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The Dangers of a Single Story

On Friday 16 September we as the Queens Street residence went on our fourth CAP for the semester all the way to Gugulethu. A new initiative called Dine with Khayelitsha kicked off in Cape Town, which aims to merge the social gap between people residing in the city and people living in Khayelitsha, to destigmatize perceptions and to create conversations that are dynamic and perhaps step into the direction of social change – even in small steps like this. We were however some of the very first ones to experience the new extended program of Dine with Khayelitsha, now in Gugulethu. The CAP kicked off with residents from Gugutlethu picking up all of us from the residence with a minibus taxi, a mode of transport that people from the areas use on an everyday basis. When we arrived at the main house in Gugutlethu we were all welcomed with a warm hug and smile, and briefing of what the evening will hold for all of us. We were then all placed into different groups that went to different households, and then the dinner and conversations kicked off!

The feeling of sitting down for dinner in someone’s home who you have never met, with guests you do not know and no idea what the rest of the evening will hold for you, is a feeling that is very difficult to describe. At first you wonder what you have to say to people who live so differently from you, who walk a completely different life path and that hold different world views from you. It is a very stressful experience at first, but once we got into the flow of things by just talking about ourselves and listening to one another, the ice was soon broken. Very quickly it became evident that the very same people whose house we were visiting and that were complete strangers, were in fact not that alien at to us at all. It is people with hopes, dreams, aspirations and life stories – just like yourself. We sometimes create a narrative about others that create this complete ‘other’ to ourselves and even before really engaging with this ‘other’ that we have created, we have decided for them what they are, what they believe in and how they live their life. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us that there is a danger to a single story about any place, thing or person, and it is such as vital lesson to keep in mind. What this initiative and other initiatives similar to Dine with Khayelitsha does is to address this Danger of a Single Story, and opens up a platform that is heavily stigmatized and contested, in order to attempt creating new narratives around people living in areas like Gugulethu and Khayelitsha and even the city, to merge the social gap between different people from all walks of life and to bring about a more human face to social interactions – to show that a great chat and good food can create a space of sharing and learning about one another.

The people that we met and the homes we were in for the evening will always be remembered, the stories that were shared and the laughs are all moments that remain with us – that shows that of learning, sharing and listening. There is nothing more beautiful than having the opportunity and privilege to listen to others’ stories and to relate them to your own stories – where you can have more perspective and use that perspective to destigmatize harmful narratives that paint people as one dimension and as one story. This was truly one night to remember for a long time to come!

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