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4 -min. read

Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) was one of the most anticipated developments of 2017. In the months before the MOCAA opened its doors in September, Cape Town had appeared on every ‘where to travel in 2017’ list. Even the building – an old grain silo strikingly reimagined by British architect, Thomas Heatherwick – has received awards and much admiring press coverage.

As the first major museum of contemporary African art, it’s no surprise that the MOCAA was so intriguing and exciting: it has provided a platform for many African artists to express their ideas about identity, politics, society, beauty and much more on a global stage.

Sculpture by Marlene Steyn – courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA

Jochen Zeitz, a German philanthropist and former CEO of Puma, co-founded the museum with the V&A Waterfront. Zeitz, who has had a home in Kenya for the last 14 years, has long been invested in African art – the works on display at the MOCAA are all donated from his private collection and are on long-term loan to the museum.

Amid the overwhelming praise heaped on the museum, a few voices have questioned the significance of a non-African founding a museum that celebrates African art; the fact that Zeitz, Heatherwick, David Green of the V&A Waterfront and chief curator Mark Coetzee are all white (and male); and that the location of the museum is in Cape Town, arguably the least ‘African’ city on the continent.

“It’s not for everyone else to decide whether this is a good thing. It’s for Africans to decide”

Jochen Zeitz – Co-Founder of Zeitz MOCAA

Piece by Kendell Geers – courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA

Zeitz, however, is not fazed. On an opening tour of the museum in September, he spoke of such comments in the international media, stating, “It’s not for everyone else to decide whether this is a good thing. It’s for Africans to decide.”

Later, Zeitz expands on this to me: “If you look at the bigger picture, I don’t think it is important to focus on who was the catalyst for the creation of the museum, or whether they are African or non-African. We simply had an objective to build a major international platform for artists to express themselves, as there was a need to do so.”

The challenge is in creating something that accurately represents a community’s needs – in this case, those of Africa and its diaspora’s artists. “It was imperative that those directly affected were behind this from the beginning,” Zeitz agrees. “Whilst it is impossible to win everyone over, we wanted to create an open dialogue to ensure that all voices were heard to build an institution that was as representative of the continent as possible.”

“I don’t think it is important to focus on who was the catalyst for the creation of the museum… We simply had an objective to build a major international platform for artists to express themselves”

Jochen Zeitz – Co-Founder of Zeitz MOCAA

Zeitz MOCAA atrium – by Iwan Baan

Quite a task for one museum, but the breadth of work on display is impressive. There are video installations, vibrant art pieces, photography and sculptures, by artists from all over Africa and of African heritage.

Perhaps the most important aspect of how the museum can facilitate empowerment is not how or by whom it was founded, as critics have latched on to, but in how it can continue to be an effective stage for empowerment in the future. “Now that we have this platform, we must ensure that it evolves and that we stay relevant as a museum,” Zeitz says.

A central component of the MOCAA will be “the development of supporting educational and enrichment programmes and guaranteeing access for all – one of the museum’s founding principles.” To this end, entry to the museum is free for all African citizens every Wednesday. “We want to inspire the next generations and provide an infrastructure for art to be embraced and celebrated,” explains Zeitz.

Sculpture garden at Zeitz MOCAA – courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA

What can the travel industry take from this? Zeitz suggests that, within reason, we avoid getting too hung up on the origins of empowerment platforms, whether they are schools, training courses or an internationally acclaimed museum. The most important thing is ensuring that something sustainable has been created – something that can bring about, as Zeitz hopes will be the case for the MOCAA, “a change that is permanent.”

[This article was published in Beyond: Empowered, We Are Africa’s print magazine, in May 2018.]

The post GERMAN HERITAGE: DOES IT MATTER THAT ZEITZ MOCAA WAS FOUNDED BY A NON-AFRICAN? appeared first on We Are Africa.

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We Are Africa - WAA News by James Davidson - 1M ago
8 -min. read

“Gravity as a theory is false,” grinds the persistently exasperating FAQ on The Flat Earth Society’s official website. “Objects simply fall.” In sequential bouts of ignorance that evoke a child attempting invisibility by covering their eyes and squalling “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me,” the community rubbish most scientific discoveries of the last millennium and beyond, with comical assertions that satellites are actually ‘pseudolites’ put there to fool us, that the Earth’s mass continues infinitely and the like.

How such mistruths – and to a greater extent the world of conspiracy theories at large – perpetuate is chiefly the fault of what we’ve been taught; what we think we know; and who has afforded us those beliefs. The world’s strings might not be being pulled by shape-shifting, extra-dimensional lizard people, and the Large Hadron Collider may not have been conceived to open a portal to hell, but we are constantly bombarded by half-truths, falsehoods and disinformation. The age of post-truth politics might have sensationalised the propaganda of ‘fake news’, but it is the latent deception beneath the veil of trusted sources that poses most threat. Although positively spherical, the world is certainly not what you think it is.

When Eratosthenes upset the Flat Earth community as early as 240 BC, his calculations of our planet’s circumference would set forth a revolution in the world of cartography, fellow Greek geographer, Strabo, conceiving his Globe of Crates – thought to be the world’s first – some 90 years later. Mapping the world on the sphere that Greek greats had confirmed meant that our place on Earth could be represented clearly for what it is. Martin Behaim’s 1492 Erdapfel is the oldest surviving terrestrial globe – a creation from a time where maps were being defined, Columbus returning from the Americas a few short months later.

In a rapidly changing Eurocentric world, the way we look at our planet was defined 77 years on when German-Flemish geographer, Gerardus Mercator, devised a cylindrical map projection that allowed these globes to be represented on one flat map. The Mercator projection is the world as you typically see it today: the representation maintained by Google Maps; the representation you looked up to on your classroom wall. The thing is, like much we believe to be true – or ‘accurate’ – Mercator’s view of Earth is in fact wildly distorted. Try puncturing an inflatable ball and placing it flatly upon a wall… Mercator’s projection, whilst invaluable to the explorers of its day, achieves its perceived accuracy with some trade-offs – most notably, its compromising of developing continents and countries.

