IHP Cities in the 21st Century Letter Home from Cape Town, South Africa Spring 2015

Hello Well Wishers,

As we say goodbye to our IHP family, we reflect on our time in Cape Town, the last stop on this IHP journey. Guided by our powerful and brilliant country coordinator, Sally, we dove into Cape Town head first, using the many tools we have honed over the semester. Along the way, we met inspiring and resilient communities who have so generously shared their stories and opened their homes, helping us to better understand the complexities of urban life in Cape Town.

Our time in Cape Town spanned two locations – Bo Kaap, a primarily Muslim neighborhood in the city center, and Langa, one of the first Black African townships in Cape Town. Although they are only 15 minutes away, our experiences in each neighborhood helped us to understand just how spatially disconnected Cape Town is. Food, language, cultural events, music, even clothing was noticeably distinct in each neighborhood. In Bo Kaap our loving families taught us what it means to be a community. They shared with us stories of staving off displacement, of how the proximity of this neighborhood to the city center has led to gentrification, and rising property taxes are pushing many long-term residents out of the community. We saw our families engage in out of the box entrepreneurial activities – like one IHPers mother who gets by through selling (deliciously amazing) donuts to the whole neighborhood. In Langa, we learned about Ubuntu, which means human kindness in Xhosa. We heard stories of freedom fighters and family tragedies, told by our strong and independent Mamas.

We had powerful site visits, bridging issues from food security to the youth. On our visit with the Cihldren’s Radio Foundation, we learned how powerful a group of young voices can be, and with Ikamva Labantu, we saw how vital quality education is for young Cape Townians. We saw how difficult and frustrating it can be to balance the desire to build new housing with the desire to protect precious agricultural land in the Phillippi Horticultural Area. Across the sites, the people we have talked to have inspired us to make change in our own communities.

In the final week of our program, we triumphantly completed our Comparative Analysis projects – the culmination of over three months of data collection and analysis. Our projects ranged in topic from sound to water to gender relations. We have learned vital research skills and the knowledge that we gained will certainly stay with us through our final years in college well into our professional lives.

Our adventure ended in the beautiful apple country just a little over an hour outside of Cape Town. There we gathered together and reflected on our semester, solidifying our bonds with each other. As we say good bye to IHP Cities, we are eager to join the IHP alumni community and know our IHP bond will live on well beyond this semester.

We close with a poem written by our fellow IHPer, Gina Dukes:

Cape Town

a city so pretty
portrait perfect
flawless scenery
Table mountain
Lion’s Head
so much greenery
surrounding a place living in the shadow
of a dark memory
legal segregation
racist discrimination
colors separated
some relocated to the Cape flats
some given the city center

a rich land was splintered
but Democracy triumphed
Mandela restored the people’s pride
showed the world South Africa’s resiliency
freedom stretched from countryside to city streets
citizens proudly display the colorful flag
eager to represent the nation’s attitude of cultural diversity
and its this feeling that we’ve come to love about this glorious city
though our time her has been short
and our plans were many
we set out to do all we could
living in the Bo Kaap and Langa neighborhoods,
partying on Long Street like Sally and Mia knew we would,
hiking all day, visiting the waterfront for play,
cape point, sea point, stellenbosch, roundabosch,
Robben Island,
and mini bus taxis,
plus all the other places we’ve made our mark on that we didn’t have space to mention,
It’s one thing about this city we’ll always remember
its people, the kindness and strength they possess,
from the informal settlements, to farmer activists, NGO workers, and our incredible guest lecturers.
We’ve learned alot and there’s so much more we could say,
but it all comes down to one point,

we love Cape Town
and are so blessed it ope

ned its arms for us to stay.


With love,

IHP Cities Spring 2015


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