Maritzburg Sun (South Africa)
TikTok brings tourists to PMB
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
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