Category: Cape Town

How Responsible is Township Tourism in South Africa?

Today I’ll share a piece with you that I wrote for the organisation Tourism Concern, about my township tourism research in Cape Town.

Feel free to contact me to discuss the findings or other relevant topics related to this.

During a holiday in Cape Town in 2009 I went on a township tour. Not knowing much about tourism to urban impoverished areas at the time, but concerned about how the communities would benefit from my visit, I looked for an ethical company I could trust.

To my positive surprise I found out that not only tour companies, but also the government’s tourism body assure that tourism is beneficial to the township communities as well as very educational for the visitor. Any specific initiatives were not indicated, yet tours were promoted as a ‘must’ to learn about African culture.

I decided to book a tour with a small local company and liked the experience as it was indeed eye-opening and the residents I met were welcoming. However, ever since I was unable to stop thinking about what is in it for local populations.

Image

Therefore, three years later, the choice of subject for my final research project during the Master’s program Responsible Tourism Management was easy. I went to Cape Town to investigate the scope of community beneficial initiatives within township tourism.

During the 4 weeks of fieldwork in the townships Langa and Khayelitsha I explored six tour operators’ actions and opinions related to previously identified issues of concerns in the field of slum tourism, by interviewing them about their responsible practices and participating on their tours.

I also interviewed forty inhabitants from the most visited areas about their perceptions of tourism impacts and four representatives from the local government about current work on responsible tourism in the field. I will here reveal some of the findings from my research.

IMG_0296

Outside of a kiosk in Langa (before starting my own research there) I discovered a random flag…

While there is no doubt that the South African township tourism sector holds a large number of professional tour operators that mean well for the communities they visit, the evidences of their many positive impact claims are few.

And although I experienced that both companies and guides conduct tours respectfully in terms of friendliness, photography policy and information giving that assist in combating stereotypes, I detected ambiguity regarding fair pay of involved hosts, as well as several untapped potentials for maximised positive impacts on the communities.

One example of such is tour companies’ avoidance of fairly compensating the most deprived households they involve in their tour. During the distinguishing ‘labour hostel visits’ tourists are taken into the shared bedroom (which also serves as their living room) of four families to see and learn about poor living conditions.

Of the eight such interviewed households in my research half of them claimed to get more than five visits per day, and none stated to benefit economically, unless tourists occasionally left some money. Regrettably I was repeatedly told that donations occurred to a decreasing extent after more local guides had penetrated the market and the competition for the much wanted tourist money had grown.

Image

Labour hostels in Langa, Cape Town

 

Another example regards the creation of interaction, which ironically is one of the main promises on the many company websites. It may be a coincidence of course, but sadly I only experienced twice during ten tours that we as visitors were given the time and possibility to interact with the locals (even during the popular hostel visit as described above). The consequence of this is that the hosts (or any inhabitant present) turn into passive objects rather than active participants, hindering them to exploit the big potential for social and economic empowerment.

Regardless of these issues of concern, it became clear to me that township dwellers do welcome tourism because it represents the only industry through which many can enhance their living conditions and situations, in areas that are longtime forgotten by the government.

Throughout my time in Langa and Khayelitsha I couldn’t stop thinking that it is on behalf of this very hope, in addition to the inhabitants’ tremendous hospitality, that the majority of the tour operators earn very good money. And personally, until I know better how that income is redistributed and put back into the community, and the government begins to take the sector seriously and regulate it, I have my doubts for its sustainability. Sadly those thoughts reflect previous research within not only township tourism in South Africa, but also about slum tourism globally.

Lastly though, let it be clear that there is no doubt that good initiatives exist in this field, and some township dwellers indeed have got their livelihood enriched due to tourism. Besides, whether people like it or not, there are reasons to believe this phenomenon is here to stay. Hence is it crucial that the way forward is to actively find ways to awareness rise about its issues and require that government acts, while highlighting and rewarding the many (hopefully) ethical initiatives in place.

FYI. The above article was first published on Tourism Concern´s webpage.

Advertisements

African House expanding

During my first visit to South Africa in 2009 I got hooked on its culture, and over the past three years I’ve traveled in and out to what became my favourite city in the world; Cape Town. Like I said after the visit in 2009, I can say again after having spent two longer periods there: The city has everything: Wonderful welcoming people, an interesting and vibrant culture, breathtaking (and extreme) nature, amazing weather, delicious food and one of the things that fascinate me the most: a thriving MUSIC scene.