Its origins in a time where Europe’s domination and exploitation of the developing world was hitting full stride, Mercator’s is an interpretation of the world that suited the politics of its time – perhaps of all time. That every map begins with the same mistruth Flat Earthers are so fond of is mapping’s inherent problem – however your trade-offs work out, somewhere must suffer – such is the physical impossibility of flattening a globe; but Mercator’s distortions held benefits for the nations of power. The cartographer’s trade-off means countries and continents appear smaller as they approach the equator. Sitting atop the pile, in the centre of it all, the all-conquering Great Britain joins its Western European companions in flattering to deceive. Should it be shown on the line that separates hemispheres, its insignificant scale would be all too apparent. Straddling the equator, it is Africa who suffers most, the colossal continent reduced to a whisper in relation to Russia, or even to Greenland, which, in truth, is no bigger than the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Born in Berlin on 22 May 1916, Arno Peters – whose father found himself incarcerated by the Nazi regime toward the end of World War II – knew a thing or two about divisive times, and would develop a fixation with political propaganda. Spending much of his academic life studying synchronoptic world history (a way in which to portray all histories in all areas of the world equally), the historian committed his life to fair representation. “The size is the first sign of the importance of a country,” he attested. “Mercator’s is a map of the epoch of Eurocentrism, colonialism and imperialism.” Although he would distort the ‘true’ shape of the world’s landmasses, the German historian’s map – ­launched at a 1973 press conference in Bonn – represents true scale, and with that demands a reappraisal of our own understanding.

The true size Africa misrepresented on Western maps – via MADRIVER.ME

That millions, perhaps billions, of us could grow up with a distorted impression of the planet’s true geography speaks volumes of the sort of political propaganda Peters grew fascinated by. We live in an age where the President of the United States of America can refer to African nations as “shithole” countries; where George W. Bush, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton can each confuse a continent for a single nation; where Boris Johnson can talk of “flag-waving piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles”; and where Time Magazine can write about alcoholism in Kenya and title their piece Africa’s Drinking Problem. During the Scramble for Africa (between 1881 and 1914), colonial nations laid claim to their territories via a violent process of invasion, occupation, colonisation and annexation. In continuing to minimise the perceived physical presence of Africa, in flippantly applying colonial language and values, it can feel as though precious little has changed.

That is, if Africa and its diaspora wasn’t rewriting its own history and forging a new path built on empowerment and a singular identity.

“The trouble with the people on this planet,” wrote the avant-garde ‘cosmic’ jazz composer Sun Ra, “is they refuse to think, they refuse to believe, anything except what they know.” That we want to think we are open-minded, but – contrary to our desires – remain easily scripted, is how so many of us can got so far in life marvelling at the size of Greenland. It is how those billing themselves as ‘free-thinkers’ who can get carried away by fanciful theories, while more sinister conspiracies can carry on in plain view.

The American musician born Herman Poole Blount, who rose to prominence in Chicago’s jazz scene of the 1940s, abandoned his birth name in favour of one inspired by Ra, the Egyptian God of the Sun. It is part of an elaborate persona that the prolific composer, poet and philosopher would weave for himself – a dense backstory rooted in cosmology and mysticism, where he would proclaim himself an extra-terrestrial from Saturn, sent on a mission to preach peace. A mainstay of underground music scenes right up until his death in the early 1990s, Sun Ra touched many with his complex and eclectic approach to music and performance – not least those spellbound by the cosmic charm of Afrofuturism, the cultural concept first coined by author Mark Dery in his 1993 essay, Black to the Future.

Sun Ra – by Baron Wolman / via NPR

Dery’s landmark discourse – a series of interviews with three prominent thinkers in African-American literature: Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose – began with a conundrum: why do so few African Americans write science fiction? A genre that, as Dery posited, would seem a natural fit, given its dealings with strangers in strange lands. Writing of what he saw as the paradox behind this lack of eminent African-American sci-fi writers, the cultural critic asked: “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces in history, imagine possible futures?”

Sun Ra could. And his inspiration could be felt through the waves of black counterculture that followed him. Visual artists, from graffiti writers to Jean-Michel Basquiat, imagined their black figures in abstract landscapes. And from Kraftwerk’s influence on early electro to Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet (even the post-apocalyptic video for 2Pac’s California Love), hip hop would forge a long-term love affair with fantasy and sci-fi subcultures. “I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,” says art curator and Afrofuturist Ingrid LaFleur. The tail end of the twentieth century saw that black cultural lens explode, and its fire burns brighter by the day.

Whilst Afrofuturism itself may have remained a niche philosophy, under the surface its protagonists have multiplied over those years. As well as a series of high-profile exhibitions and cultural events – such as MOONDANCE at New York’s prestigious MoMA PS1 gallery – a succession of crossover musicians have taken the scene to the brink of mainstream – from Erykah Badu to Flying Lotus; OutKast to Janelle Monáe. This year, though, saw the moment that Afrofuturism finally broke through, the Marvel superhero film Black Panther introducing the world at large to a cultural concept that is empowerment incarnate.

There’s little left to be said about Ryan Coogler’s film that hasn’t already been said; suffice to say that its arrival at a time of “shitholes” and “piccaninnies” couldn’t have been more fitting. It is, however, its cultural legacy that is of most importance: a new generation who can imagine possible futures through a black cultural lens.

‘Lost in the Island’ – by Kaylan K

“You’re looking at stories about inventors and creations, and you don’t see people who look like you,” says Ytasha Womack, a prominent writer in the Afrofuturism world. “You look at films about the future and they don’t have people like you, then you begin to get the impression that maybe I can’t be a part of the future.” It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that black history is more horrific than any science fiction writer could imagine. Pasts erased, Afrofuturism gives a people the opportunity to create a world that puts them in the starring role – Black Panther’s time in the spotlight guaranteeing them their place in the future.

With a dogged determination to encourage people to change how they see the world, Arno Peters was an advocate of equality, a truth-seeker who forced discussion in the name of fostering a more just world. It’s certain he would’ve loved this movie’s portrayal of Wakanda – the fictional African kingdom presided over by its lead hero – as a self-sufficient utopia that resisted colonisation, it presenting a dramatic manifestation of the sort of global reappraisal he provoked with his most famous work. Wakanda offers a stylised rebuttal to Mercator’s distortions, to the territories drawn up during the Scramble for Africa; it is Africa empowered, remapping its own boundaries.

Peters’ quest for equality, and the Afrofuturists’ avant-garde perspective on empowerment, can teach us valuable lessons in how we approach this continent and others; how we avoid stereotypes; and how – inspired by Sun Ra – we might truly begin to believe in things we don’t know. As travellers seek new frontiers, perhaps those frontiers exist in our mind – a reassessment of familiar lands as potent an experience as discovering a real-life Wakanda.

Mercator’s visual mistruth is a poignant rendering of a prolonged cycle of injustices done to Africa and its people, but it shouldn’t cloud the truth that inequality exists everywhere. Applying Arno Peters’ alternative perspective or the rebellious imagination of Afrofuturism to any circumstance can improve it. Ignore these symbols of empowerment, and you might as well believe that “gravity as a theory is false.”

[This article was published in Beyond: Empowered, We Are Africa’s print magazine, in May 2018.]

The post VIRTUAL REALITY appeared first on We Are Africa.

