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In Conversation with Xolane Maswana

Art South Africa in conversation with Xolane Maswana, Langa TAG resident and tour-guide.

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Interviewing Xolane Maswana in Langa, Cape Town

Could you please start by introducing yourself, what you do and who lives with you?

Xolane Maswana: I’m Xolana Maswana, I’m a resident tour guide, I take people for tours and tell them a little bit of the history of the houses and how we came to have the TAG [Township Art Gallery] in our houses. I live at no. 7 Rubusane, which is part of the gallery. I live with my grandmother and two uncles, but I’m the one who is active and going to meetings in the community.

Can you tell me about the process? How did you meet Siphiwe and Theo, and have your home as a TAG and be a tour guide?

I was in Matric last year when Siphiwe spoke to us with Tony (Elvin) and he wanted to do the same thing he’s doing in Alexandra and in Durban, in Langa. I was supposed to study Physio at UWC, but I decided to take a gap year. During that year, Siphiwe really struggled to find a tour guide, so I volunteered once and he asked if I could do it more often- he was helping me and I was helping him, it’s was mutually beneficial.

What kind of relationship did you have with the arts before the TAG? Has it changed since you’ve become a gallery homeowner and tour guide?

I didn’t really look at or take much notice of it, because I thought “oh, art is just art” and I’m inquisitive but when it comes to art I saw it as just a waste of time. And then people just came into my houses and said “this is beautiful!” it made me think about it more. It made me think about art in a different way because I have to sell it, I have to talk about it and convince people of it’s beauty- and the more I did that I changed and began to actually like art and think about the life in art.

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Xolane Maswana talking about the art on show in her home, part of the Langa TAG tour.

How do you feel about having the TAGs in your homes, how has it benefited you and the community?

It was difficult last year, because it started in October and that was exam time. Visitors would come and I would have to stop studying and greet them. There might have been another tour guide to take them around but there was a point where I couldn’t really study on the weekends because I knew people would come and disturb me. And then studying in my bedroom didn’t help either (laughs) so I didn’t really like the whole thing. But after I finished school it was great because there were a lot of events happening, so I enjoyed it after the stress of Matric. Of course there are some challenges, some people don’t feel comfortable leaving their keys with us, we have to sometimes tell people the day before that there are people are coming, sometimes they’d say “I want to see the artwork now because I’m leaving in an hour” so it wasn’t very smooth from the beginning. But as we told people, the last minute booking are going to come, and they’ll pay and we want the money so we had a workshop about it and we spoke to everyone and shared how we all felt and tried to adjust to their feelings but we told them “if you want the money, we’re going to make this work.”