And I don’t know if you know this, but South Africa – and other African countries – are on a very interesting roll these days what concerns expanding their electronic musical scene. Without Europeans knowing much about it – as Eurocentric as we’ve become –  South African musicians have for long indulged in various electronic beats and developed their own specific sounds. Kwaito is one of them, and from there a certain local House music style emerged.

In the country’s fashion however the electronic scene has been very divided according to race, having blacks and whites predominantly producing and listening to separate styles, and this was one of the things we found a bit curious when first there in 2009. Wherever we went to party we found that the crowd was either white or black. And the music seemed to change according to it.

Though the explanations to this situation are many – and any situation obviously always is evolving and changing – observing what we did in 2009 gave life to the idea of a project based on the believe that electronic music is a universal language that can be used to break down socio-economic boundaries.. Two years down the line the launch of Bridges for Music became a reality and its first events took place in South Africa together with national partners and local and international DJs this year.

The below picture for instance is from the day Bridges for Music arranged a workshop with a following free popup party featuring Richie Hawtin and local artists like Culoe de Song, Euphonik, Dj Fresh, Vinny da Vinci and Nastee Nevin. It took place in Kliptown, a neighbourhood of the township Soweto in Johannesburg, and I’ve never ever been to anything like it really.

Image

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Seeing how people in all ages and from different communities and races came together through music in these surroundings – dancing nonstop for over seven hours – was an eyeopening and unforgettable experience. In fact, Richie Hawtin later said: it was the proudest moment of his career. Personally I will forever recall that day and look back at it with a big smile on my face.

As much as the mentioned event was a success, so were the ones with Skrillex and Luciano who both joined Bridges for Music for township workshops and events in Cape Town and Johannesburg. And I can confirm that Luciano took some South African house tunes with him back to Ibiza where he made the audience go wild last summer.

Sure thing; bridges are being built from Africa to Europe as it suddenly seems as the global electronic music scene finally is opening its eyes to African sounds. A good example of that is South Africa being the topic of the upcoming Amsterdam Dance Event this year’s October, to what many South African artists are invited (some for their first journey outside of Africa).

Yup. Good stuff is going on in the world with regard to the spread of South African electronic music. Check for instance what BBC News just reported:

If you have spent any time in Johannesburg or Durban, South African house is a sound that you will have heard. This music is played everywhere, from taxis and barbers shops to bars and parties. Now that the hypnotic township sound has reached Europe and other parts of the world, it has helped some young Africans to reconnect with their roots.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely want more of this!

Watch BBC Africa’s Lebo Diseko report from the London underground club scene here.

Go here to see the video of Richie Hawtin’s visit in South Africa.

Bridges for Music launch in South Africa, feat. Luciano

The story I told about the two days Luciano was in Cape Town and Johannesburg with us is being rewritten, so please bare with me (I had a terrible cold at the time and wrote about it in a stressed situation ending up focusing on a bunch of irrelevant details).

For now, enjoy this video (created October 2013) from the small tour Luciano did in Cape Town with Bridges for Music was recently uploaded on their homepage

Good times, and I wanna go back so badly!! South Africa in my H E A R T!

 

and Luciano too. Such a cutie!

Our Congolese doormen – meet Lefills.

Like I told about some months ago, I started chatting with the doormen of our building soon after moving in to our flat in Green point. To my surprise all of them are from Congo. Over the last months Ive become found of this guy, and today I took his pictures and asked him if I could share his story on my blog.

Meet Lefills (33).

Image

One morning in January, the door bell rang and it was Lefills from the doorway. He asked if he could come up to talk to me. At the time I hardly knew his name, so I got a little worried. His voice sounded disturbed, and I asked what it was. He said that he was hungry, and asked if I had some food for him. He hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday, and still had many hours to work.

My heart fell to my stomach.

Of course, I said. But don’t you have to stand there in the doorway?

He confirmed. If you would be so kind to bring me something? I’m so sorry to ask about this.

Its not a problem at all. Hold on, Ill make you something right now.

I ran down with a glass of juice, two sandwiches with avocado, tomatoes and an apple. He received it very timidly, and I understood he felt embarrassed over the situation. I convinced him it’s not a problem at all, and since that day we’ve become friends.

Interestingly he told me that he had waited to see my boyfriend leave the building in the morning before he dared to ring the doorbell. I told him that V is not dangerous and that he could ask us anytime he’d like to for food. Later V and I spoke about it, the fact that these men probably see more women being nice to them, than men.. We agreed that women probably come across as more caring in general.. Perhaps it is a simple and global fact that most people (girls and boys) have grown up with more caring mums than dads?

