Cape Town is considered a very quirky city so let’s prove it with these sights that you will find only in Cape Town.
Lady of Hope
On the Black River, which winds its way along the M5, is The Lady of Hope. She is very eye-catching in her gold dress as she stands alone in the middle of the river. The artist, Fred du Preez, has been installing artwork in the river for several years. They always reflect the mood or trends of their time but the first was to highlight the polluted state of the river. The City began cleaning the river after the first installation, and this time the Lady is here to inspire South Africans that there is hope after a tumultuous decade. The Lady is holding a South African flag which she will fly when things improve in South Africa.
Yokohama – a house of paper mâché
You wouldn’t know when you see it but this quaint house on the Main Road in Muizenberg is made of paper mâché. It was built in 1906 using paper mâché imported from Japan. This historical heritage property on the famous Muizenberg Historical Mile has endured ferocious Cape storms for over 100 years because of its special waterproof paper material, which it is believed came from the city of Yokohama, hence the name. Other famous landmarks nearby are Rhodes Cottage, Casa Labia, Abe Bailey’s home, and the site for the Battle of Muizenberg.
Bart Simpson in St Georges Mall
When a statue was required to adorn the public thoroughfare, the panel tasked with the selection had a hard time choosing something from the 60 that were put forward as most of them were impossible to construct.
The winner was Brett Murray’s Africa. Murray is no stranger to controversy. This piece is an eye-catching structure made of an African tourist statuette solemnly enduring the indignity of yellow Bart Simpson heads sprouting from various parts of its body. It’s a not-too-subtle comment on the Western and African cross-cultural hybrid we like to call home. A blogger described it as “a critique on western cultural influence and how it ends up being a parasite that kills local culture”.
Unfinished highway bridge
40 years ago, construction came to a halt on a freeway project which would have linked the eastern suburbs with two national roads in and out of the city centre. A flyover bridge was planned but never completed, resulting in several sections of unfinished highway. One part is very prominent and is a popular conversation piece. As if this is not strange enough, the reason for the unfinished project is mired in legends.
Some say a convenience store refused to budge thus blocking completion, some say the engineering was faulty, and some say funds ran out. However, one explanation from a reputable source makes a lot of sense. Apparently, it was nothing more than pure politics and in-fighting at the city council that forced a stop to the project. By the time the council was replaced, it was too late and by then funds really had dried up. It’s one of the oddest sights when driving into Cape Town but it isn’t completely useless – film sets make much use of it for car scenes without interrupting the flow of traffic on busy roads. Only in Cape Town!
Noon Gun – Signal Hill
Every day except Sundays and public holidays, at precisely noon, a loud bang is heard in the city centre. Locals instinctively check their watches and tourists look around in surprise. It’s the noon gun and it’s as typically Capetonian as the summer wind and the mountain shaped like a table.
In the early days of European settlement, firing a gun on Signal Hill was to warn of enemy ships but since 1903 – when Standard Time was introduced in South Africa – it has been a tradition at noon. It’s actually a canon and there are two of them – a pair of Dutch naval canons fired alternatively with one serving as a back-up. They are the oldest in the world still in use.
The noon gun even has a Twitter account, tweeting ‘Bang’ every day at noon. @Signal_Hill_Gun
(Because our mountains have style, the nearby mountain, Lion’s Head, also has a Twitter account which is quite amusing @LionsHeadCPT)
Secret Love Project
Motorists often ask why we have street poles with hearts on them. Love, of course!
They form part of the Secret Love Project which is a non-profit company that offers homeless people the opportunity of earning some money. Every month the project hands out thousands of packets of heart stickers to about 120 registered sellers. The sellers sell these to motorists and pedestrians in the city for R20 a pack and they retain 100% of the profit. This provides the neediest people with a small but honest income and you receive a set of heart stickers to use as you wish. Look out for them on the back of motor cars and the big hearts dotted around the city on walls and street poles. Visit their site and consider donating something to the project.