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4 -min. read

Confession time: I’m something of an airline geek. That guy who pores over the route map at the back of the in-flight mag. Killing time in an airport, I’ll fire up the flight-tracking app on my iPad and gaze at the aerial highways jammed with digital planes, the faraway rush-hour traffic connecting the USA, Europe and Asia.

And yet over Africa the skies are, by comparison, deserted. On-screen, just a handful of digital tumbleweeds roll their way slowly from Abuja to Addis, Joburg to Dar. The remarkable continent I call home is inhabited by 12 per cent of the world’s population, yet it accounts for just three per cent of its airline traffic.

It’s an issue that demands attention – and not just for those in the tourism business, for airlines do more than bring curious visitors from faraway places. They provide opportunity: for trade and for exploration. For education abroad; for connections beyond our own town and country. To steal a line from one airline’s slogan, airlines bring the world to Africa, and take Africans to the world. They are, in so many ways, the very departure point for our own empowerment.

Yet unlike the skies of Europe, where free competition determines who flies where and when, African airlines have to cut through reams of red tape before they can take to the skies. Instead of commercial viability being the deciding factor, onerous bilateral agreements between governments dictate which airlines can fly where, how often, and with how many seats. A recipe for commercial success it is not.

Not that there haven’t been efforts to change the state of play. The Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988 – 30 years ago! – first opened the door to liberalising African skies. Amid concerns about foreign carriers outcompeting African airlines, the door slammed quickly shut. A decade later the Yamoussoukro Decision revived the idea, but also never gathered much political muster. Was the Abuja Declaration of 2012 any more successful? I’ll let you answer that one for yourself.

But this year brings with it a new opportunity for the emancipation of African skies. Well, some of them at least.

Graphic representation of African air space on a weekday – courtesy of FlightView

January 2018 saw the African Union launch the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative. Twenty-three countries – out of 55 on the continent – have committed themselves to liberalising air access and ownership in Africa. And the potential is enormous.

A survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggests that if 12 key African countries opened their aviation markets and increased connectivity, it would create an extra 155,000 jobs and generate an additional US $1.3 billion in annual gross domestic product. Talk about empowering economies and communities.

“But the benefits of a connected continent will only be realised through effective implementation of SAATM”, cautions Raphael Kuuchi, IATA’s vice president for Africa.   “Greater connectivity will lead to greater prosperity. Governments must act on their commitments, and allow their economies to fly high on the wings of aviation.”

IATA’s enthusiasm is well founded. When the European Union created the Internal Market for Aviation in 1992, deregulating European skies, the continent saw an explosion in air traffic and a revolution in tourism. Between 1993 and 2015, the number of air travellers passing through European airports trebled – to nearly one billion passengers – and the cost of air travel plummeted.

Photo by Caleb Wood

The arrival of open skies also sparked the rapid growth of budget airlines, which in turn forced lumbering legacy carriers to improve their services and lower their fares. Competition drives innovation, creating new markets and new opportunities for both visitors and locals.

Not that it’s a magic wand, mind you.

“Markets don’t magically appear. They require work and investment. They have to be cultivated”, says Linden Birns, managing director of Plane Talking, a leading aviation consultancy. “The airlines will enable the traffic to flow, but they’re not the ones who develop tourism infrastructure and take it to market. They can support and forge partnerships, but it’s down to the destinations to develop themselves.”

Admittedly, Africa has neither the potential market nor destination density of Europe; but there are good examples of air access opening up exciting new avenues of opportunity.

In 2016 Kenya Airways took the bold step of launching a route from Cape Town to Nairobi, with a stop en route in Livingstone, Zambia. The route was such a success it was followed up a year later with a similar service stopping in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. From June 2018 it will add a third frequency, with non-stop flights from South Africa’s Mother City to the Kenyan capital. After so long in the tourism doldrums, the past few years has seen enormous tourism investment on both sides of the Zambezi River. Access breeds demand in a symbiotic circle of prosperity.

While great strides have been made in linking the furthest corners of Africa to the world, there’s still much work to be done for the true value of a connected continent to come to the fore. The formal establishment of the Single African Air Transport Market is an excellent first step, empowering airlines to seek out and serve new markets. And once air access is liberalised, the sky’s the limit for growing tourism in Africa.

[This article was published in Beyond: Empowered, We Are Africa’s print magazine, in May 2018.]

The post OPPORTUNITY IS IN THE AIR appeared first on We Are Africa.

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5 -min. read

So many African nations suffer the indignity of being confused for one another by Westerners, while others are reduced to infamy via tragedy: Ethiopia’s famine, the DRC’s seemingly ceaseless conflicts. It’s the nature of a continent even world leaders mistake for a country. Ignorance blotting out centuries of culture in a case of mistaken identity, proud countries incapable of stepping out from the dark shadow of a moment in their history. For Rwanda, their shadow remains the unspeakable 100-day genocide of 1994. Impossible – and neglectful – to forget, it shouldn’t prevent the outside world from seeing beyond it. In the heart of the continent, this nation of 12 million is a prime example of contemporary Africa, a model for changing perceptions.

A symbol of hope, chasing an intimate encounter with the most majestic of apes has given the country a much-needed flow of tourism, yet its sophisticated capital is a worth getting to know. Immaculately kept, Kigali is a city on the up. It’s noted as the safest on the continent (one report rated Rwanda as the ninth safest country in the world); known for its genteel landscaping and the shiny towers, afforded by the country’s buoyant economy; its line streets, kept spotless by responsible litter disposal and monthly clean-ups by the city’s citizens. A sign at Kigali airport’s arrivals reads, “The use of non-biodegradable polythene bags is prohibited”. It is illegal in the country to import, produce, use or sell plastic bags and packaging. ‘Traffickers’ might be fined or jailed, or even forced to make public confessions. An example for Africa? Here is a policy that should be an inspiration to the world.

ROA with Kurema Kureba Kwiga – by Chris Schwagga / via Culture Trip

Clean Kigali most certainly is; but that is not to say that it is without character. Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga (meaning “to create, to see, to learn” in Kinyarwanda) is a community street art project that brings colour and creativity to the streets of the capital and beyond, while aiding in important social action. Its first undertaking – painted on government buildings and public spaces – sought to address HIV-related stigma through art. Collaborating with local and international artists  – including Belgian street art superstar, ROA – the project also engages in workshops, exhibitions and educational activities throughout 26 of Rwanda’s 30 districts.

Democratising art and increasing awareness for important causes, Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga joins forces with Inema Arts Center, founded by artist brothers Emmanuel and Innocent Nkurunziza, and endearing community project, Niyo Art Gallery, in gracing Rwanda with one of Africa’s most emergent art scenes. For those who want to get involved, guests at the exceedingly handsome The Retreat by Heaven can take an artist-led lesson at Nivo Art Gallery – one of a host of experiences that the boutique hotel arrange with impassioned locals.

