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Finding Faith…


There is majestic colour in Stellenbosch as well as the Bo-Kaap of Cape Town, South Africa. It comes in the flavours of the Cape Malay people who settled here from as early as 1654, after being exiled or imprisoned by the Dutch East India Company.

Think of jazz music on special occasions, while eating Bobotie (a delicious light curry flavored with sweet raisins) as people dance around you or the sound of the mosque calling people to come pray.

I explored both towns, camera in hand, and was welcomed open-armed into various mosques to take unique pictures, which each reflect a particular theme important to Islam in South Africa.

Ibrahim mosque

BREAK OF DAWN: Ibrahim wakes up when it’s still dark every morning to open the mosque in Stellenbosch, for a minimum wage. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets/ copyright


Ibrahim portrait

PATIENCE: Ibrahim owns a small salary of R2000/ month to take care of the mosque. Every day, he wakes up at 4am to open the windows and doors before prayers. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets/ copyright


4 Close up time

TIME-SET: Islam consists of up to six prayers a day, with those attending facing towards Mecca. Mosques are open to the public, as long as they are quiet and remove their shoes. They are not allowed during prayers, unless they have special permission. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets/ copyright


5 Medium Omar and Hafiz

FRIENDS FOR LIFE: Omar and Ahmed after prayers at one of the eleven mosques in the Bo-Kaap. Originally Cape Malay, they have lived in the Bo-Kaap for all their lives and have been friends for 45 years. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets/ copyright


6 Interaction couple

LOVE-BIRDS: A Muslim couple take their wedding pictures in the Bo-Kaap. The bride claimed she preferred a western feel to her wedding. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets/ copyright


7 Portrait semi action Entisar

BACK FROM PRAYER:  Entisar is a tour guide in the Bo-Kaap. She charges R100 for half an hour. Here, she is returning from sunset prayers. She claims her business was strong during the World Cup, but now she is struggling to make a living. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets/ copyright


8 Closing shot Entisar

REFLECTIONS: Entisar brings tourists daily to the shrine dedicated to her “forefathers.” She claims it is the most popular site for her tourism business: “People claim to know a lot about Islam. Here, there is peace they understand for the first time.” PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets/ copyright