Guguletu, mfethu, is a truly
South African experience by Tamara Toti
If you want the real kasi (township)
experience and you want to feel the spirit of true ubuntu (kind-heartedness)
among South African people, then mfethu (my friend), you have to visit
Gugs, as it is affectionately
known to residents, was established in 1960 under the Apartheid legislation,
because of overcrowding in the townships of Nyanga and Langa. Guguletu,
which means "pride", has since developed into a bustling community - a
gem that has and still continues to make its people proud.
Guguletu is situated on the
Cape Flats and is a mere 15km away from the city centre of Cape Town. The
people who live here are Xhosa and the language spoken is isiXhosa. You
can visit Gugs by bus, taxi or train - although I would recommend the taxi
ride. You cannot leave South Africa without experiencing a taxi ride, or
you might miss out on an experience that is both comical and exciting.
Mind you I am not talking about those metered taxis...
Get down to the taxi rank
at the station in Cape Town's central business district (you will know
it's the right place when you see the white minibus taxis queued in a line
under numbered and named signs). Here you will be greeted by the oh-so-normal
sounds of the rank - sounds without which it could never be called a taxi
Wynberg...one more, one more to go...where to my darling?"
Ask for the Nyanga, Guguletu
taxis. Nyanga, KTC, N.y 1/108 that is. Get in the N.y 1 taxi, which will
take you straight to the heart of Gugs: "Four four, uyaphi sisi?"(Where
are you going my sister?), "Masambeni!" (Lets go!) the taxi conductor will
be shouting. Once the taxi is full, doors will close and off you go, making
your way towards the N2 freeway. The driver will take a left into Modderfontein
road, turn at the robots, pass Montana Shopping centre and before you know
it, you're in Guguletu.
you enter Gugs you will see young children playing and laughing in the
streets. Others will be enjoying the sun if it's a hot day or people will
just be sitting around, talking. You will also see little stands here and
there, where some of the women make a living selling braaied meat. There
are also a few fruit and vegetable stands as well as hair salons. If you
are looking for a traditional outfit you'll also find a dressmaker amongst
them; and if it's traditional healing you're after, there is even a healer
nearby. Guguletu has sure become its own little town.
Another familiar kasi 'accessory'
is the Cressidas that weave their way in and out of traffic. "Peep, peep!"
These are our cabs - or amaphela as they're called. When you translate
amaphela it means cockroach, and they were nicknamed this because of the
way they move on the road: with such ease and speed, it's looked at by
some as an art. They transport people in and around the township and it
costs you R4.00 to get where you want to go in a jiffy.
The best time to visit Gugs
is during the hot months of summer when everyone is jolly, energised and
playful - a feeling that is contagious and makes Gugs very exciting.
The first place you have
to stop at is Mzoli's - Guguletu's most popular chill-out spot. Every Saturday
and Sunday this is where people spend their afternoons, eating meat, chatting
and just lounging around. If you are a lover of red meat, then this is
the place to get it fresh and succulent. (Mzoli was originally a butchery
eventually turning into a place where people could buy their meat and braai
Today the meat is braaied
right in front of you and it does not take long. Tshisa Nyama (braai) is
a long standing tradition of Xhosa people and is a vital part of the kasi
culture. The meat is served with mieliepap (maize meal porridge) and gravy
or you can have it with bread - the real kasi way.
Mzoli is structured to fit
in with the kasi-lifestyle; seating is outside where you can get a view
of everyone passing by. This way you get to interact with people while
enjoying your meal.
If braaied meat is not your
thing, you can always pop in next door at Phunga with its African print
interior, where they serve real authentic Xhosa meals such as upense (tripe)
with pap(porridge), steamed bread and various other meats that are loved
by the Xhosa people. If you are not into the food at all, then simply have
some drinks, make yourself comfortable in the in- or outdoor seating area
and lounge amongst the locals.
These two places might give
you a South African experience that is unforgettable, but if you would
really like to 'live amongst the people' then Liziwe's Guest House is another
option for you. Liziwe's Guest House offers a choice of four bedrooms,
each proudly decorated with a simple and tasteful touch of African decor
and fitted with satellite television and en-suite bathrooms. Liziwe also
offers a self-catering cottage.
An exciting occurrence that
usually happens in Gugs around December is the boys going into initiation
- a really important part of the Xhosa culture. When they reach the age
of eighteen all Xhosa boys have to go for initiation. During this time,
the boys stay in the bush for three to four weeks. The ceremony starts
on the Friday with the men singing, slaughtering sheep and the women cooking.
Accompanied by the older men, the boys prepare themselves to leave for
their makeshift home, the very next morning.
When they return from the
bush a big ceremony called umphumo is held. Traditional beer is made, sheep
are slaughtered and the boys are welcomed back by people singing and giving
praise to the ancestors for bringing them back safely. The celebration
carries on until Sunday when they umgidi - showering the parents of the
initiates with gifts of money and alcohol. Again meat is served and beer
is drunk and the incredible kindness of ubuntu is displayed: people of
Gugs coming together and helping each other where they can.
A visit to Guguletu will
give you a taste of an authentic kasi - an experience you will never forget,
and once you've experienced Gugs and its talkative, friendly inhabitants
you won't want to leave.
Here you will not simply
witness it - you will feel the spirit of ubuntu. But don't take my word
for it - come and experience it yourself...