The Western Cape is known as the tourism mecca of Southern Africa, with more than a million people having arrived in the City of Cape Town during 2014. International visitors mostly make use of tour operators for their travel arrangements and these don’t only include hotel and transport arrangements.
Although many local South Africans know that foreigners come to the Western Cape for wine tasting, shark cage diving, visits to Table Mountain and surfing in Jefferey’s Bay, there are also local experiences that they are simply crazy about.
A number of tour operators offer township tours, which are small scale private trips to designated families within the townships where foreigners visit a home, share a cup of coffee and listen to the tour guide on what a day in the life of the township dwellers is.
In Stellenbosch there is a township tour with a difference. Trips to the Colored Township on the outskirts of the university town are lead by two local celebrities. This is so far the only Colored township tour and has grabbed the attention of visitors from the Netherlands.
Matilda and Hendrikkie are two characters who live in Stellenbosch. They are locally, and internationally known as Chommiez. This colored married couple (in character) work and live life as two adults who were segregated with their families during the Apartheid era. Matilda is a house cleaner while Hendrikkie works on a farm.
They put a hilarious spin on how life is lived while highlighting family values and togetherness in the Colored communities.
I was part of the Chommiez Colored Township tour and had a blast! Attendees gathered at the designated time by Stellenbosch 360 in Market Street. Suddenly a local “taxi” drove up with the music blaring. Matilda and Hendrikkie got out, danced and welcomed everyone. At this point the foreign tourists had nervous looks on their faces. Hendrikkie handed out water and took a stance next to his sweet Matilda to explain the rules of stepping into the taxi. Three simple rules: “Keep your belongings close by, keep the windows open because there is no aircon, it is all about natural resources and lastly, the drive is free as long as you smile.”
Once all the passengers were in the sound was turned up and off we went. From then on they explained how people of different races were segregated many moons ago. The beautiful thing was, when they spoke, there was neither hate nor resentment about the past. Every word was delivered with a touch of humor and they made it clear that life went on and the future was what was important.
The first stop was the Stellenbosch taxi rank. Here tourists were educated on how the routes operated, the roles of taxi bosses and the costs for routes. We stepped off to take in the hustle and bustle. As we drove through the different sets of townships poverty, potential crime and drug abuse was easily spotted, but it was evident that in these townships family and community was the order of the day.
Both characters created laughter with their explanations. They switched between Afrikaans and English, with the majority of the folks from the Netherlands catching on when speaking in Afrikaans. We drove from a shacked township to one with brick homes. It was unbelievable that economic classes were divided by only one street.
Once we arrived at the home where we would be hosted for the next hour, they explained how Colored people lived through their lives. It is said that daughters don’t usually move out; a part of the home is set up for her and her new husband moves in.
The entertainment turned to education. We were shown how local “vetkoeke” were made, with the visitors having a go and kneading the dough. Cousin Mary was in charge of these as she was known to be “the best vetkoek maker in the family.”
The table was set with assorted “vetkoeke” which were all delicious, yet different from what I was used to. Homemade ginger beer and locally made wine was part of the refreshments. Hendrikkie sang a song, with professional sound equipment used. It was time for the main course which was a typical South African weekend lunch. “Braaivleis” with salads were appreciated by the visitors from the Netherlands. I learnt that the food preparation was all done by family members. The aunties all clubbed in with their cooking abilities to prepare a scrumptious meal.
Matilda and Hendrikkie gathered us all together to dance to a song they specially wrote for their Chommiez Township Tour. We all danced, shook our bodies to the instructions and had an amazing time.
When the two hours were over, we were handed a parcel that contained a “koeksister”. Matilda said that in the Colored community visitors were always given “doggy bags”. We were greeted, wished well and back into the taxi. Within mere minutes we reached Stellenbosch 360 in Market Street and the tour was over.
I highly recommend these cultural tours to South Africans. Not only do Leatitia and Hilton bring out the very best of humor during the trip, they don’t focus on hatred and scars of the past.
About Commiez; Leatitia Solomons and Hilton Andries are two actors and singers who have made names for themselves in the Western Cape. They have been interviewed on RSG’s radio station, KykNet’s TV show and a number of other high rated shows. When in the characters of Matilda and Hendrikkie, they perform at various events such as coffee mornings, hotel events and privately booked functions. They focus strongly on community support and form part of outreach foundations across the Western Cape.
Chommiez is a worthy activity in Stellenbosch and two hours at the end of a day in this Winelands town is definitely going to be a lasting holiday memory for foreigners and as for the locals, it is a laugh worth laughing. For information on these two artists, visit www.chommiez.com.
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