“When we moved to Kigali 12 years ago, visitors came to see the gorillas and reflect on the past, but they didn’t stay very long,” says Heaven Boutique Hotel’s Co-Owner Alissa Ruxin. “Now, there’s live music spilling out of the cafés. Don’t miss Nyamirambo, the city’s vibrant Muslim quarter, and check out the Kimisagara Market – the Women’s Center there does walking tours.” Accompanied by a well-renowned restaurant that works closely and consciously with the local community and the Heaven Boutique Hotel, The Retreat is a fine hospitality project with social enterprise at its heart (Ruxin arrived in the country to volunteer for orphans of the genocide).

The Retreat by Heaven

Heaven is joined by a new Radisson Blu, opened as part of Kigali’s $300 million convention centre; the famed Hôtel des Mille Collines, the real Hotel Rwanda where 1,268 took refuge in 1994; and Kigali Serena Hotel in offering a high standard of accommodation for both business and leisure travellers. Out in gorilla country, though, bedding down for the night can be as exciting as an encounter with those charismatic primates. Enveloped by the drama of volcanoes and Afro-alpine forests, Wilderness Safaris’ Bisate Lodge offers experiential and conscious tourism with impeccable style; opulent forest villas coalescing breathtaking design with environmental awareness. Designed by Johannesburg-based architect Nick Plewman with input from Rwandan fashion designer Teta Isibo, the styling is like nothing you could possibly imagine, having been built into the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone. Coming soon, their Magashi Camp will arrive on the banks of Lake Rwanyakazinga, home to one of Africa’s highest hippo densities.

Bisate Lodge – courtesy of Bisate Lodge

Known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda’s show-stopping landscapes and rich biodiversity are an insatiable lure for tourism, its three mammoth national parks home to everything from an estimated one-third of the worldwide mountain gorilla population; to savanna animals such as giraffes and elephants; to rare and endangered plant species, including many orchids and begonias; to  more than 700 species of bird;  to even the gravely endangered black rhino.

The volcanic soil in the rolling hills of this diverse countryside is also a fertile, breeding ground for another much-loved species: the coffee bean. Dating back to the 1930s when Belgium’s colonial empire forced Rwandan farmers to plant an abundance of coffee trees, the country’s growers have recently switched to producing the sort of premium-grade bean your local hipster coffee joint is painstakingly brewing over handmade artisan filters. Which takes us back to Kigali, where third-wave coffee is booming as locals get to taste their world-renowned export, just as those in a Melbourne or Portland might.

Question Coffee, Kigali

With tech hubs and startups abound in the Rwandan capital, it’s no surprise that a raft of cafés would look to outside influence to heighten the beans grown in its rural regions. Sited above the Ikirezi bookshop, INZORA Rooftop Café offers views of the city and the tumbling landscape that engulfs it. First-grade coffee, too: its beans are sourced from Rwanda Trading Company’s Nyungwe washing station, where more than 2,000 farmers bring their coffee cherries to be attentively sorted, washed and dried. Sourcing its coffee from farmers throughout the country and roasting them in-house, Question Coffee is another destination for caffeine fiends, its proceeds heading back to farmer training to improve quality and livelihoods.

Speciality coffee and street art, a flourishing internationally flavoured restaurant scene and empowered local artisans, Kigali is a cosmopolitan city that surprises all who encounter it. An international feel fused with distinct Rwandan culture, it’s a fine place from which to embark on a tour of the country’s inimitable terrain. Gorillas may be in the mist, but the haze has cleared over the country’s fascinating capital.

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4 -min. read

Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) was one of the most anticipated developments of 2017. In the months before the MOCAA opened its doors in September, Cape Town had appeared on every ‘where to travel in 2017’ list. Even the building – an old grain silo strikingly reimagined by British architect, Thomas Heatherwick – has received awards and much admiring press coverage.

As the first major museum of contemporary African art, it’s no surprise that the MOCAA was so intriguing and exciting: it has provided a platform for many African artists to express their ideas about identity, politics, society, beauty and much more on a global stage.

Sculpture by Marlene Steyn – courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA

Jochen Zeitz, a German philanthropist and former CEO of Puma, co-founded the museum with the V&A Waterfront. Zeitz, who has had a home in Kenya for the last 14 years, has long been invested in African art – the works on display at the MOCAA are all donated from his private collection and are on long-term loan to the museum.

Amid the overwhelming praise heaped on the museum, a few voices have questioned the significance of a non-African founding a museum that celebrates African art; the fact that Zeitz, Heatherwick, David Green of the V&A Waterfront and chief curator Mark Coetzee are all white (and male); and that the location of the museum is in Cape Town, arguably the least ‘African’ city on the continent.

“It’s not for everyone else to decide whether this is a good thing. It’s for Africans to decide”

Jochen Zeitz – Co-Founder of Zeitz MOCAA

Piece by Kendell Geers – courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA

Zeitz, however, is not fazed. On an opening tour of the museum in September, he spoke of such comments in the international media, stating, “It’s not for everyone else to decide whether this is a good thing. It’s for Africans to decide.”

Later, Zeitz expands on this to me: “If you look at the bigger picture, I don’t think it is important to focus on who was the catalyst for the creation of the museum, or whether they are African or non-African. We simply had an objective to build a major international platform for artists to express themselves, as there was a need to do so.”

The challenge is in creating something that accurately represents a community’s needs – in this case, those of Africa and its diaspora’s artists. “It was imperative that those directly affected were behind this from the beginning,” Zeitz agrees. “Whilst it is impossible to win everyone over, we wanted to create an open dialogue to ensure that all voices were heard to build an institution that was as representative of the continent as possible.”

“I don’t think it is important to focus on who was the catalyst for the creation of the museum… We simply had an objective to build a major international platform for artists to express themselves”

Jochen Zeitz – Co-Founder of Zeitz MOCAA

Zeitz MOCAA atrium – by Iwan Baan

Quite a task for one museum, but the breadth of work on display is impressive. There are video installations, vibrant art pieces, photography and sculptures, by artists from all over Africa and of African heritage.

Perhaps the most important aspect of how the museum can facilitate empowerment is not how or by whom it was founded, as critics have latched on to, but in how it can continue to be an effective stage for empowerment in the future. “Now that we have this platform, we must ensure that it evolves and that we stay relevant as a museum,” Zeitz says.

A central component of the MOCAA will be “the development of supporting educational and enrichment programmes and guaranteeing access for all – one of the museum’s founding principles.” To this end, entry to the museum is free for all African citizens every Wednesday. “We want to inspire the next generations and provide an infrastructure for art to be embraced and celebrated,” explains Zeitz.

