We are staying in a guest house in Gordon’s Bay, about 45 minutes west of Cape Town. The community we are serving in is a township known as Zola, which is about a 10 minute drive from our house. This township is across the street from a bigger township, Nonzamo. These communities have a lot of culture and each one is unique in characteristics. The Nonzamo and Zola townships are very family oriented and religious. We see the kids looking out and caring for one another, like they’re siblings, even if they aren’t related.
Last weekend we toured the oldest but smallest township in Cape Town, the Langa township. Our tour guide grew up in Langa and gave us extensive background on life in the township. This helped us better understand the Zola township. We were unaware of class structure within a township, although we knew they have a growing micro-economy. On the Langa tour, we walked through the lower, middle, and upper class living spaces. We learned that art and music are an integral part of their culture and economy. Many foods are also unique to the area, including goat or sheep’s heads known as “smileys.” We tasted this staple food in the township and learned that many women make a living off cooking the heads on wood fires and preparing them to be sold.
Every day the streets of the township are full of community members completing chores, playing with one another, and socializing. The kids we work with are not only loving but also display a strong sense of individual spirit and independence. They leave the house for the whole day and usually do not come home until dinner or bedtime. These kids get to be creative kids. Both these townships have history of men working in the area and living in hostels. It is not until recently that these men have been able to bring their families into the township to live with them. This has created a boom in children throughout the areas.
We spent the weekend in the city of Cape Town. We toured the District Six Museum and our tour guide told us about his experiences growing up as a Muslim during apartheid. It was eye-opening to realize this impacted so many people still alive today. We notice the lasting effects of apartheid as we drive through the countryside of South Africa and see the different regions of housing, especially as we work in Zola.
“Visiting these sites is helping us piece together the dynamic and complicated history of Cape Town and South Africa. “
After the District Six Museum, we made our way to the V&A Waterfront, which is the most visited place in Cape Town. The waterfront and surrounding area are very affluent, even further showing the contrast in living dynamics in Cape Town.
After spending the night in Cape Town, we went to Table Mountain the following morning. This is one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. It is possibly the most ancient mountain in the world, dating back 600 million years old. It had an incredible view of Robben Island, Lions Head, Devil’s Peak, the city of Cape Town, and the southernmost tip of the continent of Africa.
Our last stop was Bo-Kaap where a group of predominantly Muslims first settled in Cape Town. Bo-Kaap is well-known for its brightly colored houses. The houses were painted in the ‘90s as a testament to the new Cape Town in the post-apartheid era. The colors show the attempt of the whole nation to be more integrated and welcoming of all religions and diverse characteristics.
Visiting these sites is helping us piece together the dynamic and complicated history of Cape Town and South Africa.