People of the Cape Flats
People of the Cape Flats

When thinking about the people of the Cape Flats, there are two archetypal images that come to mind. The first is that of a man dressed up in a colourful costume with his face painted (I have yet to see a woman portrayed like this). The second is the smiling face of a somewhat scruffy-looking fellow, minus his four front teeth.

A third image, which is less common, is that of fishermen at some harbour hauling snoek (a gamefish found in the cold waters of the Atlantic) out of a fishing boat. These are the typical images portrayed by the mass media when they make references to the people of the Cape Flats.

All of these images have one thing in common, and that is that they all tend to show people of mixed origin (a slightly outdated pc term for "coloured" people).

While it is undoubtedly true that the majority of people on the Cape Flats (for the moment at least) used to be classified as coloured in terms of apartheid legislation, it is certainly not true that all the people who live on the Flats are coloured. There is a large and increasing number of people of African origin (and here I again use African in an apartheid sense) who historically, have moved from the previous homelands of the Transkei and the Ciskei and settled in Cape Town. It is also true, however, that certainly the younger "African" people in Cape Town have been born here, and many of them have never been to either of the two homelands.

Source: IOL

It is worth mentioning that while there is a predominance of "coloured" people on the Cape Flats, that this by no means implies that we are talking about a homogeneous group of people. As mentioned in my overview, the Cape Flats was created as a result of the Group Areas Act, and thus we find an interesting and exciting mix of cultures and traditions which have combined in a unique way to make up a "Cape Flats culture". I remember when as a child, I first came into contact with Muslims (people of the Islamic faith), I thought that they were very strange- aspects of their lifestyle and language were totally alien, and I had to learn to not only come to terms with this, but also in some ways, incorporate it into my worldview.

But who are the people of the Cape Flats?

If you are expecting me to give you a comprehensive and concise answer to this question, I'm afraid that you will be disappointed. In essence, the people of the Cape Flats defy any concise description- it is precisely this inability to pin down, to put in a neat box, that I find so exciting and challenging. My neighbour and I may live next to each other; yet at the same time, we are worlds apart. What we have in common though, is that we are from the Cape Flats, or as we would say- vannie Toun.