The Column of Memory at the Iziko Slave Lodge bears 8 000 names of slaves from the Capes colonial past. A local race aims to reignite interest in this history. Picture: Yazeed Kamaldien

When runners begin to sweat during the May inner-city Slave Route Challenge, the names of forgotten slaves whose hands built the colonial Cape will become visible on unique T-shirts.

The T-shirts will bear the names of 8 000 slaves, as recorded on the Column of Memory at the Iziko Slave Lodge on Wale Street.

Slaves from various parts of the world were detained at the lodge, which is now a museum.

Apart from this landmark, slave history remains largely invisible and unmarked in the city.

Race organiser Farouk Meyer said the Slave Route intended to highlight the city’s slave history.

“Every person who takes part will run on behalf of one of the names on the Column of Memory, allowing each runner to honour a person from our country’s past,” he explained.

The first Slave Route was held in 2011, after Meyer had “a moment of clarity” while running through District Six.

“I stopped, looked back and around me and felt the silence,” he said. “I saw the Castle and I remembered the stories told to us about how Cape Town was built by those enslaved.

“I looked at the mosques and churches in District Six, and I knew that if there was one event I would like to organise, it would be a run in honour of these individuals.”

Meyer designed a route passing various inner-city slave sites, including the Grand Parade, Castle of Good Hope, District Six, Company’s Garden, Bo-Kaap and others.

Slave Lodge curator Paul Tichmann said the race was a means for Capetonians, many of whom were descendants of slaves, to “engage with this history and reconnect with their roots”.

The Slave Route Challenge starts in Darling Street in central Cape Town. It comprises a half marathon, 10km run, 5km run or walk, as well as a 10km walk.

- Entry forms are available at Sportsmans Warehouse stores or online at

Sunday Argus