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Cape Town Society
Slavery Religion Economy
Education Health Care The Arts
The Dutch East India Company imported slaves to work its gardens, help construct fortifications and provide labour to farmers. The first slaves were African, but most came from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other parts of South East Asia.

Company slaves were kept in the Slave Lodge where the practice of Islam developed among them. The slave community was roughly as large in number as the Europeans up until emancipation in 1834. The Cape Carnival has its origins in the emancipation celebrations.

There was some intermarriage between slaves and Europeans and coloured people and Cape Malays originate, in part, from this.

A Slave Family
Christian Missionaries arrived in the Cape in the late eighteenth century. Under British rule they became a liberal force that publicised the abuse of indigenous people. Churches grew in influence and popularity.

Under apartheid only a few churches remained multi-racial. But after the 1976 Uprising against apartheid elements of the church engaged in protest campaigns, especially under the influence of Desmond Tutu.

Islam was established in Cape Town under the influence of political prisoners from Malaysia in the late seventeenth century - see also Cape Malays. Later, Hadji Abdullah Haron encouraged armed Muslim opposition to apartheid.

A Jewish community developed at the end of the nineteenth century as Jews fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe.

The Stained Glass in St George's Cathederal
Cape Town's economy developed slowly during the Dutch era. It was highly dependent upon offering produce and hospitality to ships until a boom came in the 1780s due to large numbers of French troops garrisoned at the Cape.

In the nineteenth century British merchants developed businesses exporting agricultural crops, including wool and wine. Banks and joint-stock companies developed from the 1830s, including several that are still in business.

The completion of the harbour and railways was just in time for the diamond rush of the 1870s which brought huge economic growth.

During the twentieth century discriminatory laws favoured the white population and disadvantaged other South Africans. This led to a profound imbalance in the economy, with great disparities of wealth (see Apartheid).

When the ANC came to power in 1994 they launched a policy of affirmative action to empower blacks.
Standard Bank on Adderley Street
Schooling was hardly developed at all in the era of the Dutch East India Company. But under British rule Christian missionaries, Islamic leaders and liberal officials established various schools, several of which continue to the present day.

Liberal societies also promoted learning among adults, from basic literacy to astronomy.

Apartheid policies discriminated in favour of white children, leading to great disparities in education. Black children were excluded from the leading centres of education.

Students became heavily involved in the fight against apartheid in 1976 and during the 1980s. In the New South Africa there was considerable change in education, with racial integration and new syllabi.

Xhosa Children
When the VOC established Cape Town in 1652 health care was a priority for them, to help sailors recover strength for the the arduous voyages ahead.

Simon van der Stel established a hospital for 225 patients in the Company Gardens.

During the British era there was a new emphasis upon public health, but by the end of the Victorian era the spread of plague turned public health into a policy of social control leading to the first townships.

A major outbreak of influenza in 1918, was caused by poverty and overcrowding. This led to calls for a welfare state but these were not heeded, and high levels of TB became normal.

During the apartheid era 'white' hospitals advanced and the world's first heart transplant was performed in Cape Town. But there was little provision for black people until the New South Africa.

Somerset Hospital
Under the Dutch East India Company the arts were not developed at all, although sometimes Khoekhoe and slaves played instruments to provide entertainment.

When the British arrived in 1795, one of the first changes was the building of a theatre and the development of drama groups. With emancipation in 1834, slaves brought their own Asian/ European fusion onto the streets and laid the basis for the Cape Carnival.

1914 saw the birth of Cape Town's municipal orchestra, and although it was criticised for being too high brow, its appeal stretched to residents of many backgrounds for whom music was important.

Radio arrived in Cape Town in 1924, with concerts, children's hour, news, market prices and talks on the League of Nations. During the war, the radio was an important source of news.

Cinema was part of people's lives from the end of the first world war. In District Six the 'Bioscope' (cinema) was an integral part of the community. The Globe was one cinema, and the Avalon was a superior venue where the seats were soft, and patrons were not allowed to take their fish and chips inside.

During the apartheid years regulations both inspired and curtailed the practise of Jazz and the arts (more..)
A Young Cape Minstrel

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