FUTURE CAPE TOWN | Our cities as spaces for celebration and ceremony

“I come from a conservative Muslim upbringing and its pretty sad that I had to become a working photojournalist before deciding to go to my first Christmas Mass”

Photojournalist Ashraf Hendricks captures Cape Town in the midst of celebration and ceremony. His fantastical snaps presents the real city, in an almost imaginary fashion.

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Future Cape Town: Why have you chosen to capture these particular events and occasions?

Ashraf Hendricks: I work for a photo wire service so I cover these events in the attempt to sell the images and to add to the archive. Sometimes I work with a writer and we’ll put together a story. A lot of the events, especially the religious ones seem normal to us, but to the international community they are really fascinating. If you were to look at Cape Town as a tourist, it’s a really diverse city that caters to a plethora of cultures. And who knows, 20 years down the line maybe everything will be different. I believe that this is when these types of photographs will matter most.

FCT: You photograph a large variety of people and occasions and in that way, parallels are drawn. What have you learnt from the social groups you have captured?

AH: Cape Town has always been known to be “cliquey”…and it’s true. Racially and culturally people do stick together, but I think it’s changing. Racial diversity is something the city has tackled for a long time and its helping. The next generation or “Born Frees” are definitely more liberal. Culturally though, people are not as open minded. For a city as diverse as we are, we will mix with other cultures – we accept other cultures – but we refuse to experience it. It’s a tough wall to break.

FCT: What have your images told you about Cape Town and Cape Town life?

AH: With all of our racial baggage, we can actually still get along really well.

FCT: How has capturing ceremony in the city made you see society in a particular way?

AH: I can only speak from my own subjective experience but society is not at all interested in learning about other peoples cultures or religions. I come from a conservative Muslim upbringing and its pretty sad that I had to become a working photojournalist before deciding to go to my first Christmas Mass. I have Christian friends. Why have I not enjoyed their culture with them? This type of thinking is something most people are not brought up with. What I really appreciate though is that there is always someone willing to teach. Every step of the way, people are really open to letting you in. It’s just a matter of listening.

Visit Ashraf’s website here to see how his photography captures the imagination, celebration and ceremonial moments across Cape Town.

A woman with a mermaid-like tail flies out of a blimp during the annual Infecting the City event at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. This was the closing performance called “Prayer to the New Moon” done by New Moon Collective.


Two boys wait for the “Monster” ride to start up during the 2015 Community Chest Carnival at Maynardville Park in Cape Town.


Members from the Habibia Siddique Muslim Pipe Band (HSMB) march through Athlone Stadium during a Mass Mawlid in Cape Town. “Mawlid” is a Muslim tradition where the birth of Prophet Muhammed is celebrated.


Shaykh Abdurahmaan Alexander speaks to a crowd of Muslims during a Mass Mawlid at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town.


A young boy puts out his arms across the balcony during the Mass Mawlid at Athlone Stadium, Cape Town.


A girl in full costume waits to perform during the 2015 Cape Minstrel Parade in Cape Town. This year had approximately 13000 performers walking, dancing and playing music through the city streets.


A Cape Minstrel team is put into a straight line before performing during the 2015 Cape Minstrel Parade in Cape Town. The Cape Minstrels are colloquially known as the “ Kaapse Klopse”.


Muslim women cut citrus leaves during a Mawlid event at Auwal Mosque in Bo-kaap, Cape Town. “Rampies Sny” is a Cape Malay tradition where as cut citrus leaves (usually lemon) are mixed with orange oil, lemon oil & rose water to create scents.


A nun greets a woman after a midnight Christmas mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Cape Town. Midnight Mass is a religious tradition held by many Catholics used to prepare themselves for Christmas.



Men kick a balloon around on an empty dance floor during the 2014 Mother City Queer Project (MCQP) at The City Hall in Cape Town. MCQP is a  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) event. The 2014 theme was “Royal Naval”.


A man performs using fire during a Fire Jam on Clifton 2nd beach, Cape Town. The event was hosted by Connect and Flow and was completely free & open to the public.