skip to Main Content

Narrative and heritage underpinning creative community tourism and place-making in Cape Town, South Africa, and Ilha de Deus (Recife), Brazil


This seminar includes two presentations that bring together research on and practices of activating ‘intangible’ cultural resources for local development in the Ilha de Deus community, Recife, Brazil, and the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood, Cape Town, South Africa. The presenters consider how narrative and heritage are being activated as cultural resources in community-based creative tourism and place-making processes, and the dynamics and the issues contextualizing this activity. A joint discussion will follow.

Larissa Almeida, Loa Experiences, Recife, Brazil
Milia Lorraine Khoury, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa

The seminar is organized within the context of the research project CREATOUR – Desenvolver Destinos de Turismo Criativo em Cidades de Pequena Dimensão e Áreas Rurais and the research group CCArq | Cidades, Culturas e Arquiteturas



Creative tourism empowering communities: Ilha de Deus case study
Larissa Almeida, Loa Experiences, Recife, Brazil

Ilha de Deus is an outskirt community placed nearby one of richest neighbourhood from Recife, northeast, Brazil. It is a 2000 inhabitants’ community built in the mangrove whose main activity is fishing, and these characteristics are your strongest reference. For a long time, this place was called Ilha Sem Deus (Island Without God), it was violent and poor, people lived in stilts houses and it’s easy to hear stories about how they have survived eating seafood. Because of this sad reference the residents of Ilha de Deus were not proud of being from that place nor from their fishing culture. This started to change around 2008 when the government promoted a refitment at Ilha de Deus, they embanked the mangrove and built proper brick houses, the people weren’t living in the mud anymore, but they still poor and not pride about their origins.

At Ilha de Deus there is an NGO (Saber Viver) supported by a German institution that attends the community with basic services as nursery, basic school and classes like crafts and cooking. People form German got interested in visit as a volunteer and social tourism, and this way Ilha de Deus started to deal with tourism flow, but they still positioning as the poor people that need to be helped. In 2016 an academic project structured the Saber Viver tourism project and they started to host regular tourists, but in an unassertive way because they still selling poverty. In 2017 they engaged the Brazilian Creative Tourism and working with creativity products they boost their touristic activity hugely.

The results we can already notice is that the entrepreneurs from Ilha de Deus were empowered, and it’s possible to perceive that now they are proud to say their origins. They are hosting regular tourists weekly, they have participated of important events such as Casa Cor and Festival Brasil Sabor and they are constantly on media, they are running a bistro and with big plans to improve touristic activity. They are no more the ones who need to be helped but the ones to whom people come to learn with. I believe creative tourism has the capacity to promote connections between people of different realities and from that experience one can open the space for learning and for the construction of new and different realities. The seminar presentation will explore the dynamics that took place until the first results and the perspectives to continue boosting activity.


When ‘Space’ Becomes a ‘Place’: the decolonising of space through narrative and community-led initiatives in the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town (South Africa)
Milia Lorraine Khoury, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa

When does ‘space’ become a ‘place’? Termed as the quintessential Lefebvrian conundrum. In the seminar presentation, this question will be interrogated and discussed in relation to the Bo-Kaap – the Cape Malay – neighbourhood in Cape Town, South Africa. The Bo-Kaap (loosely translated from Afrikaans as “High Cape” or “Upper Cape”) sits on the slopes of Signal Hill in Cape Town on the boundary of the city centre. It was established during Dutch colonial-rule and grew substantially when a housing crisis occurred after the abolition of slavery in 1834 and the former Dutch slaves of Malay (mostly from the Indonesian, Java, Malaysia and other parts of Asia) descent settled there as labourers, trades and craftspeople. Hence, it is often referred to as the “Slave” or “Malay” quarter. The community that formed distinguished themselves with distinctive cultural and religious practices, the famed aromatic Cape Malay cuisine and a micro creole-style language consisting of Afrikaans, Arabic and English. More recently the distinctive Bo-Kaap multi-coloured homes have become representational of the area. A microcosm and concentrated locale within the larger city and country, referencing the “Rainbow Nation” in Post-Apartheid times.

However, currently the community – spanning generations – is under threat. Due to property developers buying the prized centrally well-located land, gentrification and over-tourism in the area. The community has been locked in battles for several years to declare the neighbourhood a local heritage site, as a means to protect their unique culture and heritage. Which has escalated in ongoing protests, particularly heightened in 2018. Recently in 2019, a win for the community, the National Department of Arts and Culture in South Africa have declared 19 sites in the Bo-Kaap as national heritage sites.

The seminar presentation will explore and discuss the notion of ‘narrative’ of the Bo-Kaap through the theorist Jean-François Lyotard concepts of the “little narrative” (the community created and centred narrative) and the “grand narrative” (the broader narrative of colonialism, Apartheid and Post-Apartheid South Africa). The Bo-Kaap community’s harnessing of their own unique narrative will be further illustrated by referring to community-led initiatives and locally organised tourism activities i.e. Cape Malay cooking classes and walking tours. Further, there will be analysis on the decolonisation of urban and public space, by referring to the writing of Poka Laenui (2000), who stated the following steps to decolonize a community:

1. Rediscovery and Recovery: In order for a community to be revitalized and rebuilt, there needs to be a rediscovery of their culture and identity.

2. Mourning: Acknowledging colonialism and the atrocities conducted.

3. Dreaming: Dreaming/imagining of the future possibilities of a community and place.

4. Commitment: Commitment in applying these ‘dreams’ into reality.

The Bo-Kaap Museum will be referred in this regard and the artworks of local artists Roderick Sauls, Thania Petersen, the Essop Brothers and Huroon Gunn-Salie that are artistic expressions of culture and heritage in relation to the Bo-Kaap and the Cape Malay heritage. These expressions and narratives relate to Cultural Mapping the ‘intangibles’ within a culture, like stories/ narratives, expression, heritage, identity and place. As within the practice of Cultural Mapping, there are ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’ resources of a given culture. This research is centred around the ‘intangibles’ in terms of narrative, heritage, culture and artistic expressions of place and culture. Ultimately though these narratives and expressions ‘space’ becomes a ‘place’. 

Fonte: Narrative and heritage underpinning creative community tourism and place-making in Cape Town, South Africa, and Ilha de Deus (Recife), Brazil

Back To Top