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Rish'qah Ismail

The Camissa Translation: Revealing, Revaluing and

Re-purposing the Hidden Streams of Cape Town


The word Camissa translates to ‘sweet water of the people’ which was what the City of Cape Town was previously referred to by the Khoisan, before it was colonized by the Dutch. Camissa is now commonly referred to as the ‘place of sweet waters’ and is not visually represented in the fabric of the city. The Camissa is composed of 36 springs and four diverted streams running from Table Mountain to the sea in hidden canals beneath the city’s grid with gallons of water going to waste daily.

This thesis is moulded around revealing and repurposing the hidden streams of Cape Town with the intent to re-imagine indigenous landscapes that can be merged with the urban rich fabric. In doing so it became evident that we cannot return to our pre-colonial settlements or indigenous landscapes as we cannot ignore the newly built fabric and systems in place today. However, what became more apparent and achievable, was to allow nature to re-emerge and live in harmony with the city and from this, new ideas emerged to re-awaken the potential of nature within the city.   

The potential for nature within the city is currently being undervalued and by re-integrating the water streams with the urban fabric, it can not only improve natural systems and bring biodiversity back into the space but it can also re-create a sense of place and identity for future generations that has been forgotten with the Camissa. The end product of this thesis aims to re-imagine the city’s forgotten and hidden hydrological system through revealing, remembering and re-valuing its potential. Exploring and unpacking theories with reference to space and memory alongside ideas drawn from “Greening Cities” inspire alternative ways for the future city making that can be driven by revealing the hidden streams. In order to re-imagine the future space, the thesis uncovers the significance of the streams and the spatial development that occurred along it over time in relation to the pre-colonial and colonial period of Cape Town, thereafter understand why it has been forgotten and propose new ways for it to re-integrated with the built fabric. 

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