In Cape Town our group is residing in Woodstock, a racially diverse bohemian suburb with rich history. The community is vibrant and amidst urban renewal initiatives and has experienced rapid gentrification through the introduction of coffee shops and the Old Biscuit Mill, an exclusive Saturday market. Historically the neighborhood supported the booming textile industry on Cape Town but with the shift to importing clothing, corporate businesses have entered old textile spaces. Although I spend the days out in different parts of the city on excursions, my nights are spent at Woodstock Brewery and afternoon breaks at coffee spots equip with wifi.
What’s interesting about this space is my academic interaction with it: as part of my research on urban space I will be presenting a final dialogue project on health access in the neighborhood. As such I adopt the perspectives of a visitor and researcher. Aside from striking up conversation with program lecturers I make a point to strike up conversation with locals at bars or any other public space. Thinking back to my time in Johannesburg I remember grabbing drinks with friends a local woman my first week there who was open to give us advice on safety and exploring as she’s traveled around South Africa. The advice was extremely candid and I appreciated feeling welcome upon my arrival. Here in Cape Town I’ve met community members through introducing my research and I’m excited to see how my focus on health access facilitates meaningful conversation. Looking back on my tours of Soweto, Langa, and Khayelista I appreciate having local guides of Black South African descent speak on their experiences and understanding of communities they’re part of.
A central aspect of local living has been my engagement with shops and markets. I am always on the lookout for souvenirs and curios. The most interesting thing I’ve purchased so far in Cape Town was a grey and white beaded collar necklace from Khayelista crafted by a local woman named who gives tours and discussion of her experiences with political displacement. She discussed the power she found in her hands and creating amidst oppression which makes this item special. I’ve made a point to purchase jewelry for family and friends that is locally made and directly from crafters in neighborhoods we visit along excursions. When it comes to money management I’ve been spending little given the dollar to rand conversion rate: 1 to 15. As my trip rounds out for the final week and a half I’ll only have to make room in my suitcase for gifts. I am excited to stumble upon keepsakes that represent the vibrancy of the community.