A Night in Gugulethu

My first sight in Cape Town after landing was the sprawling townships stretching for miles on the outskirts of the city-center.  These areas were recognizable for distinct living conditions founded in poverty and injustice.  Just over twenty years ago living areas were divided by race and individuals were forcefully removed from their pre-existing homes due to skin color.  The resulting outcome was the birth of informal settlements and segregated townships.

Often it is hard to see past the alarming living conditions in the townships but it is important to view the stories behind the people of the community rather than the worn out shacks and littered streets.  I felt torn when told about Township tours finding them to seem almost exploiting the people of the community. However through a tour led by IES program I realized that it was important to interact with individuals living in townships to obtain a better understanding of life and to further support the community.

It was for a weekend night that we had the opportunity to open our eyes to life in the townships.  We spent our time with Mama Knox in her home in the Xhosa township of Gugulethu.  We were told how families who obtain means to move out of the townships had decided to remain in the area due to the incredible family dynamics among the community and the essence of ubuntu (meaning- I am me, because you are you).  Additionally, some of the families in the region depended on tourist funds as income.  Our presence was supporting citizens who were burdened with a saturated job market.

We were kindly welcomed into her home and enjoyed playing with Mama’s granddaughter inside the house since it was raining.  We got together to watch the Champions league football match with Real Madrid playing against Juventus.

 Mama asked for our help in cooking the cuisine, a traditional dinner of pap (maize meal), lamb, and vegetables.  In the local way we ate with our hands and drank tea 🙂

The football match kept us up late but we woke up early to attend church the following morning with the family.  It was interesting to pass three tented churches that were deep in song and five hour long worship services.

We walked over to the well-known market of Mazoli’s where the fusion of locals and tourist created a lively fun vibe.  The market was known for its delicious braai cuisine (also known as barbecue).

Viewing the contrasting housing to the beautiful landscape reminded me of the beauty of the people in the townships.  Spending a day in another’s shoes was a meaningful experience that made me view Cape Town with a completely new regard.

“Beauty is hidden in everything…Just learn how to observe”

-Ritu Ghatourey

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