Tourists on the way to their hotels who travel past Knysna’s townships, are often shocked at the sight of them – a depiction of abject poverty and the life of the disadvantaged. While this may be an accurate assessment on the outside, what they can’t tell just by looking, is that these are also places with an incredibly strong sense of community.
Only once you are on the streets and in the houses, can you get a true sense of the hope that exudes through the strength of the character of its people – their indelible courage and an outpouring of love through a steadfast culture of tradition often expressed through song and dance. Many of the residents are passionate about making a positive contribution to their community, and township tours run by the locals are doing just that.
Township tours are not about morbid curiosity, the three-hour tours are a fun and entertaining Knysna activity. They are a humbling experience that creates awareness and insight into the culture of the people who invite you in for tea, while little children peer out from behind long skirts of their mothers and grandmothers gaze on you with dark enquiring eyes.
A stop at the community centre shows off the incredible talent of groups of women who get together to make hand-made souvenirs for visitors, an incredibly empowering entrepreneurial venture that creates regular financial support for them and their families.
There are thriving businesses to visit, local hairdressers who chat loudly whilst braiding hair, the tailor who dresses the community and the cell phone shops that keep everyone connected. The noise of music and games of pool spill out onto the street from the tavern. A visit to the school is almost never met with a dry eye as sweet voices sing the countries National Anthem and other traditional songs.
Many of the locals love to share facts about the traditional Xhosa way of life, a culture rich with colourful stories and age-old customs, beliefs and superstitions.
At a small extra cost you can enjoy a traditional meal in one of the homes which is a great opportunity to hear stories of both the fears and triumphs of township living.