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Church Square is one of the historical slave sites of Cape Town and is located on the corner of Spin and Parliament Streets. In the early years of Cape Town's existence the square was very convenient for slaves to wait for their masters while they attended church. They waited under the shade of a tree at the entrance to the square close to where the carriages were kept. The original tree which was later named the Slave Tree, was cut down but has now been replaced by a replica.

The square had been denigrated to a simple car park and had to be rescued for reconstruction. The City of Cape Town and the Cape Town Partnership were two of the many entities who implemented the plan to re-pave and re-claim the square and this included the introduction of vegetation. The area has been revamped turning it into a multi-functional green space for public gathering and socialising.

Activities

A group of people and institutions called Cape Town Partnership have been instrumental in putting together an exciting programme that will see the city come alive every Thursday night with the many activities in and around Church Square. Everyone is welcome and the entrance is free of charge. A small selection of what the visitor experienced on the first opening Thursday was:

  • Creative Cape Town – showcasing individual creativity
  • Kate Jo Arthur Art – Pen and water colour art
  • Lingua Franca Spoken Word Movement - Music and Poetry
  • Slave Tree – hang your messages on the Slave Tree
  • Unplugged games – board games to share and enjoy
  • Yazeed Kamaldien – photographic display of Gaza and New York

Buildings around the Square

Statue of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyer

A statue of a parliamentarian fondly known as "Oom Jan" was erected in the middle of the square to honour his endeavours to have the Dutch language recognised as a language of equal standing as English in the 1910 Constitution. He was born in 1894 and died fairly young in 1948. He was a brilliant man, writer, teacher and Jan Smuts' right hand man. At one point of his life he was in line to become President of the Republic.

Slave Tree 

The original fir tree where the slaves were bought and sold in the Cape's early history was removed in 1916 and in its place an inconspicuous concrete plinth was laid in their honour on the traffic island of Spin Street on Church Square. On the 3 July 2014 a temporary life sized sculpture of a tree was erected. It is made of two dimensional pieces of wood painted white, that slot together and will later be replaced with a metal one. At the launch people were asked to leave a message on a "leaf" and hang it on the tree.

Slave Memorial

In 2008 a memorial was erected in honour of the slaves who had once been the merchandise of this square where they were traded and bought like cattle. The names of some of the slaves who were bought and sold on this square have been immortalised on eleven black granite blocks that have been erected on the square.

Interesting story

Dogs used to throng in the square when the slave masters were at church to the point that a man had to be appointed to whip the dogs and keep them away from the square and the church. 

Graveyard

Church Square was much bigger originally but it was reduced in size when the graveyard of the Groote Kerk had to be extended during the smallpox epidemics of 1713 and then again in 1755. The graveyard was not preserved and buildings were erected on the site. 

Hours

Special Events:

Every Thursday, 18h00 - 21h00

Admission

There is no charge.

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