“First came the Nazis, then the Communists, and now the tourists.” The citizens of Prague may feel weighed down by the constant invasions of the last century, but, for better or worse, its architecture and history have made tourism the driving force of the city’s economy. This edition of Ideas from Cities picks up some ideas from this hotspot, beyond the buildings, which could work in Cape Town too.
1. PEACEFUL PROTESTS
Capetonians are no strangers to protesting, and the relationship seems in no danger of ending. But if there must be protests, let them be peaceful. The people of Prague showed that they had had enough after 40 years of communist rule by organising mass demonstrations during which they symbolically jingled their house keys. These subtle, yet powerful, gestures were just about enough to usher in democracy, and contributed to the “Velvet Revolution” (so named because of its gentle nature).
2. ART WITH A SENSE OF HUMOUR
Dotted around the city of Prague are the sculptures of Czech artist, David Cerny. Each is offbeat, most are tongue-in-cheek, and tourists can have great fun exploring Prague in search of these statues. Equally as delightful is stumbling upon a giant metal baby or dangling Freud when one least expects it. Ingenious artists, with a South African sense of humour, could bring visitors to unchartered nooks and crannies of Cape Town by making art fun.
3. LEGAL GRAFFITI
The Lennon Wall in Prague is a length of wall, off the beaten track, which became a popular way for graffiti artists to commemorate John Lennon after his death. Despite the communist authorities repeatedly painting over the vandalised wall, this particular form of expression could not be quelled. Today, the wall is still a colourful tribute to the Freedom of Expression and visitors make a point of adding their messages to it – either quoting Beatles lyrics, or writing about peace, love and inspiration in general. Would a condoned graffiti wall, in the CBD, on the highway, or in Woodstock, reduce the occurrence of vandalism elsewhere?
4. CELEBRATION OF THE CITY’S LESS OBVIOUS PERSONALITIES
Come to Prague and you won’t leave without knowing a whole lot more about Franz Kafka, the celebrated Czech writer who would only be celebrated after his death, and the Golem, a Jewish mythological figure said to be resting in the city’s oldest synagogue. Prague has spared no expense in capitalising on these figures in the form of museums, monuments, restaurants and merchandise. Similarly, Cape Town could stake a claim to personalities like Irma Stern, the artist who lived in Rondebosch for many years, or do more to remember and educate about Saartjie Baartman, the slave who tragically was shipped from Cape Town to Europe for a life of exploitation and ridicule.
5. MEDIEVAL FEASTS
A fun evening out in Prague may comprise partaking in a medieval feast; a themed dinner hosted at several venues in the city which includes a hearty meal, atmospheric décor and cheesy entertainment. Given the popularity of television shows like Game Of Thrones, such venues – with an African twist, of course – may go down equally well in Cape Town on a rainy day.