Yesterday I discussed a paper by Derya Özkan which briefly critiqued slum tourism. In the paper she mentions the blog “Favela Chic: The Formal Informal” by Adrianna Navarro Sertich. This blog focuses primarily on the informal city as such. However, as she also discusses the current fascination the North has with informality and “favelas”, it does contain interesting posts for those interested in slum tourism as well and is worth a look.
In an earlier post I mentioned how we are trying to get some sort of overview on where slum tourism takes place. Doing this, we found certain forms of slum tourism that are temporary in nature rather than permanent.
A good example of this can be found in the paper Gecekondu Chic by Derya Özkan, based on her PhD-thesis. She only discusses slum tourism briefly when she criticises the way in which it canturn poverty into a spectacle that can be aesteticised and consumed. However, particularly interesting is her discussion of the Istanbul Bennial in 2003. Here informal housing (Gecekondu in Turkish) was used for an exhibited art project called “Ada”. A simulation gecekondu was built together with gecokondu builders from real life in the open in the backyard of the exhibition venue “Antrepo”.
While the intention of the project was to highlight the production process of the gecekondu, it became a spectacle and was later criticised for aesthecisising the gecekondu and turning it into a cultural commmodity that can be consumed much in the same way as slum tourism in other places.
Although not intended as such, it would certainly seem that the Ada project created the first type of gecekondu tourism. I am not aware of more recent gecekondu tourism projects and/or gecekondu tours, but this example does show that temporal forms of slum tourism at least may be more common than we think.
Yesterday evening was the viewing of the first episode of “Famous and Rich in The Slums“, a BBC reality television programme for British charity Comic Relief in which 4 celebrities go and live in the slums of Kibera for one week. Rather than merely visiting the celebrities are really “slumming it”. They get an initial £1.60 and have to survive for the next week by working together with local people for local wages, whilst staying overnight in one of the shanties. It is an interesting idea and the show seems to get fairly positive reviews.
Watching the programme made me wonder whether such total immersion could become a new form of slum tourism for tourists that want to go beyond the normal tours or overnight stays. Notwithstanding ethical as well as health and safety issues, it could provide tourists with a desired more “authentic” experience and break down some of the barriers between local people and tourists.
On the other hand, one has to wonder whether tourists would actually want such an immersed experience. The television show tries to bring across the harshness of life in Kiberia and this may certainly be more than what tourists would like to enjoy during their holidays. In the townships of South Africa overnight stays that allow for more social interaction with local people than the mainstream township tours, receive relatively few visitors. I would expect the numbers for a total immersion experience to be even far less.
It would appear that the majority of people that visit slums prefer the lack of time and interaction. This makes it easier to distance themselves from the reality around them; observing the other and talking about local life with a tour guide rather than engaging with local people more directly? Nevertheless with slum tourism slowly developing around the world, who can say that such total immersion tours would never arrive?
The show can be watched back on iPlayer until 17 March and the second episode will be aired Thursday 10 March 9 pm on BBC1.
Update: Having watched both episodes now, the series does leave some sort of a bad aftertaste. Particularly the second episode takes a very negative stance upon life in Kibera and does little to show the entrepreneurial and positive aspects of life in this area. This is a shame as it makes the show come across somewhat voyeuristic in my perspective.
I recently found this link regarding a film documentary called “Women are Heroes” made by French street photographer JR. It portraits women and their daily issue in among others Kibera and Rio de Janeiro as well as showing massive photos of women in these areas as a form of art. Although I have not seen the documentary, the trailer is intriguing:
As far as I know the documentary will only be shown in a limited number of places, but it certainly seems very interesting, particularly for those interested in the representation of slums in popular culture and the potential influence on tourism.
News stories and opinion articles on Slum tourism in December
Murder is killing business in Gugs – The murder of British tourist Shrien Dewani is ‘killing business’ in Gugulethu township in South Africa
Rio Sweeps Slums Ahead Of Tourism Rush – Article about the military raids in the Rocinha Favela in Rio de Janeiro. The author makes the case that these raids are done in order for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
On a more positive note, a South African Wine Company chose Gugulethu as the place to launch their new wine label. The article reads to me a bit as an advertisement but it is interesting that a company would chose the townships for such launches.
An extensive personal account looking at benefits and disadvantages of slum tourism can be found at http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-12/slum-tourism-debate.html.
Do you know of any news articles regarding slum tourism? Please let us know using the contact form!
http://www.montrealcampus.ca/la-misere-des-riches: Recently an article on Slum tourism appeared in French on the website of Montrealcampus, mainly regarding the ethical aspects of the subject.
Left at the Crossroads: Ogling the poor: Slum tourism was also the subject of a column by Marc Saint-Upéry, discussing the ethics of slum tourism and linking favela tourism to tourism in Victorian times.
Towship tourism: A mixed blessing: Not so much an article on township tourism, but a photographical slideshow that depicts the concept of township toursin South Africa fairly well.