Should we visit a township in Cape Town?

The idea of visiting a township in Cape Town raises more than an eyebrow for most. “Voyeuristic”, “culturally insensitive”, “poverty tourism” are terms often used to describe the idea of tourists “gawping” at local people and the poverty they live in. 

Our clients are often passionate about getting involved in local communities they are visiting.  They want their children to witness the disparity that exists; to understand that the world can be a very different place depending on where and when you were born.

So how does tourism make a difference without being perceived as a first world indulgence?  Can visiting a township in Cape Town help or is it making the situation worse?

Gugulethu Township
Capetown township

Townships as cultural centres: Aspirational & hopeful

Tourism and local economies are often linked, and the visiting of townships is no different.  Artisan coffee shops, art houses, theatres are springing up in townships.  More and more townships are becoming places of education, aspiration and hope.  If done correctly, a visit to a township offers a real opportunity to understand and empathise with a culture and a heritage.  We are able to support and encourage the entrepreneurship and aspirations that are becoming a central part of these fascinating towns.

As opposed to a Cape Town ˜township tour” we have several opportunities for you to get involved, sensitively. For example, we recently came across a dance school in Gugulethu township.  Zama, an award-winning school in the heart of a township has some amazing success stories with pupils dancing and teaching professionally across the globe.

Zama pupils Capetown township

Zama Dance School

Zama Dance School was founded in 1984 by Arlene Westergaard. Arlene’s vision was to teach ballet to underprivileged Township children and to give them an opportunity at a career in the arts.  This incredible woman’s dream has become a shining example of what can be achieved in the townships.

Tuition, dancewear, shoes and meals are all paid for with sponsorship received. The 100 or so dancers enrolled in the school get the chance to enter competitions and try out for scholarships. The school has become so popular it has moved from a weekly class held at a church to a purpose-built dance studio that runs five classes per week.

Cape Town: An incredible city

There is definitely a way to visit a Cape Town township responsibly and sensitively. If you have a budding ballerina having us organise a lesson with the township kids at Zama is one of many examples.  There are various other initiatives we are involved in which we would be more than happy to chat through with you. 

Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, many of our itineraries start here.  With a plethora of activities; wine tasting in Constantia, wandering around the V&A waterfront or picnicking at the top of Table Mountain are some of the incredible experiences it offers. But have you seen the real Cape Town? This world famous city was built by workers who, in the main, lived in townships. Perhaps this integral part of the city’s history deserves an afternoon of your time…

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