Ricky, the host of Trace the city’s history of Apartheid in Cape Town, is no stranger to adversity. As a person of color, his first-hand experience of the brutality of apartheid shaped who he is and his view of the world. He grew up a middle child in a household of seven kids, and his father and siblings ostracised him because he found solace in the church choir. He was beaten inside the walls of his home, and bullied outside on the streets by white teenagers. He lived a life behind bars.
Years later, his complex history followed him like a shadow. Where he could have chosen another route, he once again found solace in the church. Through his involvement with the community, Ricky made his life about perseverance, compassion, and belonging. He turned his past life of rejection into a mission to give back, and now gives guests a front row seat to how he and his city have transformed.
We asked Ricky to reflect on his experience (both as a host and a Cape Town resident) on what transformation means to him and how he encourages his guests to be open to change.
Tell us what the word “transformation” means to you.
Transformation can only take place when positive action is applied through knowledge received.
How do you overcome personal challenges?
I don’t have baggage. I’ve got a backpack of experience. And in that backpack is something I can use to enhance the life of somebody else… My personal challenge at the end of every day—it makes no difference who I come across during my day—“Ricky, did you add value?” Because I believe we must impact people in a positive way. There is a constant battle within. People always think I’m cool and calm and I never show any aggression, but that is because everybody wants to be in control, everybody wants to be in charge. But how many people exercise control of themselves?… I accept everybody today because I do believe that everybody is of equal value.
How do you embrace change within?
You have to embrace everything about yourself — the good and the bad. Because that’s what makes you the whole person. I’ve embraced everything about my life because that has assisted me in becoming the person I am today. Too many times, people want to turn around and say, “I love this about you, but I don’t like that – change it.” I just happened to have utilized the bad and turned it into something positive because of what I have experienced, I understand where other people come from.
What do you want guests to learn from your experience, or how would you like them to feel after it’s over?
Despite the differences of geographic locations or cultures, our humanity connects and binds us through our humanity.
What new perspectives do you hope your guests gain after they’ve been on your experience?
Different worlds can connect through history to see the beauty of people in a different light as opposed to what the media portrays.
Do you have any words of advice for other hosts on how to create or encourage a safe space for change and openness?
To weave personal threads through the experience to encourage questions. This leads to knowing your guests interests and adapt the experience to make it personal for them.
If you’re in Cape Town, check out Ricky’s experience to view the city’s history and a world of forgiveness through his lens.