Sea Point

Sea Point is a dense and bustling hub of activity with apartment buildings, shopping centres, traffic and people at every corner.  It’s also a place full of contradictions.  Sometimes it seems that those contradictions mirror the contracts between the hard granite slopes of Signal Hill and the turquoise expanse of the Atlantic between which the suburb is nestled. For example, on Main Road you can a hotel room for R1800 per night, but also rooms for as little as R200.00 without it being ten times worse. The Main road and business district  contains an interesting mixture of spaces and places. Such as the venerable La Mouette restaurant, situated in a historic building that was once a mayor's residence and  brags about offering an “experience that will educate your tastebuds” and Cafda second-hand bookshop that keeps damaged paperbacks on a special pile that’s sold for only one rand each. It’d not uncommon to find find a car guard or homeless person stretch out on a promenade bench with a John LeCarre or Stephen King novel.

Bantry Bay

Bantry Bay is a quaint area which most Capetonians pass through to get to larger suburbs. There are a few restaurants in the area, and look out points to visit. The streets are so narrow and steep that refuse trucks have to reverse up some one way streets as there is simply no way for it to turn. It enjoys around 290 wind free days a year, making it one of the most windfree places in Cape Town. The moderate mediterranean climate, and its position against the slopes of table bay giving unadulterated views of the Atlantic ocean makes Bantry Bay one of the most sought after neighbourhoods in South Africa and a favourite destination for international investors.

The Seapoint Promenade

The Seapoint promenade is an unusual strip of land. In sharp contrast to the enveloping enclaves of Cape Town’s privilege - the suburbs of the Atlantic Seaboard - live is paraded in all it’s forms and splendour, or lack thereof. Elderly couples dragging yapping recalcitrant dogs behind them, homeless people making out against the rocks, rent-boys waiting for a pick-up and restaurant workers sprawling on the grass during their lunch hour.  Black, brown, white, young, old, locals, tourists, rich, poor, Jews, Muslims, Christians, stylish, tasteless – they are all here in this everyman’s land between ocean and city,  arriving from everywhere to join the ritual of walking a man-made path along the sea.

 

The air is always filled with expectation and true to promise , the most bizarre and unexpected things happen every day. Camps Bay and Clifton may have degenerated into nothing more than classy latte stops and chic lifestyle hubs with neighbourhood associations that exists for nothing more  than to keep the “other” at bay, but Seapoint remains one of the few public spaces where Cape Town’s people are united in their common human experiences, offering a glimmer of  opportunity to be transformed by looking deeper.

The Graaff Pools

Sir Jacobus Arnoldus Combrinck Graaff, also known as 'Sir James', was a South African politician and businessman provided most of the money for blasting a channel in the rocks and building a around the area that became known as Graaff’s Pool. According to legend, Sir Jacobus had a secret passage built so that he could walk unobserved in bathing costume from his estate  Bordeaux to the beach. Other bathers subscribed one pound a head.  In later years the family donated the pool to the city council and it became  one of Cape Town's oldest and most popular hangouts for male nude sunbathers. In 2009 controversial local politician J P Smith presided over the destruction of the concrete wall that protected nude bathers from prying eyes. The tunnel entrance can still be seen today. The ingenious design of the Graaffs Pool Wall used to provide a point of invisibility, beyond which the pool itself and those who frequented it were concealed from view. However in the relentless pursuit of commodifying even the most basic human activities, anything that shield it out of reach must be destroyed.

Night Life

Decodance  Night club, or should we say disco? Whatever you want to call it, you will be able to get it on to tunes you will recognise, with pop radio hits on one dance floor, and old classics on the other. If screaming along to Journey is your sort of thing, this is the spot for you.

If cheap drinks and hanging out with the regulars and local characters is your thing, then Brian’s Pub is just the right place for you. Go there for good beer and decent pub grub at excellent prices.

If you are looking for something more upscale , Try Strolla Restaurant and Bar. The stylish cocktail bar makes a good spot to stop for a drink whilst strolling on the promenade.  There’s also an inside area with a fireplace for when little nippy after  sunset. Upstairs they have a smoking deck bathed in  golden light during  sunset. Just the right place to order cocktails, and watch the sun sink into the sea for those who enjoy the mellow side of life.

