In the tourism neigh­bour­hood

Cape Town’s liv­ing her­itage of cul­tural di­ver­sity goes hand-in-hand with tourism and it’s a good idea to in­cor­po­rate small en­ter­prises into the mix, writes En­ver Mally

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION -

THE con­ver­gence of Her­itage Month and Tourism Month high­lights the value of our mul­ti­cul­tural as­sets. Cape Town’s di­ver­sity means that you can find dif­fer­ent pock­ets of cul­ture all over the city.

What links them to­gether as the greater liv­ing her­itage of the city is tourism. The two con­cepts go handin-hand, as we have dis­cov­ered over the past few weeks.

I have been ex­plor­ing Cape Town’s pock­ets of di­ver­sity, and, in the process, 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’s easy to lose sight of what peo­ple face day to day and it’s fan­tas­tic to be able to con­verse with these sto­ry­tellers and en­thu­si­asts from dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the city.

Khayelit­sha eKasi Ses­sion 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 that many ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ences are 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.

This for­mer sub­ur­ban den­tal tech­ni­cian for 17 years de­cided to pur­sue her pas­sion – cook­ing. More than that, she says she re­alises that when peo­ple grad­u­ate, they tend to move away from the town­ship neigh­bour­hoods, so she opted to move back to Khayelit­sha and open her restau­rant, 4-Roomed eKasi Cul­ture.

As a for­mer Masterchef con­tes­tant, she has cre­ated a sea­sonal menu with many spe­cial twists that re­flect her her­itage and skill as a chef.

Abi­gail was one of sev­eral tourism-re­lated busi­ness op­er­a­tors who came to­gether to dis­cuss their busi­nesses and their ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in Khayelit­sha. Judg­ing from their con­ver­sa­tions, it be­came im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent that they loved what they did.

Take Amos Mncedi Ziqubu, who speaks with pas­sion about get­ting the lo­cal youth into cy­cling, and of how he man­aged to cre­ate a cy­cling cul­ture with his com­pany, Velokhaya, which trains pro­fes­sional cy­clists, some of whom have gone on to gain in­ter­na­tional ac­claim and ex­po­sure.

One story he tells is of re­al­is­ing how his busi­ness was com­mu­nity-based, so he went to all the taxi own­ers and told them that there would be chil­dren on bi­cy­cles in the streets. The taxi own­ers then told driv­ers to be care­ful. Amos didn’t stop there – he takes all the kids to do their K53 test be­fore al­low­ing them on the road on their bikes. Re­spon­si­ble tourism at its best!

Then there’s Juma Nk­wela, who saw the op­por­tu­nity of get­ting tourists out of mini-buses and into town­ships by cre­at­ing walk­ing tours – Juma cre­ates beau­ti­ful street art in Khayelit­sha, along with other artists, and his tours al­low visi­tors not only to con­sume, but also to con­trib­ute, by paint­ing or plant­ing veg­etable gar­dens.

There’s also Sibulelo Daweti, who has stirred up me­dia in­ter­est with his 18 Gang­ster Mu­seum that helps young peo­ple to bet­ter un­der­stand the dan­gers of gang life.

All of us chat­ted about our in­ter­est in get­ting more visi­tors into Khayelit­sha to ex­pe­ri­ence these amaz­ing things that en­cap­su­late part of the lo­cal cul­ture.

I lis­tened to what they had to say, and it seemed like a “eureka” mo­ment as they re­alised the ben­e­fits that ex­ist in col­lab­o­rat­ing.

This hand­ful of in­di­vid­u­als rep­re­sents dozens of others like them – en­trepreneurs who are carv­ing out a space right where they live, with the in­ten­tion of shar­ing a fresh, new ex­pe­ri­ence with others. They spoke of the long hours it takes to get a busi­ness up and run­ning, and of how, in what hours re­main be­yond this, ef­forts have to be made to mar­ket what they have.

It’s my goal to see all of these smaller op­er­a­tors be­ing able to walk with con­fi­dence among big­ger tourism op­er­a­tors, to share with pride what they have, be­cause the en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity that they show is in­spir­ing.

It’s the fu­ture of tourism – when visi­tors, whether in­ter­na­tional or lo­cal – re­alise there’s more to a place than they first 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 Big At­trac­tions that we have; af­ter all, we’re look­ing to show­case our city and what bet­ter way to do it than within the com­mu­ni­ties in which we live and work.

It’s hard work start­ing a busi­ness and it can be lonely, but the minute you en­gage with others, you get the sense that they’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same sort of things that you are.

You can bounce ideas off each other, share en­cour­age­ment or tips. They could help you get a new idea off the ground or just pro­vide the pro­fes­sional sup­port that you need.

To get to the heart of sto­ry­telling in tourism, you need to go to the source and, deep within our city’s neigh­bour­hoods, you’ll find it. It is a re­mark­able her­itage we can be proud of.

En­ver Mally is chair­per­son of Cape Town Tourism.

PIC­TURE: LEON LESTRADE

Iziko Mu­se­ums was abuzz with ex­cite­ment and ac­tiv­ity on Her­itage Day last year and Ltd Edi­tion Drum­mers Corp added to fes­tiv­i­ties down Gover­ment Av­enue, while on their way to the mu­seum.

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