Sculpture garden at Zeitz MOCAA – courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA

What can the travel industry take from this? Zeitz suggests that, within reason, we avoid getting too hung up on the origins of empowerment platforms, whether they are schools, training courses or an internationally acclaimed museum. The most important thing is ensuring that something sustainable has been created – something that can bring about, as Zeitz hopes will be the case for the MOCAA, “a change that is permanent.”

[This article was published in Beyond: Empowered, We Are Africa’s print magazine, in May 2018.]

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5 -min. read

Thursday 9 August 1956 was a tumultuous day in South Africa. In the capital, Pretoria, more than 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings, office of the President, to protest against legislation requiring black South Africans to carry a government-issued ‘pass’, restricting their movement and right to live and work where they pleased. It was a bold, brave move against the apartheid government.

The day has since been a declared public holiday – Women’s Day – in South Africa. To commemorate it this year, we spoke to three dynamic women making their mark on South Africa’s tourism industry.

1. Nicola Harris

Nicola Harris – courtesy of Nedbank Tour de Tuli

Nicola is the director of the Nedbank Tour de Tuli. Over the past 13 years, this annual multi-day mountain bike event has raised more than R18 million for the charity Children in the Wilderness (CITW), enabling more than 16,000 children to discover the magic of Africa’s wilderness areas.

“That’s the beauty of the Tour de Tuli: it has an unbelievable ability to bring people into the community”

Since you joined the Tour de Tuli 10 years ago, how has the Tour changed?

It’s changed enormously. While securing access with landowners and government was quite chaotic in the early years, nowadays there’s a lot more planning and logistics that goes into the event.

We also rely completely on volunteers, and people now know what they’re doing and what’s expected. We’ve managed to build up the right people over the years.

What are the stats for this year’s event?

We’ll have 320 riders in groups of 10-17. That includes leaders and hosts for each group. All our hosts have a wildlife background so they can bring more of the touring aspect to the event.

Then, we have around 80 volunteers and more staff working on the event in the background.

That’s the beauty of the Tour de Tuli: it has an unbelievable ability to bring people into the community.

It seems like a fun event, but it’s all actually for a good cause?

It’s all in aid of CITW, and we raise around R2.4 million each year. We try and obtain as much sponsorship as possible to cover our overhead costs. Nedbank have been the title sponsor for the past three years.

Our long-term goal is raising funds for CITW, but we also want to see communities to benefit. This year we provided seeds to the local Shashe community, allowing us to purchase a lot of the fresh produce we need for the event directly from them.

The Tour de Tuli website describes you as a ‘no-nonsense blonde’… Is that true?

(laughs) I have been called a dragon once or twice. I’m really just an honest, direct person. I’m driven. Tenacity is in my blood!

2. Patricia Makumu

Patricia Makumu – courtesy of andBeyond

Patricia grew up in the Mpumalanga village of Justicia, just a few kilometres from the fences of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. After joining andBeyond in 2006 she worked her way up the ladder: from housekeeping, to working at the reception, to management. She hasn’t stopped yet – and when the brand-new andBeyond Tengile River Lodge opens its doors in December, Patricia will be there to welcome them as lodge manager.

“I always ensure that guests feel welcome by greeting them with a smile; remembering their names; and treating them in a warm, friendly and generous way”

How have you seen women’s role change since you joined the hospitality industry?

I have been in the hospitality industry for 18 years. When I started at Exeter in 1999, there were only two women at management level. Now, at andBeyond Kirkman’s Camp there are more women than men.

Have any remarkable women inspired you along the way?

Yes, Minah Mkansi. I met her at Exeter in 1999 when I was a temp in housekeeping for three months. After two months I wanted to quit because I wanted to study [to be a] social worker. She encouraged me to stay; she mentored me.

What’s the one thing you strive for when hosting guests?

I always ensure that guests feel welcome by greeting them with a smile; remembering their names; and treating them in a warm, friendly and generous way. [I want to] deliver an extraordinary guest experience.

What are you most excited about for your new role as Lodge Manager at andBeyond Tengile River Lodge?

It will be a new lodge… I was there when they laid the first brick. Watching it until it’s completed, being involved in the life of the lodge, being there when the lodge opens, and being involved in training the staff.

3. Suzanne Bayly-Coupe

Suzanne is the owner of Classic Portfolio, a collection of owner-operated camps and lodges across Africa and the Indian Ocean. She had a career as a diplomat in mind when she completed her degree in International Politics & Economics, but soon fell in love with the travel industry. In 1999 she became the owner of Classic Portfolio, which, this year, celebrates 25 years in business.

Suzanne Bayly-Coupe – courtesy of Classic Portfolio “I believe women bring a completely different approach to business: we go in much slower, and have a more strategic way of looking at the issue, and coming up with a solution”

All 19 Classic Portfolio employees are women… Was this a conscious decision?

It wasn’t a conscious choice to start off with, but it has become one. Women see things in such a different way. We nurture our clients, and there’s a unique way women analyse information. I believe women bring a completely different approach to business: we go in much slower, and have a more strategic way of looking at the issue, and coming up with a solution.

What’s the guiding principle behind members of the Classic Portfolio?

We look for three things: it has to be privately owned; it has to offer a unique experience; and it has to be completely committed to making a difference in both conservation and communities within the area.

Is that type of conscientious, sustainable tourism the future of luxury travel?

Absolutely. I just love the transformative power travel can hold for people. But I also think there’s a massive gap amongst both agents and travellers in understanding their responsibilities when travelling to far-flung lodges in Africa. The commitment required to keep some properties going is enormous, and we want to make clients aware of that.

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We Are Africa - WAA News by James Davidson - 4M ago
8 -min. read

“Gravity as a theory is false,” grinds the persistently exasperating FAQ on The Flat Earth Society’s official website. “Objects simply fall.” In sequential bouts of ignorance that evoke a child attempting invisibility by covering their eyes and squalling “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me,” the community rubbish most scientific discoveries of the last millennium and beyond, with comical assertions that satellites are actually ‘pseudolites’ put there to fool us, that the Earth’s mass continues infinitely and the like.

How such mistruths – and to a greater extent the world of conspiracy theories at large – perpetuate is chiefly the fault of what we’ve been taught; what we think we know; and who has afforded us those beliefs. The world’s strings might not be being pulled by shape-shifting, extra-dimensional lizard people, and the Large Hadron Collider may not have been conceived to open a portal to hell, but we are constantly bombarded by half-truths, falsehoods and disinformation. The age of post-truth politics might have sensationalised the propaganda of ‘fake news’, but it is the latent deception beneath the veil of trusted sources that poses most threat. Although positively spherical, the world is certainly not what you think it is.

