Going Local in South Africa with Matthias Boettcher

Discover more than the obvious of Africa's Southern country

Going Local in South Africa with Matthias Boettcher

Matthias Boettcher is a Berlin-based tattooer. He just launched his recent art project IdeaNoir, which is dedicated to sharing inspiration across counter-culture. All kinds of themes that go beyond tattooing, like his extensive travels or passion for photography are the subject matter of his blog and social channels. He also does art printing and publishing for hand-picked artists, which led to an ongoing series of exhibitions.

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Paying attention to details

I went to South Africa earlier this year to join the South African Tattoo Convention, which is a well organized and reasonable meeting with tattooers from around the world. I was sharing a booth with friends from the United States. We had lots of fun and few tattoos to do. It ́s definitely worth to check out.

The City Cape Town felt very European to me and I like that it’s inhabited by people from lots of different cultures. Besides all the friendly people in Cape Town and all the good food and the amazing view on the landscape around the city, you will also find a very tough city with a lot of social contrasts. The Architecture is mostly old and historical, I really enjoyed to just walk around the city and the way it’s built is very easy to find yourself. The great view of the Table Mountain and Lion’s head is just amazing.

Where to go to get the best tattoo

I was invited to share a very nice apartment with my friends on Longmarket street, just next to the Eastern food bazaar. This place is a must go! From here everything was basically in walking distance.

My friends and I spent 1 week more in Cape Town before their departure. We mostly hung out at Tomb Tattoo. It’s a good place to get tattooed while you are in Cape Town. You will like the mood in the shop and the Owner Nicholas and his crew are super nice people.

I had the chance to have a look into daily Cape Town life, that’s the best thing! If you get the chance to hang out with local people when you are traveling, do it.

Going vegan in South Africa?

I found Cape Town a very young, evolving and growing city. You will see lots of art, skateboarding, street art, tattoos, photography and vegan food which are also my interests.

Because I was hanging out with locals I discovered a few art shows in Woodstock, which is a pretty neet district where everything about art. I was also taken to bars, discos, tattoo studios, vegan restaurants and lots of sightseeing was involved. I pretty much went to all the vegan restaurants in Cape Town, which are mostly in our area anyway. There is The Hungry Herbivore, Raw, and Roxy, Royale Eatery, just to name a few.

 How I met Duran Levinson

At Tomb Tattoo, I met Duran Levinson. He is a photographer from Cape Town. He was contacting me via Instagram because he heard I was in town. He wanted to get tattooed by me.
I checked out his work and was very impressed with his photographs. His work is mainly street photography and portraits of people, but with that little twist and an eye for the raw and unusual. I was asking him if we want to trade our work and he was up for that, so I did a tiger on his leg and he took some photos of me.

You can see his exhibition in Berlin on the 21st of October. All the info you can find here.

Matthias Boettcher is a Berlin-based tattooer. He just launched his recent art project IdeaNoir, which is dedicated to sharing inspiration across counter-culture. All kinds of themes that go beyond tattooing, like his extensive travels or passion for photography are the subject matter of his blog and social channels. He also does art printing and publishing for hand-picked artists, which led to an ongoing series of exhibitions.

Going Local in South Africa at the Garden Route

Almost two weeks of hanging out and taking it easy in Cape Town, it was time to leave the place and go on the road and head east. I picked up my friend Stephen from the airport, who came from Spain to do this road trip with me.

We took our rental car and it was the first time in my life I had to drive on the right side of the road. Maybe because it was night time maybe because I wasn’t used to it, I felt super uncomfortable. But on the next day, it felt normal. So don’t be afraid of that. It’s kinda funny.

So we headed out of Cape Town and took the Garden Route. The Garden Route is one of the most famous regions in the South Africa, along with the national road N2.

Our destination was Durban, another city on the east coast. A local friend gave me a list of places to visit and to see. Believe me, in South Africa, there are hundreds more, but take your time to find your favorites. After a five hours driving, we arrived at Mossel Bay where we stayed our first night. The next morning we had to go a little further to the first destination on our list which I’m going to tell you on the next item.

…into the Wilderness.

The place where we wanted to go was a cave. A cave in an abandoned train track. And this train track was somewhere in Wilderness. Easy, right? In case you guys are lost with my text, Wilderness is the name of the city and not really the wilderness.

Back to the story now. Stephen and I, dummies, decided that it would be easier to ask for information at the tourist information of Wilderness. What an awful idea! This isn’t a tourist place at all! People are actually advised not to go there. So, at the tourist information, the guy just stood up, came to us and did a weird face after our question. He said “I know exactly where you want to go, but I’m not allowed to tell you. It ́s too dangerous.”

This, of course, had the opposite effect on us. It made us even more interested! He gave us a little bit of direction which we didn’t understand. But we followed the best way we could.

Halfway down to the beach we found the infamous train tracks. After this, we knew we were on the right way. Good! We walked along the tracks for about half hour and followed the signs that said “high mugging area”. If you’re planning to follow my steps, after all this you should find a tunnel. If you find it, you’re in the right place.

The tunnel was too damn dark and too long. We couldn’t see the end of it. After some time walking inside, we spotted a bit of light. The scary tunnel part was over!

We were a little frightened but after I saw whats waiting on the other side, all was gone. The place we wanted to find is a cave where people transformed into their home. How amazing is that?

With a lot of love nice decoration, they made few rooms and a big patio. It was just amazing and heart-warming. We said “hi” and they welcomed us and invited us in to have a look around. They even invited us to have a sit for a bit and have a nice chat. Very polite and good-hearted people live there!

One of the people that live in this amazing cave guided us back to our car and we left Wilderness with a smile on our faces.
And if you visiting the cave leave some love and happiness. And of course some donation.

Judah Square, Khayalethu South, a suburb of Knysna

The next stop was Knysna which was only one hour away from Wilderness. I knew there was a Rasta community in the area and Google said people are welcome to visit. Since we both like reggae, we decided to go. A lo

In the morning we drove into Khayalethu to look for the community. You basically have to follow the one road through the township and it will take you directly to it. Mega easy!

We arrived and spotted a gate which was immediately opened for us. How welcoming is that? It was great! We were invited to visit a little lodge which also held a little museum of Judah Square with photographs and more. There was also a little shop with herbs to buy.

We sat down for quite a while and had good talks with Ruben, the dude that invited us into the community. A few more people of Judah Square were coming and leaving and it was super interesting to have little talks and get this little look behind the scenes into the life of the local people. It was amazing.

Check out Eastern Cape

After leaving Knysna you enter the Eastern Cape, a beautiful province where the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian ocean meet. This place is famous for surfing and you will find great spots to do that. But if you’re not, it is also a great spot to visit. I’m not into surfing and I was impressed by the huge waves and the idyllic bay along the cost.

We spent a few over this place and headed to Durban, which was our original destination for the day. On the way, we spoke to a lot of local people and mostly when I asked to take their pictures they were fine with that. So if you’re into portraits, South Africans can be your favorite subjects.

Jeffrey’s Bay and Coffee Bay are two places you should check out when you’re traveling the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape. Take a note about that!

Finally, we reached Durban. It was already night and we needed to catch our flight in the morning. I can’t tell a lot about Durban since we only spent the night but the whole trip to Durban was the joy of the day. You should rent a car and do the same.

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Going Local is a series of interviews that we are doing with people that live and enjoy the city they live. You can read more interviews filled with tips here. And if you want to be featured here, this link will tell you how. We're always looking for more locals to share their favorite spots!