The Impact of Gentrification upon Culture, Tradition, Identity and Language: A Case Study of the Bo-Kaap Community

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Dawood Terblanche


Language is central and important to the identity of every community. It defines who they are, their culture, social milieu, and traditions. It is through language that people communicate with one another and preserve their heritage and history. The history of colonisation in South Africa is an example of how culture, identity, language, and history have been subjected to colonisation. In this paper, I will discuss the impact of gentrification upon the Bo-Kaap community in Cape Town. Today, gentrification is not only displacing people, but slowly erasing the culture, identity, and language of this area. This paper is intended to continue the work of Achmat Davids, who first began documenting the history of Bo-Kaap. This paper analyses the potential of participatory action research (PAR) in communities to become more critically reflective and socially conscious about gentrification. First, this paper explores the rationale and process of engaging the Bo-Kaap community who, at the time this paper was written, were subjected to a gentrification. The research for this paper included the participation of students for them to develop greater awareness and become agents of social justice. This study also used oral testimonies in developing a strategy designed to help other communities in becoming more vigilant against gentrification and its resulting displacement, and to preserve local culture, traditions, and language.

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