The Overstrand has a brand-new and unique accolade to add to its already impressive list of reasons why the Whale Coast is one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) last week announced that the Overstrand has been designated as Africa’s first Gastronomy Creative City.

The Overstrand has been designated as the first Gastronomy Creative City in Africa, joining Cape Town and Durban as the only other two cities in South Africa to be included, respectively, as designated Creative Cities in Design and Literature in 2017.

“This is a win for the whole area stretching from Rooiels to Buffeljagsbaai. It is a win for the fishermen, the pancake makers, bakers, winemakers, beer brewers, distillers, foodies, farmers, coffee roasters, farm stalls, those who pick the fruit, stir the pots and serve the clients,” says Cape Whale Coast Tourism Manager, Frieda Lloyd, who points out that the gastronomy designation covers the whole range of “farm-to-fork” activities that happen every day across the Overstrand and is not specific to Hermanus nor to restaurants.

In total, sixty-six new cities were designated as UNESCO Creative Cities last week by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay. Since 2004, when the initiative was launched, 246 cities across the world have qualified to be part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) in one of seven categories: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music.

To qualify to be part of UCCN, a city must commit to “placing creativity and the creative economy at the core of their urban development plans to make cities safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable, in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” says UNESCO.

In the application process, candidate cities must also present a  medium-term, four-year action plan describing the main initiatives that the city commits to in achieving the Network’s objectives.

The Overstrand has proposed to UNESCO that it will implement the following:

  • The Hermanus Overstrand Food Bank Project

Forming the cornerstone of the gastronomy designation, a Food Bank will be set up to galvanise the Overstrand community to work in a more coordinated way to address social problems. The project will involve supermarkets and restaurants and include the role that education, technology, food gardens and forest foraging play in addressing food security.

 A Junior Master Chef Competition

This project will be held annually on 21 March to coincide with World Home Economics Day and will have a schools division as well as a post-school category.

Africa’s first Gastronomy Creative City

  • A Hap ‘n Stap Festival / Walking Up An Appetite Festival

    Taking advantage of the 12 km of cliff pathways that hug Walker Bay, this festival, modelled on the famous Dutch HapStap, will create pop-up food stalls along the length of the path.
  • A Hermanus Eco Film Festival @ Gansbaai

    Building on the Overstrand’s reputation for outstanding land-based whale watching and great white sharks, a largely nautical-themed eco film festival will be held in Gansbaai.
  • The Overstrand Farm to Table Festival

    Intended to be Overstrand’s foremost international festival, since it cuts across several of the UNESCO creative fields, the Overstrand Farm to Table Festival will showcase the authenticity of the restaurant scene in sourcing its products from the Overberg. Building on the uniqueness of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the festival will also embed a flower festival for the gastronomic arts. The role of ceramicists and glassblowers in the Overstrand will also be highlighted.
  • The Overberg Hermanus Padkos Festival

    This festival aims to highlight two of the three things that the Overberg is famous for – fine food and scenic drives. The aim of the festival is to democratise the word gastronomy by reaching out to the farm stalls dotted around the Overberg that make a road trip through this agricultural heartland all the more memorable. Everyone will be given the chance to be a part of the gastronomy scene by selling delicious food at farmers’ markets. This will be the festival to launch Hermanus as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy since it is inexpensive to run and will have mass appeal.
  • The Hermanus Pinot Noir Festival

    Building on this already successful annual event, the aim is to expand the activities of the festival.
  • The Dionysus & Ambrosia Literary Festival

    This will be a festival with international possibilities to celebrate the language of food. 

The Overstrand Municipality has committed R1 million over four years towards these festivals, with the rest of the funding hopefully coming from sponsors, Wesgro and the Overberg District Municipality.

In 2023, the Overstrand Municipality will need to submit a Membership Monitoring Report to UNESCO detailing the progress and results of these projects and festivals. Creative Cities must also commit to send at least one representative, ideally together with the mayor, to the annual conference of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Next year’s conference will be held in Santos, Brazil with the 2021 conference being held in Istanbul, Turkey. 

Along with Overstrand Hermanus, nine other cities were designated gastronomy Creative Cities. These are Afyonkarahisar (Turkey), Arequipa (Peru), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Bendigo (Australia), Bergamo (Italy), Hyderabad (India), Mérida (Mexico), Portoviejo (Ecuador) and Yangzhou (China).

These ten will now join the 26 cities, including Parma (Italy), Bergen (Norway), Hatay (Turkey) and Phuket (Thailand), which already have the gastronomy designation. 

Sustainable development lies at the heart of Hermanus. It has rebuilt
itself from starting out as an inhumane whaling station to today, not only being known as the whale capital of South Africa but also being voted
the top land-based whale-watching destination in the world. Moreover,
the city is home to SA’s first UNESCO biosphere, the UNESCO Kogelberg
Biosphere. It is said to have the most diverse species of flora in the world, more than the entire British Isles and the Amazon. Lastly, it is considered a top food destination, not because it has the top restaurants but because of the authenticity of its ingredients, which are largely sourced from within an 80 km radius all throughout the Overberg region, the agricultural
heartland of South Africa. Foraging is what differentiates Hermanus from the truly big cities. Their entire food culture is based on sustainability
and protecting the environment, from banning straws and bottled water
to the banning by restaurants of wrapped sweets and wet wipes.

Excerpt from Overstrand Hermanus’ 2019 Application to UNESCO

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