Morphing multiculture to tourism in Cape will transform locals’lives
THE CONVERGENCE of Heritage Month and Tourism Month highlights the value of our multicultural assets.
Cape Town’s diversity means you can find different pockets of culture all over the city. Tourism links them together as the greater living heritage of the city. The two concepts go hand-in-hand, as we have discovered over the past few weeks.
I have been exploring Cape Town’s pockets of diversity and in the process I have had some enlightening conversations with tourism professionals whose insights into how the industry can change the lives of locals has been fascinating.
It all started a few months back when we realised that too often we’re advising tourism businesses on what to do from a distance, not engaging with individuals where they are.
From an industry perspective, it is easy to lose sight of what people face day to day, and it is fantastic to be able to converse with these storytellers and enthusiasts from different corners of the city.
Khayelitsha is part of what makes the Mother City what it is. It’s a neighbourhood of many contrasts. In recent years, though, locals have realised that Khayelitsha is a hidden gem, and there are many exciting experiences to be had there.
One example is entrepreneur and chef Abigail Mbalo. She told a group of us who met to discuss tourism in Khayelitsha, in what we’ve dubbed the eKasi Sessions, of what lay behind her dramatic career change.
After being a suburban dental technician for 17 years, she decided to pursue her passion – cooking. She realised that when people graduate they tend to move away from township neighbourhoods, so she opted to move back to Khayelitsha and open her restaurant, 4Roomed eKasi Culture.
A former Masterchef contestant, she has created a seasonal menu with special twists reflecting her heritage and her skill as a chef.
Abigail is one of several tourism-related business operators who met to discuss their businesses and their experience of working in Khayelitsha. It was immediately apparent they love what they do.
Take Amos Mncedi Ziqubu: He speaks passionately about getting the local youth into cycling, and of how he created a cycling culture with his company Velokhaya. It trains professional cyclists, some of whom have gone on to earn international acclaim and exposure.
One story he tells is about realising that his business is community-based, so he went to all the taxi owners and told them there would be children on bicycles in the streets. Then they told drivers to be careful. And Amos takes all the kids to do a K53 test before allowing them on the road on their bikes. Responsible tourism at its best!
Then there’s Juma Nkwela who saw an opportunity to get tourists out of minibuses and into the townships by offering walking tours. Juma creates beautiful street art in Khayelitsha with other artists and on his tours visitors can contribute by painting or planting home vegetable gardens.
There’s also Sibulelo Daweti who has stirred up media interest with his 18 Gangster Museum that helps young people better understand the dangers of gang life.
All of us chatted about our interest in getting more visitors to Khayelitsha to experience these amazing things that encapsulate part of the local culture.
I listened to what they said, and it seemed they had a “eureka” moment as they realised the benefits of collaborating.
This handful of individuals represent dozens of others like them, entrepreneurs carving out a space where they live with the intention of sharing a fresh experience with others. They spoke of the long hours it takes to get a business up and running, and that in the few remaining hours you have to market it.
It’s my goal to see all these smaller operators walk with confidence among bigger tourism players and share with pride what they have because the energy and creativity are inspiring. It’s the future of tourism, when visitors realise there’s more to a place than they expected, and that they can have immersive experiences meeting people and hearing about what they do.
The eKasi Sessions are just touching the surface (so far) as we listen to what real-life business people are experiencing – the highs, the lows and their dreams. Perhaps neighbourhood tourism could be added to the list of our big attractions because we are looking to showcase our city and what better way to do it than within the communities in which we live and work.
It is hard work starting a business and it can be lonely, but the minute you engage with others you get the sense they are having the same experience as you. You can bounce ideas off each other and share encouragement or tips. They could help you get a new idea off the ground or just provide the professional support you need.
To get to the heart of storytelling in tourism, you need to go to the source and you will find it deep within our city’s neighbourhoods. It is a remarkable heritage we can be proud of. Mally is chairperson of Cape Town Tourism.