I asked Lefills about it too when he felt more confident with me, and he laughed and said “women just tend to be nicer”. Especially in your country, I thought to my self, well aware of the tragic situation of physical and sexual abuse on women and children in war zones in Congo.

Throughout the coming weeks we had many quite long conversations. As his shifts are from 6 am to 6 pm, Lefills is more awake while working than Costa – the other doorman I told about – thus we’ve been able to talk more. Like Costa, Lefills also says he doesn’t think doormen are treated overly fairly in the area. And like Costa, he’d never complain about the salary or working hours because he knows people can get fired over it.

Besides, Lefills told me that the salary he gets is better than many others’, and that he is proud of having worked hard over the least 3 years to achieve a reputation as an honest man among employers. An honesty that made him admit through our conversations that it’s very tiring to just stand like this for 12 hours and watch people passing by…

Lefills says that he sketches when he feels inspired to make the days shorter and keep his mind focused. It is clear to me that he deliberately chooses to see the positive in things and believes that this period too will pass. As the situation is very bad in Congo at the moment, he feels he just have to wait and see.

Image

Moreover we’ve spoken a little about Norway VS South Africa. As he didn’t know anything about the country part from it being modern and cold, he asked me about many things. And I admit that I’ve had to bite my lip more than once. How do you explain a poor guy from Congo about Norway, if he hasn’t heard anything about it?

Once I asked him how life was for him in Congo, if he had had to go to war etc. He smiled and said:

No, no, no. I’ve been lucky, Ive studied and have a healthy family. My life in Congo is okay, but there is no job. And the conflicts are stressful. I can’t plan a future there. But I know I’m fortunate as my family is safe and not starving or anything.

With little knowledge about Congo, part from it being a mess, I’m curious about the place and have asked many questions. Lefills told me that he preferred the food and the women of Congo. But he thought that it had to better for a country to be an English colony as opposed to French.

How so, I asked.

Because the French heritage we have is so chaotic. People love discussing, debating and making a mess of politics. Nobody ever agree on anything, and partly the conflicts today are to blame for that, he said.

I would of course like to stay with my family in Congo, but the situation is very gloomy. And no African cities can compare to Cape Town. It’s safe and modern here, he says.

Interestingly Lefills isn’t obsessed with the imagination of moving to Europe the way so many seem to be. He says he loves it in Cape Town, that he particularly loves the liberality and possibilities.

Cape Town is Africa’s New York and Id love to create a good life for myself here, he said. Though it’s also very difficult to find a proper job for us here.

Not at difficult as in Congo apparently, because Lefills – like so many others – bussed a long way to get to the more prosper country South Africa. He quickly got a job as security personnel, with the position as a doorman in our building being the last. Although he still hasn’t got a proper residency, he has a temporary working permit.

Which in practice means that while he is waiting for a residency and the right to have the same labour rights as South Africans, he is being exploited as cheap labour, just like other Congolese doormen I’ve got to know. And like Costa, Lefills is aware of this status too.

Another thing the two gentlemen have in common is being proud of their education. Lefills holds a Bachelor degree in Marketing from the university of Kinshasa and means that the French based education system in Congo is much better than the currently offered in South Africa. Although he laughed at the irony that the good education system in Congo is useless as nobody gets a job. And here in South Africa they don’t have the language nor enough permits to actually get a job that is relevant to their education.

When we’ve talked about these topics, I’ve tried my best to inspire him to hold on to his dreams, motivations and to believe in himself and feel confident that hard work will pay off. We have for instance agreed that the most important thing he can do is to study English and continue applying for a residency and better jobs from here.

Image

Overall Lefills is more interested in talking about other things than the challenges he meets in life. He loves to speak about topics like movies, music, Europe vs Africa, racism, my impression of him after he got that sandwich, how we meet a partner or marry each other in Europe..

Not that this was meant to be a Man-seking-woman-add, but you never know what it can serve to. Hah!

(Lefills has agreed to have this text posted about him).

Puking for Music

If you haven’t read about it in the tabloid press yet:

I’m the girl that went on a 45 minutes helicopter ride with Skrillex and 12th Planet and puked the mother freaking machine down!

ImageImage

Nice to meet you.

All the way in the back of the aircraft, in the stinking smell of diesel, I buckled up with John (12th Planet) to my left ad big V to my right. The very bad idea that I somehow initially thought was a good idea, started like this:

High on music and life and full of township love (check #townshiplove on Twitter) after two amazing days with Skrillex (read here about Skrillex and crew’s contribution to Bridges for Music), I got so carried away when they invited V and me to join them on a helicopter ride. It’s difficult to even remember now, perhaps the trauma has deleted it from my brain… I don’t know.. I really don’t know what the heck I was thinking!