When Eratosthenes upset the Flat Earth community as early as 240 BC, his calculations of our planet’s circumference would set forth a revolution in the world of cartography, fellow Greek geographer, Strabo, conceiving his Globe of Crates – thought to be the world’s first – some 90 years later. Mapping the world on the sphere that Greek greats had confirmed meant that our place on Earth could be represented clearly for what it is. Martin Behaim’s 1492 Erdapfel is the oldest surviving terrestrial globe – a creation from a time where maps were being defined, Columbus returning from the Americas a few short months later.

In a rapidly changing Eurocentric world, the way we look at our planet was defined 77 years on when German-Flemish geographer, Gerardus Mercator, devised a cylindrical map projection that allowed these globes to be represented on one flat map. The Mercator projection is the world as you typically see it today: the representation maintained by Google Maps; the representation you looked up to on your classroom wall. The thing is, like much we believe to be true – or ‘accurate’ – Mercator’s view of Earth is in fact wildly distorted. Try puncturing an inflatable ball and placing it flatly upon a wall… Mercator’s projection, whilst invaluable to the explorers of its day, achieves its perceived accuracy with some trade-offs – most notably, its compromising of developing continents and countries.

Its origins in a time where Europe’s domination and exploitation of the developing world was hitting full stride, Mercator’s is an interpretation of the world that suited the politics of its time – perhaps of all time. That every map begins with the same mistruth Flat Earthers are so fond of is mapping’s inherent problem – however your trade-offs work out, somewhere must suffer – such is the physical impossibility of flattening a globe; but Mercator’s distortions held benefits for the nations of power. The cartographer’s trade-off means countries and continents appear smaller as they approach the equator. Sitting atop the pile, in the centre of it all, the all-conquering Great Britain joins its Western European companions in flattering to deceive. Should it be shown on the line that separates hemispheres, its insignificant scale would be all too apparent. Straddling the equator, it is Africa who suffers most, the colossal continent reduced to a whisper in relation to Russia, or even to Greenland, which, in truth, is no bigger than the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Born in Berlin on 22 May 1916, Arno Peters – whose father found himself incarcerated by the Nazi regime toward the end of World War II – knew a thing or two about divisive times, and would develop a fixation with political propaganda. Spending much of his academic life studying synchronoptic world history (a way in which to portray all histories in all areas of the world equally), the historian committed his life to fair representation. “The size is the first sign of the importance of a country,” he attested. “Mercator’s is a map of the epoch of Eurocentrism, colonialism and imperialism.” Although he would distort the ‘true’ shape of the world’s landmasses, the German historian’s map – ­launched at a 1973 press conference in Bonn – represents true scale, and with that demands a reappraisal of our own understanding.

The true size Africa misrepresented on Western maps – via MADRIVER.ME

That millions, perhaps billions, of us could grow up with a distorted impression of the planet’s true geography speaks volumes of the sort of political propaganda Peters grew fascinated by. We live in an age where the President of the United States of America can refer to African nations as “shithole” countries; where George W. Bush, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton can each confuse a continent for a single nation; where Boris Johnson can talk of “flag-waving piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles”; and where Time Magazine can write about alcoholism in Kenya and title their piece Africa’s Drinking Problem. During the Scramble for Africa (between 1881 and 1914), colonial nations laid claim to their territories via a violent process of invasion, occupation, colonisation and annexation. In continuing to minimise the perceived physical presence of Africa, in flippantly applying colonial language and values, it can feel as though precious little has changed.

That is, if Africa and its diaspora wasn’t rewriting its own history and forging a new path built on empowerment and a singular identity.

“The trouble with the people on this planet,” wrote the avant-garde ‘cosmic’ jazz composer Sun Ra, “is they refuse to think, they refuse to believe, anything except what they know.” That we want to think we are open-minded, but – contrary to our desires – remain easily scripted, is how so many of us can got so far in life marvelling at the size of Greenland. It is how those billing themselves as ‘free-thinkers’ who can get carried away by fanciful theories, while more sinister conspiracies can carry on in plain view.

The American musician born Herman Poole Blount, who rose to prominence in Chicago’s jazz scene of the 1940s, abandoned his birth name in favour of one inspired by Ra, the Egyptian God of the Sun. It is part of an elaborate persona that the prolific composer, poet and philosopher would weave for himself – a dense backstory rooted in cosmology and mysticism, where he would proclaim himself an extra-terrestrial from Saturn, sent on a mission to preach peace. A mainstay of underground music scenes right up until his death in the early 1990s, Sun Ra touched many with his complex and eclectic approach to music and performance – not least those spellbound by the cosmic charm of Afrofuturism, the cultural concept first coined by author Mark Dery in his 1993 essay, Black to the Future.

Sun Ra – by Baron Wolman / via NPR

Dery’s landmark discourse – a series of interviews with three prominent thinkers in African-American literature: Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose – began with a conundrum: why do so few African Americans write science fiction? A genre that, as Dery posited, would seem a natural fit, given its dealings with strangers in strange lands. Writing of what he saw as the paradox behind this lack of eminent African-American sci-fi writers, the cultural critic asked: “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces in history, imagine possible futures?”

Sun Ra could. And his inspiration could be felt through the waves of black counterculture that followed him. Visual artists, from graffiti writers to Jean-Michel Basquiat, imagined their black figures in abstract landscapes. And from Kraftwerk’s influence on early electro to Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet (even the post-apocalyptic video for 2Pac’s California Love), hip hop would forge a long-term love affair with fantasy and sci-fi subcultures. “I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,” says art curator and Afrofuturist Ingrid LaFleur. The tail end of the twentieth century saw that black cultural lens explode, and its fire burns brighter by the day.

Whilst Afrofuturism itself may have remained a niche philosophy, under the surface its protagonists have multiplied over those years. As well as a series of high-profile exhibitions and cultural events – such as MOONDANCE at New York’s prestigious MoMA PS1 gallery – a succession of crossover musicians have taken the scene to the brink of mainstream – from Erykah Badu to Flying Lotus; OutKast to Janelle Monáe. This year, though, saw the moment that Afrofuturism finally broke through, the Marvel superhero film Black Panther introducing the world at large to a cultural concept that is empowerment incarnate.

There’s little left to be said about Ryan Coogler’s film that hasn’t already been said; suffice to say that its arrival at a time of “shitholes” and “piccaninnies” couldn’t have been more fitting. It is, however, its cultural legacy that is of most importance: a new generation who can imagine possible futures through a black cultural lens.

