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Meet at the Guga S'thebe Cultural Centre for the Langa Township Tour.

Meet at the Guga S’thebe Cultural Centre for the Langa Township Tour.

Our tour started with an end – that of District Six: our driver Joe was 13 when his family was forcibly removed in 1968.

As we drove through the Zonnebloem area, we relived the days of his childhood: The schools, churches and mosque that were spared from demolition. The old Hanover Street where spectators would sit on the pavements and watch the carnival parade. Joe described District Six as a lively area full of artisans and craftspeople where you’d come to do your shopping, buying fresh fish or sweets.

Hard to imagine when you see all the rubble and abandoned land. This virtual tour of District Six might help.

From there we drove to the beginnings – Langa, Cape Town’s oldest black township was established in 1923.

Here we met Theo at the Guga S’thebe Cultural Centre. The centre is dedicated to the empowerment of the local people and to give youth a place to go after school. As examples we visited the Naledi Pottery Project and watched a drum class in progress.

Across the road is the Langa Museum, the former Pass Office. During apartheid all black people were legally required to carry passbooks. Failure to produce one resulted in a fine, arrest, or deportment. The Langa Pass Office is famous for a protest in 1960 where 50 000 people burnt their dompas (meaning dumb pass) in defiance of apartheid pass laws.

We ventured further into the township, past street trade: A barber shop inside an old shipping container, where a chap was doing a quick DIY job with some electric hair clippers. A mama selling Langa t-shirts as souvenirs from her front yard. Sheepheads sitting in bulk, ready to be cooked on a near-by fire.

Walking alongside temporary housing – or what was meant to be temporary and has long become a necessity – quickly puts things into perspective: Here people live in containers the size of one room. A double mattress just about fits in there, touching the walls on three sides, with a bit of walk-in space.

Further on we get to see that even such a small room can be shared by several people in the migrant labour hostels that were used to accommodate men under the apartheid government.

Hard to believe that the occupants might still be better off than the people living in Joe Slovo, one of the biggest informal settlements at the back of Langa, where the government is building low cost housing for the controversial N2 Gateway project.

After so much history, our tour ended with an upbeat township cuisine and live music experience at Lelapa Restaurant.

Sheila Mahloane welcomed us with an entertaining speech that makes you laugh and learn:
Can you speak Xhosa:
How to make the click sound:

The buffet offers an overwhelming choice of traditional township foods. We could choose from a range of beers, soft drinks and wines, including the Indaba Mosaic, a red wine that stands out through its commitment to social responsibility.

Thus, our lunch turned into a flavour explosion of game meats, exotic vegetables and salads with savoury samp and rice, all seasoned to tantalise the taste buds. Accompanied by the lip-smacking Bordeaux blend and the rhythmic marimba band, it was to no surprise when a few got up for some spontaneous dance moves.

Take a look at the photos:


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