I, in a helicopter? I can get motion sick from a hand shake!

I’ve always had that defect; On boats, in carousels, in cars as a child and sometimes  even on flights.

Them: Do you want to come with us for a helicopter tour around the cape point?

Me: Sure! 

A voice in my head: Hello?

This part was lovely though.

Image

Image

Image

Me: Wow, so many cool aircrafts! I’m such a fan of this, let’s do it! What a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’re young, wild and crazy! Vamoooos!

A voice in my head: Well Jeanett, if you believe so.. maybe this is that one miraculous day of your life when you won’t get motion sick from something that will twist, tilt and turn you around in 200 MPH while vibrating, stinking of diesel and making loud noise.

Off we went.

Up and down, sideways and up again.

Everyone was applauding, laughing and cheering.

Part from me. With me it only went DOWN. Badly.

4 minutes later, desperate to find something to let go of my stomach in, V handed me his hoodie. After puking solidly for 30 minutes, the hoodie wasn’t resistant enough. It started dripping and I felt my inner thighs getting wetter and wetter. But at that stage I didn’t care anymore, I was busy surviving.

The two men on each side of me must have felt endlessly helpless (part from disgusted). As I don’t know John very well I can’t blame him for not being able to say much, also he told me afterwards he had a hard time keeping in shape himself. I can only recall him staring out the window, for now and then giving me a comforting look in between my screams.

The man to my right however, tried to help by holding my hair while petting me carefully.

Now and then he even attempted to drag my attention from my lap and out the windows.

V: Look baby. The penguins on Boulder’s beach!

Me: Bboooaaaaa!!

Every time I raised my head I got dizzier. I didn’t even manage to start hating the fact that I missed the chance to see the most spectacular view of the Cape landscape this way. I solely focused on how to best distort my body and soul and prayed every minute that the heaven would just open up and have me.

prayclouds

Sure thing. The whole event has gone into the list of my Top 3 traumas. Just by writing about it I feel sick.

The five clearest memories I have though are one looking out the window – seeing the colorful houses in Muizenberg before heading towards the penguins at Boulder’s beach (with all respect – I missed them), puking my guts out thinking I was going to die, time and again spotting the glittery waves in the ocean, seeing a group of birds take off mutually from the mountains in Cape Point, and thinking of how deeply I appreciated having V by my side that really tried his best to help me.

If anything good came out of it at all, it must be the feeling of bonding on another level with him.

heart

How the trip ended?

When we landed I had to be dragged outside and to be honest I can’t even remember the moment. The crew of eight had by then understood they had a sick giraffe on board, but obviously didn’t know the serious mess I was in. After a while laying over the seats by the door, I pulled myself together, straightened my wet hair and t-shirt and fell out of the helicopter. There I kissed the ground before I continued puking on every available corner.

Which made the crew’s laughter and video filming of the whole thing take a quick end…

First five hours later, just before the main event for Skrillex’s mothership tour in the Ostrich farm, I could start smiling again (I even puked on the way there to V’s astonishment of me actually wanting to join in such a state!)

I insisted because I had a feeling that something magical would come out of the day – and I was right – the event turned out to be completely mindblowing with the kids from the townships playing back to back with Skrill backstage.

IMG_1529

IMG_1537

Bridges for Music feat. Skrillex

Straight from the five days in Mozambique we went to Cape Town where Skrillex and his crew had arrived to start their South Africa mothership tour. Valo got confirmed two weeks ago that Skrillex was keen to join a Bridges for Music workshop during his short time in Cape Town, and we were obviously super excited to meet the guys.

We thought it will be difficult to overdo the experience after having Richie and the crew here, but really – the days with these guys were as hilarious! Touring alongside Skrillex were 12th Planet and Alvin Risk, two other Bass music artists that have know Sonny (Skrillex) for a long time. We met them directly in Langa February 28th for the Bridges for Music workshop.

Check it out:

The workshop was a success and afterwards we went to one of our favorite city restaurants in Green Point, El Burro. Delicious and cheap Mexican food and mojitos. Some tequila shots later we ended up at the tiny club Fiction where South African bass DJ Niskerone was playing. Suddenly Skrillex was at the decks and you can only imagine how the crowd went.

I’ve been on quite a bit of backstage- and after parties in my life and seen DJs and groupies and all that, but seriously: I have NEVER EVER seen the girls behave the way they did this night. Haha, Sonia and I felt like two old aunts, there with no motives of getting laid, sitting with our mouths open observing this circus. In fact we felt a bit sorry for Sonny surrounded by crazy groupies and tried to “help out”.. Yeah we know, he is grownup and knows what he does.