‘Lost in the Island’ – by Kaylan K

“You’re looking at stories about inventors and creations, and you don’t see people who look like you,” says Ytasha Womack, a prominent writer in the Afrofuturism world. “You look at films about the future and they don’t have people like you, then you begin to get the impression that maybe I can’t be a part of the future.” It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that black history is more horrific than any science fiction writer could imagine. Pasts erased, Afrofuturism gives a people the opportunity to create a world that puts them in the starring role – Black Panther’s time in the spotlight guaranteeing them their place in the future.

With a dogged determination to encourage people to change how they see the world, Arno Peters was an advocate of equality, a truth-seeker who forced discussion in the name of fostering a more just world. It’s certain he would’ve loved this movie’s portrayal of Wakanda – the fictional African kingdom presided over by its lead hero – as a self-sufficient utopia that resisted colonisation, it presenting a dramatic manifestation of the sort of global reappraisal he provoked with his most famous work. Wakanda offers a stylised rebuttal to Mercator’s distortions, to the territories drawn up during the Scramble for Africa; it is Africa empowered, remapping its own boundaries.

Peters’ quest for equality, and the Afrofuturists’ avant-garde perspective on empowerment, can teach us valuable lessons in how we approach this continent and others; how we avoid stereotypes; and how – inspired by Sun Ra – we might truly begin to believe in things we don’t know. As travellers seek new frontiers, perhaps those frontiers exist in our mind – a reassessment of familiar lands as potent an experience as discovering a real-life Wakanda.

Mercator’s visual mistruth is a poignant rendering of a prolonged cycle of injustices done to Africa and its people, but it shouldn’t cloud the truth that inequality exists everywhere. Applying Arno Peters’ alternative perspective or the rebellious imagination of Afrofuturism to any circumstance can improve it. Ignore these symbols of empowerment, and you might as well believe that “gravity as a theory is false.”

[This article was published in Beyond: Empowered, We Are Africa’s print magazine, in May 2018.]

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4 -min. read

Have you heard of Akagera National Park?

Wildlife roaming in Akagera National Park

As Rwanda’s tourism industry has grown in leaps and bounds, all eyes have been focused on the gorillas of the lush Volcanoes National Park and the cheeky chimps of Nyungwe Forest. But across on the northeast border of this small central African country, jammed up against Tanzania, lies one of the continent’s most remarkable conservation success stories.

Wildlife roaming in Akagera National Park

Akagera came under immense pressure in the late-1990s in the wake of the Rwandan civil war: it halved in size as land was allocated to farming, and poaching took a heavy toll on the wildlife. But thanks to long-term fun ding support from The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, since 2010 African Parks, in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board, have conserved, protected and rehabilitated this remarkable 100,000-hectare reserve.

Those who have dedicated the past eight years to this conservation work – think everything from fencing, to anti-poaching efforts, to game restocking – have seen this unique corner of Africa flourish into one of the region’s undiscovered gems. Today, Akagera National Park is the largest protected wetland in central Africa, with a landscape ranging from woodland and open plains to swamp-fringed lakes. It’s also Rwanda’s only ‘Big Five’ reserve since the reintroduction of lion and rhino in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

The revitalised reserve is now proving to be a boon for the country’s all-important tourism industry, with revenue trebling between 2010 and 2016. With more than 36,000 visitors in 2017 – half of them Rwandan nationals – numbers are on the rise and there is increased interest in this undiscovered corner of Rwanda.

Rendering of Magashi Camp’s communal area

That interest has been piqued by the announcement that Wilderness Safaris will launch a brand-new lodge in the park in December 2018. A partnership between Wilderness Safaris, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and conservation group African Parks, the six-tented Magashi Camp will be situated in the northeastern reaches of Akagera.

Bedroom at Magashi Camp

Magashi Camp will fall into Wilderness Safaris’ “Classic Camps” portfolio, and is set to overlook Lake Rwanyakazinga, home to large number of hippos, shoebill stork, shy sitatunga, and some extremely large crocodiles. Guests will be able to explore the park on game drives, walks and boating trips. The Park is also set to draw adventurous twitchers, and boasts almost 500 species of birds.

“To date, the overwhelming focus on gorillas has caused many travellers to miss seeing the beautifully scenic and productive savannahs of Rwanda”, said Grant Woodrow, Wilderness Safaris’ chief operations officer. “Now, with the launch of Magashi, our guests will have the ideal opportunity to combine an extraordinary gorilla experience at Volcanoes National Park whilst staying at Bisate Lodge, with a spectacular savannah safari at Akagera… Rwanda offers a complete, stand-alone safari experience.”

Magashi Camp exterior

“We’re extremely pleased to be partnering with Wilderness Safaris on the opening of Magashi Camp”, said Jes Gruner, manager of Akagera National Park. “In just eight years, Akagera has become almost 75 per cent self-financing due to tourism, which also supports surrounding communities.”

“The opportunity to use our model of responsible ecotourism to contribute to positive conservation and community empowerment in such a unique and exciting Rwandan environment is exactly why we do what we do”, adds Woodrow.

Magashi Camp

It’s certainly a perfect example of sustainable high-end tourism directly supporting the ongoing conservation of Africa’s wild spaces, and all eyes are on the upcoming opening. December can’t come soon enough…

[Photos of Akagera National Park and renderings of Magashi Camp are all courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.]

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4 -min. read

Confession time: I’m something of an airline geek. That guy who pores over the route map at the back of the in-flight mag. Killing time in an airport, I’ll fire up the flight-tracking app on my iPad and gaze at the aerial highways jammed with digital planes, the faraway rush-hour traffic connecting the USA, Europe and Asia.

And yet over Africa the skies are, by comparison, deserted. On-screen, just a handful of digital tumbleweeds roll their way slowly from Abuja to Addis, Joburg to Dar. The remarkable continent I call home is inhabited by 12 per cent of the world’s population, yet it accounts for just three per cent of its airline traffic.

It’s an issue that demands attention – and not just for those in the tourism business, for airlines do more than bring curious visitors from faraway places. They provide opportunity: for trade and for exploration. For education abroad; for connections beyond our own town and country. To steal a line from one airline’s slogan, airlines bring the world to Africa, and take Africans to the world. They are, in so many ways, the very departure point for our own empowerment.

Yet unlike the skies of Europe, where free competition determines who flies where and when, African airlines have to cut through reams of red tape before they can take to the skies. Instead of commercial viability being the deciding factor, onerous bilateral agreements between governments dictate which airlines can fly where, how often, and with how many seats. A recipe for commercial success it is not.

Not that there haven’t been efforts to change the state of play. The Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988 – 30 years ago! – first opened the door to liberalising African skies. Amid concerns about foreign carriers outcompeting African airlines, the door slammed quickly shut. A decade later the Yamoussoukro Decision revived the idea, but also never gathered much political muster. Was the Abuja Declaration of 2012 any more successful? I’ll let you answer that one for yourself.

