Constructing the tourist gaze in KwaZulu-Natal: the production and representation of “Zuluness”. A study of cultural villages (PheZulu and Ecabazini) and tour operators (Vuka Africa and 1st Zulu Safaris).
Dlamini, Nokulunga Zamantshali Portia.
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This research study explores the production of contemporary tourism brochures, as it constructs the tourist gaze. Representation within contemporary brochures mirror post-colonial history depicting stereotypical dynamics of ethnic separateness and racial dominance commoditizing Zulu culture to sustain tourism business. Myths and legends are incorporated, telling the story about cultural villages (PheZulu and Ecabazini) and cultural tours (Vuka Africa and 1st Zulu Safari). This study arises from recognising that tourism representation post-apartheid is still grounded on postcolonial discourse where ‘othering’ is still a notion where ‘Zuluness’ is commodified and transacted for maximising profits. Taking a cultural approach, this study employs the ‘encoding’ model (Hall et al., 2013) expounding on how ‘Zuluness’ as a discourse is negotiated and encoded on contemporary tourism brochures. Cultural imperialism and Orientalism have been used as frameworks to deploy the research study. In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the tourism professionals who are key in the production of brochures from (PheZulu Cultural Village and Ecabazini Cultural Homestead) and (Vuka Africa tours and 1st Zulu Safari). An in-depth semiotic analysis of four brochures respectively, was also examined to establish encoding processes engaged in constructing the tourist gaze. The interviews and the semiotic analysis of brochures demonstrated the intentional portrayals of Zulu identities, landscapes and Zulu culture within a capitalist perspective. The production process highlights a relationship of those who have the means (financial resources) and the voice (legitimate means) to control, determine and authorises the cultural heritage that is exhibited on media promoting destinations. This dissertation acknowledges the appropriate and suitable construction of the tourist gaze as embedded on myths of ‘Zuluness.’ What remains a contentious issue in this study is that, if ‘Zuluness’ is a fluid phenomenon, why then does tourism representation in the democratic era not illustrate continuity and transformation by embracing the new myth which accentuates the Rainbow Nation, endorsing social cohesion?