The following day we invited the crew to go with us to Jumpstart DJ school in Khayelitsha. Chill as they are and despite of jet lags and their upcoming gig in the Osterich farm that night, they all came.

To our surprise the students had prepared some Bass music sets for the superstar’s arrival and my, oh my.. What a party it turned into!

It was all so completely random and real, and equally unique for the students as these international artists traveling the world surrounded in whatever luxury they ask for (not that they are, I’m just saying they can). The below pics are from the Jumpstart DJ school in the middle of Khayelitsha where we were bouncing for hours to the students and “mentors” DJ sets.

  Image

IMG_1492 IMG_1488 IMG_1493 IMG_1497

Epic.

From there it all went upwards, – literally – as V and I got invited to join the guys for a helicopter ride (that in my case nearly ended with a suicide) around the Cape.

Stay tuned!

Top 3 in Stellenbosch

IMG_5020

It never stops surprising me that one of the world’s most stunning wine districts exists less than an hour outside of Cape Town. You can leave the hectic metropolitan city behind just to shortly after enter into a completely different world of green fields as far as the eye can see. A lush countryside region where new & old, huge & small creatively architectonic farms are surrounded by square kilometers after square kilometers of grape bushes.

And when you know Cape Town’s more downsidy features of traffic jams, floating litter, striking poverty and worn down townships, Stellenbosch – with its peace and order – stands in sharp contrast to it all.

Now, I tend to enjoy contrast, besides I know there’s no such place like heaven. But I got plenty of imaginations about it and occasionally Stellenbosch represents heaven to me.

IMG_5034

Still, there are a couple of tings to point a finger at in Stellenbosch too. There are undeniably some cruel things going on of labour exploitation and underpayment of colored and black people under the beautiful modern farming‘s surface. But then again, Stellenbosch is also part of this still-a-very-long-way-to-go-before-people-are-equal country called South Africa. You find racism everywhere here. But that’s for another post.

Now, let’s look at what Stellenbosch has to offer a hungry and thirsty traveler. With respect to the concerns mentioned above, I’ve done some research to find out which wine farms have outstanding social (and environmental) responsibility schemes, so that you can make a small difference by going there.

Because you know, it’s not all about the wine (though that’s an important part of it).

IMG_4978

I’ll mention four companies that stand out with regard to social responsibility; each and every of them discovered through personal visits, among many other stunning wine farms that also have delicious food and wine and outstanding service (all of which is very common in Stellenbosch actually).

The wine farms I’m about to highlight however has that extra touch of feelgood due to their outspoken social responsibility in addition to the brilliant wine, food and service they offer.  Not to mention the beauty of the sites.

Let’s go!

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 02.56.52

The wine states are: A) Solms Delta    B) Spier    C) Clos Malverne

The three wine farms each cover areas of large land, and are located far away from each other. While it might not be totally correct to say the first I’ve listed as in Stellenbosch, it does actually have a Stellenbosch address. If you plan to go to Stellenbosch over several days, or perhaps spend a day or two in Franschoek – the neighborhing wine land– it may be a better option to visit Solms Delta then.

Either way, the three places are all reachable within a day, meaning they could be perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a wine tasting in each. 🙂 Click on the names above the pictures below and you’ll get to each company’s social responsibility communication.

As for Spier they are undeniably a pioneer in the region on everything that has to do with sustainability throughout the whole production circle. Sustainability is also implemented in every corner of their supply chain. Their garden and kitchen (and wine) is perhaps also the fanciest, and a couple of hours here (often with live music) in between the mountains is really like a retreat of meditation.

Solms Delta is also very beautiful, but a much more low key place. Their garden is more closed than the two others, but in change they have their own museum and probably the happiest staff you’ll find in Stellenbosch. The owner truly is an inspiration and every time I go here I make new friends (among the staff). Also, their food is delicious! All in all I’d say they are my favorite, especially what concerns their social development commitment. They also arrange live music events in the weekends so check their calendar.

Clos Malverne is one of the places where I’ve eaten the best food in Stellenbosch. No wonder maybe they are ranked among the top 3 restaurants in the area. The service is outstanding and so is the wine. Besides, it’s such a good value for the money!

Solms Delta Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 02.51.53

Spier

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 02.53.40

Clos Malverne

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 02.52.04

There are hundreds of other places and many of whom deserve a blog post for various reasons. This however was an attempt to highlight three of the places that I’ve always really enjoyed in this gorgeous place on earth where time just pauses.

Enjoy your time in Stellenbosch!