Charles Darwin is famous for his seminal work, “On the Origins of the Species” , that fundamentally shaped the theory of evolution. Less generally known is the fact that he was also an accomplished geologist. Another obscure fact is concerns his geological observations of the 540-million-year-old Sea Point Contact, a dramatic contact between an intrusive granite and a sedimentary rock, which he made during a brief visit to Cape Town when he undertook an epic five-year-long exploratory voyage on the HMS Beagle. Although the main purpose of the voyage was to conduct a detailed hydrographic survey and improve the nautical maps of South America, the seafarers also intended to collect natural specimens and gather geological evidence that could support the theory of the Biblical flood.While in Cape Town Darwin made geological and geographical observations of, the road from Simonstown to Cape Town, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, the road to Paarl, Paarl Rock, the Drakenstein Mountains, Franschoek and the pass to Houw Hoek, Sir Lowry’s Pass and the Cape Flats. By far the most important geological observation Darwin made on that trip was that of the Sea Point Contact zone, where a distinct intrusion of molten granite through rocks of the Malmesbury Group is clearly visible. That geological phenomenon is renowned for having assisted in proving that granite originated from lava that pushed to the surface and displaced the older existing surface rocks. These observations were recorded in Darwin’s Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands, visited during the voyage of the HMS Beagle in 1844.
Darwin’s visit is mentioned in a bronze plaque erected by the South African National Monuments Council at Saunders Rocks Beach at Bantry Bay .There is also a newer information board erected by the City of Cape Town that describes the visit in all three of the Western Capes official languages.

The first building at Sea Point was the Heerenhuis or Societeit Huis on the site of present Presidents Hotel. It was a build in 1766 as a holiday escape owned by several families, before being turned into the old Queens Hotel. In 1776, one of the commanders serving under Captain Cook, Sam Wallis, encamped his men in the area to avoid a smallpox epidemic which was sweeping through Cape Town at the time.

Other than that, the Le Sueur family were the First settlers in Seapoint. They were French aristocrats of the huguenot faith from Bayeux in Normandy and first fled to Holland. In 1739 the Rev. Francois le Sueur arrived in the Cape as spiritual adviser to Governor Swellengrebel and soon after established the Winterlust Estate on the slopes of Lion’s Head. It took many years however before Seapoint became settled as a village as the deep sand at the foot of the mountain formed a serious obstacle to wagons. In 1810 an unsuccessful•attempt was made to stop• the sand drifting by erecting two parallel screens of branches along the road. When the British occupied the Cape, some of the Le Sueurs returned to Europe. Ryk le Sueur, a barrister and descendant of Francois Le Sueur, remained and acquired the Sea Point estate which he called Fresnaye.

At around this time, Bantry bay was an estate called Botany Bay that belong to Thomas Watson, Esquire. In 1817 Sea Point house was opened as a boarding house and the whole the area was soon named after it. The area attracted a fair number of smallholders and by 1839 Seapoint was awarded municipal status. Another notable resident of the area was one Mr. Saunders, after which Saunders's Rock beach was named. He owned the Bellwood Estate in what is today Bantry Bay.

In 1877 the Cape Town and Green Point Tramway company constructed housing for their employees in Sea Point, and a residential area which was located in the mid-area of Tramway Road was created to house Coloured tram drivers, stablemen and grooms, as well as white tram guards.

When the company closed, other people of colour who also moved into the area. A flourishing community sprang up with shops, a green grocer, a butcher and even a shebeen. In 1903, under the Native Reserve Locations Act of 1902, all Black men who resided in the council flats were removed to the Docks Location, and in 1957 the order came for all other non-white people to be removed from the Sea Point area. Between then and 1961, they were forcibly evicted from their homes to the Cape Flats to areas such as Bonteheuwel and Rylands. These areas lacked the urban infrastructure to which the ex-residents of Sea Point had been accustomed. Owing to removal, the former residents of Tramway Road lost the activities, interaction and landscapes. In Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats where the majority of them were moved, they experienced a loss of identity, isolation and a lost sense of place.

At the site where the erstwhile Tramway Road community once lived arose a new luxury development. Bantry Hills, described by the developers “ as the epitome of luxury living “with expansive views of Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, have 5 000m2 of landscape gardens, indoor and outdoor pools, 12 private pools, a concierge, spa, business lounge, medical emergency room, a children’s play area and a yoga garden. There are no concrete plans as yet to accommodate low income groups who work in the area.

Tamboerskloof accommodation - Tamboerskloof business accommodation - Tamboerskloof couples accommodation - Tamboerskloof family accommodation - Tamboerskloof bed and breakfast accommodation - Tamboerskloof holiday accommodation Tamboerskloof - Tamboerskloof travel and Accommodationn, and Tamboerskloof self catering accommodation

The Natural environment and racial segregation in the Atlantic Seaboard.

While apartheid planning affected all South African Cities, it was particularly effective in Cape Town because of the city’s unique topographical layout.

Mountains, oceans, marshes and other natural features were co-opted quite adroitly in to control the movement of people and to ensure racially exclusive land use. The Atlantic seaboard that stretches from Mouille Point up to Hout Bay and includes Sea Point, Bantry bay and Clifton doubly lends itself to apartheid segregation, being buffered from the Cape Flats firstly by the Table Mountain massif, secondly by the middle class neighbourhoods of the southern Suburbs and thirdly by the marshes that serves as natural catchments areas for Table Mountain.

The Atlantic Seaboard boasts unrivalled amenities, services and landscape with a demographic of mostly affluent white households and foreign property investors with no affordable housing opportunities. This situation is not unique to Cape Town or the Atlantic Seaboard, after all Plato wrote 2500 years ago that “any city however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich”. However the situation is exacerbated by the city’s flexibility with regards to private regulation by ratepayers and resident associations of public spaces, well resourced legal challenges to social housing developments by residents of the Atlantic Seaboard, whose have a vested interest in protecting the economic value of their property.

