PAARL, South Africa – Against the craggy grey-blue Haweqwa mountain range surrounding the wine-growing area of South Africa's Western Cape, a distinctive wooden structure has risen.
Wood planks have been used to construct the building, reaching up five stories, taller than the squat single-story brick buildings surrounding it. The multi-colored, quirky structure is a sanctuary for a group of Rastafarians living on the outskirts of Paarl, about 65 kilometers northeast of Cape Town.
For 15 years, Juda Ngqoshela and other builders have sawn, hammered and painted the planks to create a sort of tower with a picket fence around each floor. The pattern of planks is emphasized by painting them different colors — a white awning, pink dormer windows and a bright green border around the fourth floor. Many who walk by look up to study the building that looks like no other in the area.
Twelve people have made the building their home, climbing the winding staircase to move from room to room, each with its own purpose. Some rooms are areas of worship, others bedrooms, and another is a communal meeting place open to visiting Rastafarians. In each room, sunlight peeps through the gaps between planks, filling the building with natural light.
On the ground floor, a varnished counter opens up to the street, where Ngqoshela runs a shop selling bread, candy and small household items.
Inside, the housemates have collected couches and beds to make their home comfortable. On the unvarnished walls hang pictures including portraits of reggae musician Bob Marley, and the last Ethiopian King and Rastafarian religious icon, Haile Selassie. There is also an image of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, his hands arms raised against the reggae colors of red, green and yellow.