A PhotoVoice Research Project

About This Project

In 2016 I undertook my Ph.D. research in three township communities surrounding the city of Cape Town, South Africa. Guided by a feminist postcolonial theoretical framework, I was motivated to learn about how residents of the townships perceive the foreign tourists that tour their communities.

A PhotoVoice methodology was used, in which research participants were given digital cameras and asked to take photos of what tourism is like in the township and what tourism should be like. In the course of this research, I encountered the women of Indawo Yethu in Khayelitsha Township and six of their members agreed to participate and take photographs. What follows is a selection of the photographs that each woman chose to share with me, and the stories that were told to demonstrate the impact that tourism to their township has had on their lives and their community.

More than simply showing images of tourism, however, many of the women that I spoke with at length chose to also focus their lenses on representations of their everyday lives in the township – aspects of life that are often overlooked or hidden from the views of the tourists.

-Meghan Muldoon

Welcome to Khayelitsha Township, Cape Town, South Africa

The townships of South Africa are neighbourhoods born out of the racist policies of the former apartheid government. Under apartheid, the ruling minority white population passed a number of oppressive and segregationist acts, including the Group Areas Act of 1950, which declared desirable urban areas as 'whites only' and forced the non-white populations to move to the townships on the outskirts. Created as spaces of geographical, economic, social, cultural, and educational segregation and marginalization, the townships were characterized by inadequate housing and infrastructure, inferior education, and limited access to economic opportunity. Only one road led in and out, and residents were required to seek permission and carry a pass any time they wished to move beyond the township. While the townships came to be very visible spaces of poverty and oppression, they were also spaces of resistance and a shared humanity. The end of apartheid and the election of a democratic government in 1994 saw an end to government-led segregation, however in practice centuries of racialized boundaries in South Africa will take much longer to break apart. Twenty-three years later the townships continue to exist as exclusively black or coloured spaces and continue to be marked by poverty and strife, although some aspects of life have improved in that time.

Tourism to the townships began as part of the struggle to end apartheid of the 1980s and 1990s, where social justice advocates sought to bring foreign diplomats and journalists to view the inhumane living conditions that were forced upon black South Africans. The popularity of tours to the townships have exploded since the end of apartheid, with one estimate that 300,000 tourists visits the townships of Cape Town alone every year. Supporters of the tours claim that they bring tourism revenues directly into the hands of those that need them the most, that they are shedding a much needed light on issues of urban poverty, and that they are a celebration of local culture and heritage. Opponents, on the other hand, insist that the tours are exploitative, voyeuristic, and nothing more than 'poverty porn.' What do you think?

Meet The Women


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There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

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University of Waterloo

Meghan Muldoon

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada