Wine, Splendour... in Gugs!

2013-06-02 21:24

The third annual Gugulethu Wine Festival took place recently. Usually we don’t see those words together, ‘Gugulethu’ and ‘Wine Festival’.

We have been conditioned as a society to consider the townships as forgotten land. We are bombarded with imagery of violence and crime ridden areas in places where it seems culture and harmony struggle to thrive. Wine Festivals seem part of another world, an idyllic world, with rolling mountains and cascading vineyards. They are the epitome of sophistication, class and culture. Townships and Wine Festivals seem almost opposite.

When I was introduced to this event, my first thought was “ah yes, another neo-liberal attempt at redeeming the backward image of townships by relics of the Woodstock era.” I was convinced there would be swarms of middle class, white, aging hipsters ‘slumming it’. This presumption stemmed from many years of being the token black kid. A white schoolmate would make transparent attempts at showing they were ‘down with it’ by referring to that one kwaito hit they were proud they knew.

I was gratefully, ecstatically mistaken in my first perception of this wine festival. First of all, it was co-founded by local, entrepreneurial heavy-weights such as Mzoli Ngcawuzele from Mzoli’s Place. Secondly, it was just as sophisticated and cultured as any festival in Franschoek... just with more swagger.

Sadly I was not alone in my presumption. Marilyn Cooper, Cape Wine Master and CEO of the Cape Wine Academy and organiser of the wineries at the festival, has stated that some wineries are guilty of relating to the festival goers at the level at which they presume them to be, similar to the schoolmate and my tokenism. They presume the level of wine appreciation is unsophisticated or entry level. She urges wineries to cater for all levels of appreciation as there is a growing local, black market for lower to higher end brands.

The idea that townships are places from which to flee once you have made a success of your life is just false. I had always thought that there is no indigenous black middle class in Cape Town. From articles I have read and my own experience in this city, it seemed to me that the black middle class always came from outside Cape Town. I was happy to find that once again I was misguided.

As Kuli Roberts put it, “it is great to enjoy ourselves in our townships.” I would like to go a step further and suggest that we see the ‘our’ in that statement as racially inclusive. The townships should be just as much part of the identity of Cape Town as are the suburbs. We should not feel it necessary to venture out to historically white areas under the impression that there is where we can experience culture and sophistication. Likewise, Gugulethu should not be only a place to go ‘slum it’ at Mzoli’s. It should be just another destination in Cape Town’s catalogue that allows you to indulge in a myriad of experiences.

Before I get comments that we shouldn't see race, let me say this. We have in this country a heritage that has formed part of our DNA and cannot move forward with acknowledging its prevalence even to this day. I consider myself a liberal, progressive thinker but once in a while, such as this case, I get reminded that I too have prejudices that need to be addressed.

We should endeavour to challenge our mind-sets... otherwise we will miss out on all that wine!

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