Creativity in Cape Town: the Art Scene of Langa

Guga S’thebe Arts & Cultural Centre in Langa has space for people to come and experiment with their art. It also hosts occasional exhibitions of local artists work
Guga S’thebe Arts & Cultural Centre in Langa has space for people to come and experiment with their art. It also hosts occasional exhibitions of local artists' work | © Alessandro Iovino / Culture Trip
Josephine Platt

Commissioning Editor

Just east of Table Mountain in Cape Town sits one of South Africa’s oldest townships. Langa came into existence in 1919, and its history is rooted in anti-apartheid activism and artistic expression. Photographer Alessandro Iovino visited with his camera to capture what he calls its “sunny disposition and vibrant energy”.

16 on Lerotholi art gallery aims to promote South African artists and bring tourists to Langa

Langa is a place that’s centred on community, where art serves a purpose. Its name means “sun” in Xhosa – one of the official languages of South Africa and Zimbabwe – which is fitting. However, it is actually after Langalibalele, a 19th-century king of the AmaHlubi, a Bantu tribe in what is modern-day KwaZulu-Natal.

This Superette shop is located near Guga S’thebe cummunity centre
Kids hang out near the community centre
Ladies who lunch: at Jordan Ways of Cooking in Langa

Over the years, Langa has bred plenty of artistic talent, including Brenda Fassie, the Queen of African Pop (who sadly died in 2004). Meanwhile, galleries such as 16 on Lerotholi have popped up to serve as hubs for young, local artists in the same way Guga S’thebe has been the community’s cultural focal point for three decades.

Guga S’thebe is where communities can come together and enjoy art, design and performance
A local woman makes and decorates a wooden goat’s head for the Langa market
A group of kids play in front of an old house

The streets are lined with art and murals, and you’ll be greeted by saxophones and keyboards from jazz artists such as Mandisi Dyantyis. “A palpable creative spirit flows through the avenues of Langa,” says Iovino. As do the smells of the local cuisine. “The smells of succulent rump steak and buttermilk chicken burgers circulate, alongside dishes such ulusu, or tripe, and umngqusho, or samp, for those with adventurous palettes.’’

Kids play on a pile of old mattresses in a field in Langa

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