10 October 2023
2023 marks a pivotal year for Cape Town’s oldest township, whose planning was rubber-stamped by the council a century ago. Langa, which means ‘sun’ in Xhosa, is today a hub of creativity and entrepreneurship characterised by its vibrant culture. But its long history is a tale of trauma that must serve as a reminder for future generations to thrive.
Thanks to the warm and welcoming nature of its residents, who take great pride in their community and its heritage, Langa holds a special place in the hearts of Capetonians as well as visitors to the city.
Celebrating Langa’s living history
A visit to Langa offers a glimpse into the everyday hustle and bustle of the neighbourhood, showcasing a diverse mix of cultures, traditions and artistic expressions. From street art adorning the sides of buildings to lively music filling the air, Langa’s infectious creative spirit makes for a heart-warming, unforgettable experience. The township is also home to several art galleries, craft markets and cultural institutions that celebrate the talents and stories of its residents.
“With ‘sun’ as its namesake, Langa is our stage to cast a radiant light on its enthralling history and rich culture,” commented Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism. “It’s an explosion of tastes, sounds and colours that draw you in. The rich local cuisine and vibrant culture are the heart and soul of Langa!”
Beyond exploring Langa’s artistic side, visitors are encouraged to engage with the living history of the area. The township played an important role in the struggle against apartheid and many of its streets and landmarks commemorate stories of determination, activism and the pursuit of freedom in a previously divided South Africa. Listening to the stories of its residents presents the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs that have shaped the community.
The City’s Arts and Culture Branch is organising a market in Langa during September, which is celebrated annually as heritage month to highlight South Africa’s cultural diversity. According to Robin Jutzen, manager of the branch, the City is also revitalising existing art murals in the community and is preparing to release a publication centred around Langa’s history and heritage.
Responsible, community-based tourism
Respect for the area, its residents and its history should be at the core of all tourist activities and behaviour in our City, especially in culture-rich areas such as Langa. Responsible tourism practices that prioritise community engagement, fair economic opportunities, and cultural exchange are essential for ensuring a positive and mutually beneficial experience for both visitors and residents.
“Responsible tourism isn’t just an item on our agenda, it’s the headline! We tune into the community’s voice on what they want to project,” Duminy explained. “Genuine community-based tourism isn’t a spectator sport; it requires engagement and understanding. It’s about stepping into the authentic shoes of a Langa local, not just the comfortable loafers of a tourist.”
Theuns Vivian, head of Tourism Development, explained that guided tours in Langa are designed to add value to the community and to refrain from promoting ‘over tourism’ in local residential areas.
“We educate tour operators and professionals in the industry [about responsible tourism practices],” he said, adding that independent travellers are informed via the City’s digital channels and educational brochures.
Langa embodies the spirit of resilience and hope that characterises many townships across South Africa. From the buzzing streets to the warm smiles of its residents, Langa promises a multi-sensory cultural experience for each and every visitor.