Langa Cultural Heritage Precinct

Guga S'thebe

The Langa Cultural Heritage Precinct is to be transformed into a vibrant cultural hub.

The City of Cape Town’s Arts and Culture Department is revamping the Langa Cultural Heritage Precinct in order to attract more local and international tourists. This World Design Capital project will not only promote local art, culture and design but also provide a welcome boost to economic development in the area.

The Langa Cultural Precinct is made up of the Guga S’thebe cultural centre, the Old Pass Office Museum, and the old Post Office building and currently attracts approximately 1 000 tourists each month. The information office within the precinct mainly services tourists on township tours, while the 200-seater outdoor auditorium and hall caters for community performances, visual arts and crafts.  There are 15 crafters who sell their paintings, beads and pottery from the facility, and earn the bulk of their income from tourists.

Langa Heritage . Thuliswa  making pottery at Guga S'tebe

‘The upgrades to the Langa Cultural Precinct are part of our vision to transform it into a bustling arts and culture hub that will aid local economic empowerment by attracting both tourists and locals. Work that is currently underway includes upgrades to the Guga S’thebe centre and auditorium so that it can be used as a theatre/film screening/music venue; the provision of increased modern studio spaces; as well as installation of public art and beautification.

‘We are quite certain that once the precinct has been upgraded, Capetonians will place this on their “must-see” list of places to visit in Cape Town.  The city has a rich cultural diversity that we must embrace and celebrate by investing in important cultural hubs such as the Langa Cultural Heritage Precinct,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Councillor Grant Pascoe.

The upgrades commenced after the City’s Arts and Culture Department undertook a study of the area in 2013 and proposed vital changes for the centre to become sustainable in the long-term and to make it attractive to the community.

A number of proposals were put forth for the precinct, including the extension of opening and closing hours; commercialisation (including concessions to run a restaurant and a better arts and crafts shop); integration and better use of the public open space around the facility; improvement of security and tourism infrastructure; and marketing of the complex as a cultural precinct and destination.

The building was designed by Carin Smuts, a local architect, and has won two architectural awards while the name Guga S’thebe itself has a rich, cultural meaning. It is derived from the traditional Xhosa platter known as ‘isithebe’ used to serve guests and family members.  The word signifies a meeting place and ‘ubuntu’ because during meal times people sit around the ‘isithebe’ to share a meal.  Fittingly, the precinct is a shared public space where all communities can gather.

Related blogs relating to Langa as a tourist destination see Financial Times and The Guardian