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
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.
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.