But this year brings with it a new opportunity for the emancipation of African skies. Well, some of them at least.

Graphic representation of African air space on a weekday – courtesy of FlightView

January 2018 saw the African Union launch the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative. Twenty-three countries – out of 55 on the continent – have committed themselves to liberalising air access and ownership in Africa. And the potential is enormous.

A survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggests that if 12 key African countries opened their aviation markets and increased connectivity, it would create an extra 155,000 jobs and generate an additional US $1.3 billion in annual gross domestic product. Talk about empowering economies and communities.

“But the benefits of a connected continent will only be realised through effective implementation of SAATM”, cautions Raphael Kuuchi, IATA’s vice president for Africa.   “Greater connectivity will lead to greater prosperity. Governments must act on their commitments, and allow their economies to fly high on the wings of aviation.”

IATA’s enthusiasm is well founded. When the European Union created the Internal Market for Aviation in 1992, deregulating European skies, the continent saw an explosion in air traffic and a revolution in tourism. Between 1993 and 2015, the number of air travellers passing through European airports trebled – to nearly one billion passengers – and the cost of air travel plummeted.

Photo by Caleb Wood

The arrival of open skies also sparked the rapid growth of budget airlines, which in turn forced lumbering legacy carriers to improve their services and lower their fares. Competition drives innovation, creating new markets and new opportunities for both visitors and locals.

Not that it’s a magic wand, mind you.

“Markets don’t magically appear. They require work and investment. They have to be cultivated”, says Linden Birns, managing director of Plane Talking, a leading aviation consultancy. “The airlines will enable the traffic to flow, but they’re not the ones who develop tourism infrastructure and take it to market. They can support and forge partnerships, but it’s down to the destinations to develop themselves.”

Admittedly, Africa has neither the potential market nor destination density of Europe; but there are good examples of air access opening up exciting new avenues of opportunity.

In 2016 Kenya Airways took the bold step of launching a route from Cape Town to Nairobi, with a stop en route in Livingstone, Zambia. The route was such a success it was followed up a year later with a similar service stopping in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. From June 2018 it will add a third frequency, with non-stop flights from South Africa’s Mother City to the Kenyan capital. After so long in the tourism doldrums, the past few years has seen enormous tourism investment on both sides of the Zambezi River. Access breeds demand in a symbiotic circle of prosperity.

While great strides have been made in linking the furthest corners of Africa to the world, there’s still much work to be done for the true value of a connected continent to come to the fore. The formal establishment of the Single African Air Transport Market is an excellent first step, empowering airlines to seek out and serve new markets. And once air access is liberalised, the sky’s the limit for growing tourism in Africa.

[This article was published in Beyond: Empowered, We Are Africa’s print magazine, in May 2018.]

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4 -min. read

Visitors to South Africa’s ‘New World’ winelands are regularly surprised to discover that the country’s winemaking history stretches back for nearly 350 years. The first wines were made here back in 1659 – and not long after that, one of the Cape’s landmark estates was first settled.

That was in 1685, when the French Huguenot Jean le Long laid the foundations of what would become modern-day Boschendal Farm. This venerable estate in the shadow of the Drakenstein and Simonsberg mountain ranges has long been known for its fine wines and fruit, but in the past five years has built a reputation as one of the leading luxury destinations in the winelands.

That is thanks to the consortium of new owners who, in 2012, brought a long-overdue injection of investment and energy to the historic property, revamping the accommodation, food and wine offering across the estate. Today the farm is a shining example of high-end agri-tourism.

Chef Christian Campbell at Boschendal Farm – by Claire Gunn

At the heart of the offering is the historic Werf precinct, centred on the 200-year-old manor house. In the renovated farm buildings on either side, Executive Chef Christiaan Campbell offers a wide range of culinary experiences that have proven themselves a hit with both locals and tourists.

At the Farm Shop & Deli visitors are presented with a wide range of homemade produce from Boschendal and selected local producers, alongside a menu of deliciousbistro-style dishes. A few steps away the on-site butchery sells superb cured meats and fresh cuts, with an array of wine tasting experiences on offer. But the main gourmet attraction is across the grassy lawns at The Werf restaurant, where Campbell dishes up an ever-changing menu of fine-dining dishes inspired by both the seasons and the farm.

Werf food garden salad in homemade house dressing – courtesy of Boschendal Farm

Campbell is a fierce proponent of farm-to-fork dining, and the estate presents his pantry with an enviable selection of fresh produce each day. The 2,000-hectare estate produces a wide variety of export-quality fruit, while the nine-hectare vegetable garden bordering the restaurant takes care of just about all the fresh produce needed by the kitchen.

Werf Cottages at Boschendal Farm – courtesy of Boschendal Farm

“The vegetable garden certainly dictates the menu at the Werf Restaurant – it feeds our creativity in the kitchen”, says Campbell.

The farm also has its own herds of pasture-reared sheep and Black Angus cattle, with flocks of free-range chickens roaming the pastures. In winter nearby forests provide wild mushrooms for the menu, too.

While the food and wine offering is superb, the estate’s accommodation is also turning heads.

Perhaps key to that success is the sheer diversity of offerings. With their stylish farm aesthetic, the romantic Werf Cottages are ideal for couples and honeymooners, while the Orchard Cottages are a more affordable, family-friendly option, with spacious lawns and a large pool area. For small groups, the exclusive-use Rhodes Cottage is the perfect five-bedroom bolthole, designed by acclaimed Cape architect Sir Herbert Baker. A National Heritage Site, the house comes with private staff and plenty of seclusion.

Bedroom aesthetic in one of the Werf Cottages, Boschendal Farm – courtesy of Boschendal Farm

In between afternoon siestas and gastronomic adventures there’s plenty to keep guests occupied on the estate. The farm runs up the flanks of the Simonsberg, where mountain bike and walking trails meander through indigenous Cape fynbos vegetation. Horse

Werf Restaurant interior – courtesy of Boschendal Farm

riding, trout fishing and vineyard tours are available, along with a range of treatments in the Farm Spa.

With the winter months traditionally a quiet season for inbound tourists to the winelands, Boschendal has been proactive in appealing to locals. Enticing Capetonians out of their homes in the depths of a drizzly Cape winter is no mean feat, but the array of engaging weekend workshops is certainly a good start. Alongside special menus and farm-focused feasts, over the next few months Campbell and his culinary team will offer hands-on weekends, focusing on everything from natural fermentation to artisanal bread-making.

It’s a fine example of a historic estate adapting to a modern-day tourism landscape. Whether guests are stopping in for lunch or unpacking for a long weekend, Boschendal is certainly leading the way in five-star farm getaways.

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