FUTURE CAPE TOWN | Voices of the City: Biénne Huisman

‘There are so many people who quietly go about doing cool stuff’


Voices of the City is a weekly feature that spotlights the everyday lives of our citizens, living and working in the city. By asking the same five questions to all our interviewees, we discover not only how our experiences of  the city differ, but also what we share. It is a daunting task to try and capture the diverse experiences of our city’s inhabitants, but we feel that it is a worthy, and necessary, endeavor, in order to better understand the present and future of our city. This week we hear from Biénne Huisman,  a senior journalist at City Press after a ten year stint at the Sunday Times. Huisman works, lives and plays in Cape Town.

Question: What about Cape Town inspires you the most?

A: There are so many people who quietly go about doing cool stuff. In a recent interview Lindela Mjenxane – founder of Beyond Expectation Environmental Project (Beep) – spoke of his beliefs on healing through nature. He takes kids from local townships on overnight treks around Table Mountain. His vision and passion is humbling. Then, the Zip-Zap Circus School in the city’s Foreshore… They have an open door policy with hundreds of students from different backgrounds. One of their present stars is Remember Nkakro who grew up sleeping on Long Street. In the past year Remember has performed in France and Wales. They have programs for kids living with HIV in Khayelitsha. Etch etc. Truly wonderful.

Aesthetically, Cape Town’s beauty continues to take me by surprise. A daily sensual assault in the best possible way.

Q: Do you have a secret space or place that you enjoy in the city?

I love the Book Lounge, corner Buitenkant and Roeland Street. They stock every conceivable book (just about) and have couches in soft-lit corners ideal for lunch breakaways. Their daily 6pm book launches are great conclusions to hectic days: non-stuffy conversations with relevant literati plus familiar faces or casual blend-in-anonymity, whichever you prefer. Oh, there’s free wine of course.

Q: What was the last exciting event you attended in the city?

A performance by Just Jinjer at slick inner-city hotel 15 on Orange’s stood out. The acoustics were superb; the food unpretentious, plenty and great. The Parlotones will be the hotel’s “Artist in Residence” on December 27 at R395 a person. Pricey but worth it (if their music is your bag). For those on a budget: Sea Point promenade, Pipetrack or Signall Hill sundowners for the win. Optimal views and décor for frikking free, yay.

Q: What frustrates you about Cape Town?

Cape Town is spatially divided and desperately in need of reform, I wish this could happen faster. The Cape Town World Design Capital team set out to “bridge divides through design” – ironically perhaps highlighting such chasms instead, as evidenced in the corporate “art” Ray Ban fracas this week. The sculpture spurred important debate. Still, I wish people would stop their slacktavist bitching in favour of more useful actions aimed at actually bringing about change. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Q: You can have dinner with one person living or dead. Who is it and why?

Over the years I’ve interviewed  / dined with / spent time with some pretty prolific people on the job. My honest preference is a braai with close, favourite people. I would’t say no to dinner at Nkandla, though. I have many questions like what exactly is a chicken run?