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Township tour with the sound of gospel
Get to know the place, people on a soulful, song-filled Sunday morning tour
Last updated: Tuesday, 5 July 2022
The way into the heart of Langa is through its churches, it’s “where the spirit and energy of the community can be experienced at its fullest,” says Khonaye Tuswa, owner of travel tour company. His Sunday morning Gospel Tour, which culminates in a walking tour of Langa township, is a soul-stirring and culture-rich experience of the first township established (1927) in South Africa.
The morning is an uplifting uniquely South African spiritual experience with a dynamic congregation. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
EXPERIENCE CAMISSA’S TOWNSHIP TOUR
“If you come to South Africa, and you miss the opportunity to visit one of the townships, you can’t claim to have really seen this country,” says Camissa's travel guide, Simosakhe Goniwe taking visitors, including an American couple and their teenage daughters, on the township tour.
Langa township is a great representation of life in South Africa. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
That’s because South Africa’s townships, where the majority lives, are not only historical sites, they are the most telling about its present, and are a clear window to the future of the country.
Camissa’s non-voyeuristic tours have the buy-in of the community, because the guides live in Langa: Godfrey Klass is a community leader and resident at Joe Slovo informal settlement, while 25-year-old walking guide, Simosakhe was raised in the old hostels.
Camissa Tour guides, like Zingisa Mbongo, come from the community. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
MAKE YOUR WAY TO THE OLDEST TOWNSHIP IN CAPE TOWN
To get to Langa you’re picked up in the city centre (or location of your choice). The first stop is at the top of District Six, the inner-city historical site which overlooks the glistening harbour skyline and is also shrouded by the iconic Table Mountain.
District Six is one of the city’s most important heritage and historic sites. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
District Six, once a multi-racial and culturally diverse neighbourhood, was razed to the ground when black and coloured (mixed race) people were forceably removed by the oppressive apartheid regime into segregated townships, to make space for whites in the city.
South Africa’s townships are where the majority of the country lives. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
CONGREGATE WITH COMMUNITY IN A HISTORIC CHURCH
You enter Langa about 20 minutes later, through King Langalibalele Drive (named after the freedom fighter once banished into Robben Island long before Nelson Mandela).
Langa, which you can see from the N2, is about 20 minutes away from the city. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
At the Langa Methodist Church you get to congregate with the 350 people in song-filled fellowship, as the choir sings Xhosa songs of praise, like “Uyinkosi Yamakhosi” (“You are the Lord of Lords”).
The morning is an uplifting, uniquely South African spiritual experience with a young and dynamic congregation, filled with everyone from the babies, young couples to gogos (old ladies).
One of the gospel tour stops is at the Langa Methodist Church, the oldest church in the area. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
FEEL THE WARMTH, CULTURE SPIRIT IN SONG AND PRAISE
“The Cape Town Gospel township Tour is not just about seeing. It’s about feeling – feeling the warmth and welcoming nature of our people, particularly when we are at church singing gospel songs,” says Khonaye, who’s been doing the tours for 16 years.
Langa’s diverse community of gogos (grandmothers), kids and young people, congregates at the church. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
“The majority of Langa dwellers are Christian, so you can imagine that Sundays are special, lively days. Church is more than a ritual for us; it’s something we look forward to, something that gives us a sense of hope and support, something that renews us from the inside out,” says Khonaye.
Church services are lively soulful events. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
TAKE GUIDED WALK THROUGH THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
It starts opposite the Langa Heritage Museum, the old pass office which would have been the first stop for people coming off the trains to collect the dompasses (“dumbo passes”) imposed on black people to carry at all times to be considered legal residents in the city.
The guided walk takes you in the old hostels that were created to house male labourers. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
MEET FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS OF GUIDES
“After we take my guests to see where the residents of Langa live, we visit both the old cramped hostels and the new better housing developments the government is now building.
“I introduce them to my friends and neighbours and we walk through the streets and share jokes and greetings with members of the community,” says Khonaye.
Some of the hostels have been refurbished and expanded to accommodate families. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
BUY AT SMALL BUSINESSES, TRY THE STREET FOOD
On the walking tour, you get to see the progression of the community, including the more middle class community of doctors and lawyers and entrepreneurs that started in the 90s.
You pass the small businesses, like herbalists, traditional healers, meat markets, cell phone repair stores, barber shops and more.
There are so many small businesses run from the homes and streets of Langa. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
The tour ends in Langa with a visit to the Joe Slovo informal settlement, one of the largest informal settlements in South Africa, and named for an anti-apartheid activist. It continues on briefly to Bonteheuwel and Gugulethu, past the statues of local heroes, the Gugulethu 7, before heading back to the city.
The new housing developments in Langa. Image: Expressions Photography by Andre & Selma
BOOK: IT’S THE PERFECT HALF-DAY TOUR?
The Langa Gospel Township Tour takes 4 hours, including transfer from point of pick-up. It starts at 8:30 or 9am with a pick up from your base. First stop is District Six, then straight to the church to enjoy 30 and 45 minutes of the service. Then you continue on with the walking guide, and the driver follows behind. With a quick stop in neighbouring townships.
Cost: R770 per person and kids under 21 half price. Ask about discounts for CapeTownMagazine.com readers.
Contact them on: Camissa Travel & Marketing, 0786577788, email@example.com, and find them on Instagram: @Camissa_Travel
Note: Camissa’s gospel township tour runs every Sunday morning. Please be respectful of the community, ask before you take pictures of people and the children.
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