You might be forgiven if the predominantly black serving staff’s sometimes obviously programmed warmth and friendliness give you an uncanny feeling - your discomfort will be shared by them who have to earn a living in a nook of their country where they are still barely tolerated.

Sea Point's Most Infamous resident.

While apartheid planning affected all South African Cities, it was particularly effective in Cape Town because of the city’s unique topographical layout.

Mountains, oceans, marshes and other natural features were co-opted quite adroitly in to control the movement of people and to ensure racially exclusive land use. The Atlantic seaboard that stretches from Mouille Point up to Hout Bay and includes Sea Point, Bantry bay and Clifton doubly lends itself to apartheid segregation, being buffered from the Cape Flats firstly by the Table Mountain massif, secondly by the middle class neighbourhoods of the southern Suburbs and thirdly by the marshes that serves as natural catchments areas for Table Mountain.

The Atlantic Seaboard boasts unrivalled amenities, services and landscape with a demographic of mostly affluent white households and foreign property investors with no affordable housing opportunities. This situation is not unique to Cape Town or the Atlantic Seaboard, after all Plato wrote 2500 years ago that “any city however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich”. However the situation is exacerbated by the city’s flexibility with regards to private regulation by ratepayers and resident associations of public spaces, well resourced legal challenges to social housing developments by residents of the Atlantic Seaboard, whose have a vested interest in protecting the economic value of their property.

You might be forgiven if the predominantly black serving staff’s sometimes obviously programmed warmth and friendliness give you an uncanny feeling - your discomfort will be shared by them who have to earn a living in a nook of their country where they are still barely tolerated.

Crescent observers society

Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world, to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. In South Africa, Cape Town is home to the largest Muslim population in the country, who traditionally celebrate the beginning of Shawwal with family feasts and exchanging of gifts.Each year, the Crescent Observer Society, known as the maankykers (moon watchers), gather with hundreds of Muslim families at Three Anchor Bay in Sea Point to engage in prayer and watch out for the new moon. If the moon is observed, they will break their fast on the Sea Point Promenade.

The Seapoint Eruv

Sabbath, an  important ritual observance in Judaism, is a day of great joy eagerly awaited throughout the week, a time when Jews can set aside all of their weekday concerns and devote themselves to higher pursuits.

All types of work  associated with the creation of the Tabernacle is forbidden, and that includes carrying anything between two separate domains  - whether it’s  carrying house keys, prayer books, canes or walkers, and even children who cannot walk on their own.

A domain can be your private residence or the public domain. This rule obviously creates difficulties as there are certain things people have to carry around that is essential for their wellbeing. Jewish sages came up with the eruv - a technical and symbolic demarcation of the private sphere that can enclose whole communities. The Seapoint Eruv that surrounds Sea Point, Fresnaye and Bantry Bay and some of upper Green Point consists of a series of pre-existing structures that includes the beachfront, fences, electrical poles and wire as well as  a number of structures created expressly for the eruv, often a wire mounted on poles.

It is unlikely to be noticed by anyone other than those looking for it, a characteristic which fulfills a Talmudic (Jewish Religious Book)guideline (that the eruv be an integral part of the city, as unobtrusive and unnoticeable as possible).

Sea Point Days ( Documentary)

“Alongside the southernmost urban centre in Africa, separating city from ocean, lies an unusual strip of land. The Sea Point Promenade - and the public swimming pools at its centre - forms a space unlike any other in Cape Town. Once a bastion of Apartheid exclusivity, it is nowadays unique in its apparently easy mix of age, race, gender, religion, wealth status and sexual orientation… Yet, in a country that will not fully deal with past or present, is all as it appears?” - http://www.seapointdays.co.za/

Seapoint is an unexpected hotspot of diversity in the midst of South Africa’s fractured society, possibly because the Promenade was one of the earliest desegregated areas in post-apartheid South Africa.

Nestled in between the Atlantic expanse and rugged Lion’s head, you can almost imagine that nature either approves or created this exact condition. Sea Points  offerings transcends both taste and class. You can enjoy fish and chips (slaptjips) wrapped in paper for a few rand at one place , enjoy an a la carte meal just across the street at another or sip an espresso at one of the  the numerous Paris style street cafe’s.  You can relax on a sunsoaked deck in one of the high brow hotels that dot the mountainscape or lie on your back under a tree on the grass of the promenade. Casual encounters behind secluded boulders, quiet alleyways or cheap hotels are part and parcel of the fabric of Sea Point since time immemorial and dependable point of mobilisation for representatives of the staunch and upright members of the homeowner associations along the Atlantic Seapoint.

This suburb, little strip of land between mountain and sea, became a  space where all South Africans feel they have a right to exist. A place where you feel that anything is possible - even happiness in a starkly divided world.