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Tourist in Cape Town

By: Brenda Franklin

I have recently joined Kate Crane-Briggs’ Culture Connect outings and discovered a wealth of depth in both historical and current "goings on" in this beautiful city.      Last weekend, we visited Langa township. 

I must confess that I have not visited a township before.  My special experience on Sunday leaves me encouraging fellow South Africans to join the tourists who seem more eager to experience the diversity of our Rainbow Nation, first hand.

Kate curated a broad visit in the mere 4 hours we had to explore, using a local guide, MC, who is born and bred in Langa township.      It is one of the oldest black township in South Africa and is well worth visiting for its heritage and the entrepreneurship that abounds.  

The Arts and Culture Centre was our first stop.   Initiated by a benefactor, it is now run by the city and gives artists and crafters an opportunity to create and sell their work.    It is also a good opportunity to engage with locals, an important aspect of a township visit.

Langa is home to over 52 000 people, 99,5% black Africans.   We visited on a Sunday and attended part of a Methodist Church service.   It was packed and in true African style, music and movement form a strong part of the worship service.    As you walk down the roads, sounds of similar rousing singing can be heard – very beautiful!    There are 47 churches in Langa.    Also renowned for its jazz, Langa is rich in music genres.

En route to our lunch venue, we saw the Pass Office (now a museum), a reminder of our chequered history.   MC told us of why this type of restriction was deemed necessary – and its abolishment in order to restore proper human rights.    

Moving on, we saw "Smileys".   These sheep heads are a delicacy, displayed (raw and cooked) on tables for residents to purchase.    In Black culture, the brain is not eaten.

We visited hostels, built initially for male migrant workers, but now home to countless families.   Overcrowding is still the norm.    MC explained that this has resulted in the preference for shacks which we see lining the N2 and beyond.

Lunch was at a butchery/restaurant.    Sisha Nyama (in our case, chicken wings and sausage) was served with pap and chakalaka.    Eating with ones hands would be traditional, but plastic spoons were provided.   The food was delicious and the facilities really clean.

After lunch, we walked to see a traditional healer.    He was busy consulting and others were waiting.  Clearly this is still a very popular approach to health and other issues.  MC briefed us outside after we took a peek inside a somewhat dark interior.
Our tour concluded at the Langa Quarter which the UK Telegraph listed as "one of the city’s most exciting districts" when Cape Town scooped the “Best City in the World” in the Travel Awards last month.   Colourful streets will soon host visitors for “home stays” which will be another dimension to visiting this beautiful city.

Table Mountain views are glorious from Langa.     We all share this unifying symbol from our diverse neighbourhoods in Cape Town.     It reminds me of our common humanity and the importance of tolerance, understanding and acceptance of each other’s cultures and backgrounds.  

As I passed a local resident, he asked if I had enjoyed my tour.   "Yes!" I replied.    "You are always welcome in our township" was his friendly response.     Take a guided township tour.    I’m sure you’ll find it special on a multitude of levels.      Tourism is uplifting – economically – and more!

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