of our urban spaces.
Avoiding the streets, however, unfortunately means not seeing the most beautiful parts of South Africa's cities, including old, historical buildings, quaint little streets and many certain shops that have stood the test of time to become institutions all their own…
True intrepid travellers can't stand the thought of not being able to savor every nook and cranny of a city they visit.
Not occupying, visiting and supporting these 'bad' parts of the cities, is also a defeat of bad over good, as opportunistic baddies gain the supreme rule over our stunning city centers.
It is therefore a delight to see how various Western Cape organizations have taken a step against the 'loss' of the streets in and around Cape Town. The phenomenon has been happening in Jozi, too, and here's hoping the Johannesburg city center will soon also be taken back by the people... Amandla!
Also see: Joburg’s Maboneng listed as cool new attraction for 2015
Although the situation is far from perfect, the attempt is honourable and unsurprisingly, very successful. Don’t believe me? Does it sound too good to be true? Here are but a few examples of how people are taking back the streets in the Cape…
The City of Cape Town on 11 February 2015 started a project in which they will support buskers in the Cape Town city center, by providing them with a legitimate platform on which they can perform.
The city provided black PVC mats to buskers, on which they stand to show their official involvement with the city. Along with these mats, officials are appointed to the areas where the buskers perform. This means if a visitor or foreigner has any questions about the project or performers, the officials are readily able to answer and assist.
At the moment, the buskers working with the City of Cape Town follow a loose schedule that basically aims to coincide with lunchtime, and other busy times within the CBD.
City of Cape Town councilor for the city centre Dave Bryant told Traveller24 at the official launch of the busking project that he hopes the initiative will cause for an increased interest in performance art, and that this will then create a ripple effect - drawing crowds to the city center and adding a boost to the economy.
The performers are extremely well-prepared and talented, and Cape Town's city center citizens seem to enjoy the live entertainment during their lunch hours. Send us your pics if you do attend one of their sessions - firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Streets is an international initiative, which temporarily closes streets to vehicles so communities can ese them for healthy, fun physical activities like biking, dancing, exercising and performing. The initiative originally started in the United States, and there are currently more than 90 Open Streets initiatives running in the US and Canada.
Since 2012, Open Streets have also taken form in South Africa’s Western Cape. And, judging by the amount of gang violence that dominates certain gang-ridden Cape Flats areas, there’s no better place in the world for people to start taking back the streets.
As an example, on 12 October 2013, The Maboneng Township Arts Experience (mentioned above) formally opened its permanent arts route in the Langa Quarter by making ten homes on Rubusana Street into permanent gallery spaces. On this day, Open Streets closed down Rubusana Street to cars and invited both residents and visitors to occupy the streets as a way to express, interact and experience the street freely, safely and creatively.
Most recently on Sunday 17 January 2015, Open Streets closed off Bree Street in Cape Town’s CBD to host one of the most spectacular events the city has ever seen.
Also see: Something magical happens when you close a street for a day in a busy city
The next Open Streets
Send us your pics if you do attend - email@example.com
The Streets on Thursdays
Cape Town's central city comes alive on the first Thursday of every month, as dozens of art galleries stay open and cultural events go on until late.
Even though the cars are still present, masses of people are gathered on the roads to celebrate art and have a good time.
The next First Thursday
When: 5 February 2015
Where: See the interactive map below, detailing the First Thursday venues
Send us your pics if you do go - firstname.lastname@example.org
How does it work: Art galleries and various venues host cultural events around Cape Town's central city, staying open until 9pm or later on the first Thursday of every month. This allows anyone to explore the city on foot and experience the cultural wealth Cape Town has to offer. There is no tour, schedule, or guided walk; that is up to you. We are simply helping you figure out what to see and where to go by highlighting what is happening.
Thursday Market @ St George’s Mall
St George’s Mall situated in the heart of the city is a small cobble stone street adorned by a string of stunning little shops. The mall was previously a street but it has since been cordoned off to motorists transforming this small alleyway into a space devoted to pedestrians, shoppers and tourists.
The street mall even hosts its own quaint little market every Thursday – and people working in the city center love to grab lunch there on these days.
You’ll find fresh, home-smoked sustainable fish, freshly baked bread from a café nearby, delightful curries and a wide selection of delicious bite-sized samoosas, spring rolls and dim sum. Artisan food at its best.
Stellenbosch Street Soirees
A stunning new initiative has sprouted up in the Cape Winelands, and it’s taking the streets by storm! Every second Wednesday evening of summer, the street in front of the old Dutch Reformed Church, Drosdy Street, is cordoned off for people to drink wine and eat street food.
This initiative is not only great for the people enjoying the soiree, but winefarms now also have the opportunity to exhibit their produce without having to have their own shop or cellar in central town.
Since most people tend to be more familiar with the bigger wine cellars in the Winelands, this soiree offers the perfect opportunity for unique and smaller cellars to be exhibited to the public.
It’s laid-back and real. Judging by the event's popularity with both students and grown-ups, we can easily see this becoming a well-established Stellenbosch event.
Green Market Square
In the heart of Cape Town’s business district, Greenmarket Square has become quite an establishment for South Africans, as well as international visitors. The square has a vivid history – it has been a slave market, a fruit and vegetable market and during the 1950s it was used as a humble parking lot.
Today, the market is a vibrant exhibition place for many entrepreneurs from all over Africa. Unique clothing, glassware, hand-painted fabrics, footwear, music, sunglasses and curios. This is a good place to come if you would like to buy some unique and good-quality souvenirs.
It is more than a flea market, however, and apart from the cafes, stalls and souvenirs, there is almost always live entertainment on the go. Whether it be in the form of buskers, mime artists and jugglers or sometimes even full on brass bands jazzing away on a weekend.
The market is a great example of how people - enthusiasts and entrepreneurs - made a success of offering a quality street experience. As a result many tourists feel safe in this central city space as the market continues to prosper.
Green Market Square Info
Opening times: Monday to Saturday between 09:00 and 16:00
Where: In the square that dissects Burg Street, between Longmarket and Shortmarket streets
Sidewalks & Walkways
Cars and automotive vehicles are so last century, and true pioneers walk, or run, or cycle, or use public transport in the cities.
Fanwalk – it’s easier, and more fun to just use public transport to get to the Cape Town stadium events. Plus, the Stadium has fantastic, safe facilities for bicycles if you'd prefer to cycle to the event.
The Promenade – this runway and free, open air gym and training/thinking/meditation space is ridding locals of their excess energy. The Promenade is also used as a public art exhibition space, and various artists exhibit their creative pieces on this path, backed by the dramatic scenery of the Atlantic ocean.
Usable Art – A New Artwork called Open House is coming to Cape Town’s city centre, and it is inviting everyone to use it.
Also See: Open House artwork to grace Cape Town CBD
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