Live Mag

Camps Bay reverse township tour

by: Sabelo Mkhabela - 18 February 2015


To say I hate township tours is an understatement. I loathe to witness tourists being dropped off in busloads “to see how people live”. It’s treating the township like a zoo and it’s plain disrespectful. It invades people’s private spaces, with strangers taking pictures of them while they try to go about their daily routines.

I live in a suburb that’s predominantly white. I, as a black person, get asked, especially in the evenings, by some residents and the Neighbourhood Watch, what I am doing there. “Where do you live,” they say, of course, because, the evening is a time when people like me are supposed to be out of the white person’s area. The only time it looks normal for a black person to walk around is during the day when they are there to clean houses and tend to gardens. A coloured neighbour and friend of mine has had a similar experience. “These dudes [Neighbourhood Watch] had to go with me to my house to confirm that I indeed live here,” he said.

This is why I came up with this story idea: To flip the township tour on its head by seeing how people in the suburbs would react to their private spaces being invaded by someone taking pictures of them walking their dogs or playing with their children. The result of that discussion is this video of my colleagues photographers Andiswa Mkosi and Onele Liwani. The video has already gone viral. Watch below and let us know what you think.

Also catch our original piece for ENCA about Township Tours…

What is a ‘township tour’ in South Africa? Is it an educational journey where profits go back into the community? Does it promote cultural exchange or is it a one-sided venture where a bunch of voyeuristic tourists snoop into the lives of ordinary people so that they can tick the poverty box on their holiday itinerary? Does the poverty narrative present a superficial idea of the communities in question? Are there elements of the tours that glamourise and trivialise poverty, thus dehumanising the people and communities the tourists often arrive in busloads to “view”? How can young people re-invent the township tour?

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