Shereen Habib was born in 1952 in a house at the top of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town’s “Malay Quarter”. The predominantly Muslim neighbourhood’s population is mostly descended from convicts, political exiles and slaves from the former Dutch East Indies.
Shereen’s family has lived in Bo-Kaap for almost a century. During apartheid’s darkest days when most non-white people were banished to designated neighbourhoods and townships on the outskirts of the city, including Shereen and her husband, her parents remained in the house on the hill.
She returned to Bo-Kaap after a decade with her husband in a formerly “coloured” area. It was home, she says. “After so much anger and so much death and so much shooting down, with my children witnessing it all, we were traumatised. I wanted to get back to where I knew best – where there was love and laughter – and so I came back here. And that’s when I knew that this is where I wanted to start telling my story.”