VoiceMap is an app that merges storytelling with history; creating an immersive experience that takes listeners on imaginative journeys via unconventional walking routes. Cape Town, like most cities, is palimpsestuous where residues of the past, present complexities, and future aspirations are felt simultaneously. It’s physical geography is suffused with untold tales that don’t always make newspaper headlines, Wikipedia pages or become part of museum displays – but they do exist and weave together, forming a rich tapestry brimming with urban life. While the grand narratives of our history are paramount to the country’s collective conscious, sometimes we neglect to hear or find the smaller stories, and these can be equally enlightening. 

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Woodstock, for example, is a prolific creative precinct, a melting pot of industrial enterprises, residential homes and artisnal businesses. It’s recent revival has resulted in hordes of Capetonians enjoying Saturday brunch at the Biscuit Mill, weekday lunches at the Exchange, viewing exhibitions at WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery, buying second-hand clothing and re-upholstered furniture. And yet, how many know Woodstock beach ceased to exist after the 1950s when the city reclaimed the foreshore? Or that some houses just around the corner from the Exchange have been home to a few generations and were originally fishing cottages? What of being a tourist in your own city, taking a walk and realising that the abundant street art isn’t an aesthetic embellishment, but an attempt to encourage a spirit of community and showcase work done by local and international artists?

The best way to discover the essence of a place is to walk through it, to feel its kinetic energy first-hand rather than simply peering at the landscape through a car or café window. VoiceMap’s Woodstock Street Art Tour is a twenty five minute stroll around the residential area surrounding the Exchange and partly narrated by Rasheed, a well-known artist and community leader who tragically passed away during the process of creating the route. Hearing his voice reveal the history behind each artwork – some unmissable and others less likely to be stumbled upon – renders a poignant and heartfelt experience, as though you’re listening to an old friend talking about his home with fondness and compassion.  

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The premise of VoiceMap lets people take ownership of the spaces they occupy and allows listeners to engage with the city in refreshing ways. It’s a global movement for storytellers, locals and historians to create their own routes, to share interesting anecdotes and surprising titbits about places that intrigue them. To listen, all you need do is download the app on your smartphone and put on your headphones. Their selection of Mother City tours outweighs Joburg but there’s nothing stopping you from deciding to do a little research and mapping your own one – they have a free publishing tool and editors to help. 

To tell your story or to go on this tour and others, visit www.voicemap.me

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