Maritzburg Sun (South Africa)

TikTok brings tourists to PMB

- Jade le Roux

TikTok, the latest social media phenomenon, is not only taking the world by storm but also appears to be putting Pietermari­tzburg on the global map.

That was at least the case last week when the city’s iconic KZN Museum received a very interestin­g and inspiring visitor all the way from New York City, who was eager to visit the landmark after engaging with the museum’s TikTok videos.

The KZN Museum was excited to welcome the American playwright, radio producer, performanc­e activist, Bible scholar and TikToker Peterson Toscano to the museum for a guided tour on Thursday, after making acquaintan­ce with him via his TikTok.

Toscano’s trip to Pietermari­tzburg also allowed him to meet one of his favourite TikTokers, Sqiniseko Ndlovu (@usqiniseko), who is from

Imbali.

Toscano started dabbling in the new social media phenomenon when the pandemic hit. “I had a short attention span because I was freaking out all the time and [TikTok] just gave me a chance to laugh,” he said.

He tried to do a few of his own TikTok videos, but they didn’t really resonate with his American audience. This all changed since moving to South Africa with his husband, Glen Retief, who received a Fulbright Scholarshi­p to start a Creative Writing programme at the University of Pretoria’s Mamelodi campus.

“When we moved to South Africa, I decided to try again. I didn’t care whether people watched or not, I decided I was just going to do it for myself and have fun and use it to record my experience of South Africa. I’m going to learn Afrikaans and isiZulu, and if I make a fool of myself, okay then,” he said.

Suddenly, he started getting lots of followers and now has over 60 000, most of which are from South Africa.

“I think people were excited to see someone exploring their world in a curious way and pointing out things they may have forgotten or didn’t realise about what’s special about this country, like the many delicious foods you only get here,” he added.

Apart from serving as a travelogue, Toscano’s TikToks also cover more universal issues such as climate change and LGBTQI issues — two topics Toscano passionate­ly advocates for on TikTok and through his work in radio and performanc­e art. His one person comedy shows tackle LGBTQI issues, such as conversion therapy, which Toscana tried unsuccessf­ully for seventeen years.

“When I finally came out gay, I wanted to tell my story about conversion therapy, but I struggled because it was just too heavy. Then I thought about the plays I used to write when I studied theatre, and thought, what if I do it as a comedy?

That was the connection I needed for me to tell my story by stepping away from it,” Toscana explained, adding that for him, comedy is the key that unlocks the door to discuss these heavy topics.

Toscano also engages with transgende­r issues from a biblical perspectiv­e. His research on gender non-conforming characters in the Bible, culminated in a film titled Transfigur­ations – Transgress­ing Gender in the Bible.

Speaking about how he has turned his passion for arts and performanc­e into activism, Toscano said it’s all about mission and being open to where that leads, but “at the heart of it, it’s about human rights. It’s the people that really move me.”

Speaking about the KZN Museum gaining internatio­nal recognitio­n through TikTok, the museum’s marketing manager, Viranna Frank, said the museum has recognised the importance of using social media to stay relevant in the digital age.

“It is important for us to stay abreast to whatever the social media trends are so that we are able to connect and communicat­e with our various and varied audiences. That is how we came across Peterson and used the opportunit­y to invite him to the museum, get his take on his museum experience and use that platform to share our museum with the broader community,” Frank said.

Follow Toscano’s travels through South Africa and his discussion­s on important issues on TikTok: @petersonto­scano

Local TikToker Sqiniseko Ndlovu (27) said TikTok has given her a voice to speak out as a masculine lesbian in South Africa by sharing her lived experience, as well as connecting to a global LGBTQI community with a shared lived experience.

“It’s so important to see there are parallels with black people from everywhere, be it America, Nigeria or South Africa. There’s this whole global community to remind me I’m not going through this experience alone,” said Ndlovu, who started posting TikTok videos in March 2021 after seeing there was very little content dealing with LGBTQI issues.

Her videos deal with her experience as a black, masculine lesbian in Pietermari­tzburg and the greater South African context, raising issues relating to racism, sexuality and being a woman in her community.

“The dialogue is hard but it is an important one we can’t just ignore. TikTok helps with growing and understand­ing each other more.”

Ndlovu recently met up with American TikToker Peterson Toscano who she connected with via TikTok.

“We met for breakfast after Toscano made contact with me saying he would be coming to Pietermari­tzburg. It was just beautiful to see someone experience South African culture for the first time. There’s so much of our culture I take for granted and last really experience­d when I was like two. It was very emotional to see him embrace our culture so eagerly,” Ndlovu said.

Follow Ndlovu on TikTok: @uSqiniseko

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Pictured is Peterson Toscano doing a TikTok video at the KZN Museum. The American TikToker and performanc­e activist discovered the museum on TikTok and made a point to visit it on his recent travels through the province.
Download the PixzAR App, for FREE, and scan in the red edges to see more Pictured is Peterson Toscano doing a TikTok video at the KZN Museum. The American TikToker and performanc­e activist discovered the museum on TikTok and made a point to visit it on his recent travels through the province.
 ?? ?? Glen Retief, Peterson Toscano and Pietermari­tzburg TikToker Sqiniseko Ndlovu, who met for the first time after connecting via the social media platform.
Glen Retief, Peterson Toscano and Pietermari­tzburg TikToker Sqiniseko Ndlovu, who met for the first time after connecting via the social media platform.

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