Tanatswa on the Move

The Ugly Yet Beautiful Face of Creative Cape Town

This blog post is for one of my most loyal readers who mentioned that I should talk about the racists inequality in Cape Town. This one is for you💖

Now y’all know that I love Cape Town but the reality is that there is a definite dark side that almost everyone mentions but no one notices. It’s quite a weird dynamic.

The reality of Cape Town is that it’s a bewitching city. The beaches, the old buildings which are in good conditions, the smell of fish in the air at Seapoint…can all make you forget that Cape Town is one of the most racially and financially unequal cities in the world.

Unfortunately for all its beauty Cape Town is where apartheid was technically made. One black Youtuber(SbuMpanza) originally from Jozi mentioned before that Cape Town sort of feels like an apartheid museum. I don’t really care about statistics and such so I’ll just tell you about my experience there.

When I first arrived in Cape Town it was like a fairy tale. The air was different and the roads were good. I went to a lodge in Tamberskloof and made friends with other foreigners from Germany and Poland. I went to Camps Bay beach with my German friend and experienced going into the ocean for the first time. All my life I’d only been to landlocked cities. It was magical but I couldn’t help but notice I was the only black person there and the rest of the people keep looking at me as though they’ve never seen a Negro in Africa. I’ll admit to being a little oblivious to racial profiling before people described it to me but then I realized that when an Indian girl asked me if I had an smokes or weed it was because they assume that the only time black or colored (African people of mixed heritage, don’t come for me it’s not a racial slur😅) people go to predominately white places is to sell drugs.

After staying at the lodge I stayed at a former friend’s place because paying rent while settling down wasn’t viable for me at the moment. Before I get into the story; don’t move if you can’t afford rent😂. They lived in Mitchell’s Plain and that’s where I saw how the other half lived. It was almost like you were in another country…a very poor country. The people there were very poor and the location of Mitchell’s Plain made sure that they were far from economic opportunity. The cost of just traveling to town was about R45 at the time so the money I was saving from not paying rent basically was finished by transport.

I could write a book about Mitchell’s Plain. How I was told not to travel early in the morning or risk being shot. How sometimes the landlord would call me over to look at gangster members fight by throwing rocks at each other (thank goodness it was never guns). After a month I moved out partly because the environment was too much for me, partly because of other things.

That’s when I moved to Woodstock. Woodstock is known as the artsy neighborhood of Cape Town. It is also a hotspot for gentrification at the moment. There’s the old Woodstock where there’s old buildings that used to house colored people during apartheid. It was known to be a neighborhood full of gangsters and violence akin to Mitchell’s Plain. Colored people who needed to live close to their white employers lived there during apartheid and it’s still a predominantly colored neighborhood. People have owned houses there for generations. Then there’s Upper Woodstock. The trendy part of Woodstock with the modern houses with bigger rooms and people with bigger pockets. I loved living in Woodstock. But it was hard to see the contrast between rich and poor in one neighborhood. I lived on both sides. Old Woodstock had the feel of history and a deep storyline. It was where many Zimbabwean and Congolese immigrants stayed. The richer Nigerian immigrants stayed in Upper Woodstock. But I saw that many of the old building were being torn down to make way for modern apartments. I wondered if the previous owners had got a good price for their houses. But that’s rarely the case with gentrification and greedy real estate agents.

It was Woodstock that made me realize that the ramifications of racial division and apartheid affect everyone. I used to walk all over Woodstock by myself all the time. One time I even did something dangerous and traveled back home with the last train (yes it was daredevilish) and got home safely. I used to walk with my phone out taking videos all the time and people would just stare at me in curiosity. But the one time I walked through Woodstock with a white friend I felt like I was in danger for being in proximity to them. All eyes were on us…or should I say him. And I felt thieving eyes, pickpocketing eyes on us. I’m sensitive to those things and up until that point I used to scoff when white people said they didn’t feel safe. It wasn’t real until I was second-hand experiencing it.

Then I moved to Maitland which might as well be called immigrant island lol. It was the first time I wasn’t able to wear short skirts, shorts or revealing clothing because there were people from conservative societies over there that thought it was okay to harass girls. It was also the first place I ate dishes from all across Africa. Egusi soup, pounded yam, fish from Malawi, vetkoeks etc. It was like all of Africa in one neighborhood.

After Maitland I lived in Claremont which is a popular neighborhood for UCT students. There’s were I saw the disparity between rich and non-rich college students. How the non-rich students would sometimes be on scholarships that covered their rent but sometimes left them wanting for food. They taught me that coffee can sustain you for a week when groceries run out and how to make weird meals. The rich students taught me how they got into every exclusive place with ease but also how they were willfully oblivious of those who had less than them.

Then I lived in Vasco which was a neighborhood like Maitland but also had less ratchet people. There was not much to say there except I really liked having WIFi available 24/7. I binge-watched “The Nanny” and discovered the wonderfulness that is Fran.

Throughout my many moves I was modeling. During modeling sessions I had someone admit that most modeling jobs in Cape Town are for colored and white people. Whatever was left was what the black people had to fight for. I saw this reality time and again when I went for auditions and there would be white girls from all over the world because there weren’t enough white models to cater for the demand in the city while black girls waited weeks between each audition.

Working as a waitress I noticed that colored or white girls would be given the option of being a hostess while black girls were only allowed to be waitresses. I also noticed how the white and colored girls were referred to as “sweetheart” by the male workers while we habitually were called “bitches”. We spoke up about and I think HR did something about that but you could still see the disparity in treatment.

I could go on and on about Cape Town but I think the lesson is that it’s a city that beautiful and wonderful but held back by a nasty past that affecting it’s growth in the present and possibly future. There’s still so much work that needs to be done before it can become a real melting pot of diversity and equal opportunity. But there’s something about the city as well that gives you hope that one day it will be a better place.

1 thought on “The Ugly Yet Beautiful Face of Creative Cape Town”

  1. Thanks for writing this 💗 It’s so impressive how you can get into so much detail and tell a story through your experiences! Maybe that’s what writing is all about, not so much about the language and knowing a lot of words but conveying stories and wisdom through things we experience.

    Lovely piece Tanatswa x

    Liked by 1 person

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