The workshop focused on ways in which we may move Cape Town from a colonial city into an equitable and celebrated multi-cultural future, so that all people may see their histories and memories represented. Workshop participants debated the following:
- How can history help us to shape more inclusive futures?
- What role can creativity play in the democracy-making process?
- How may the work of artists, designers, architects and other creatives help us to imagine more equitable urban futures?
- Participants agreed on the need for greater representation in the public life of the city by way of memorials, artefacts, architecture, art and events.
One way to achieve representation is greater participation and feedback into the Integrated Development Plan, a strategic tool that guides all the activities of local government in consultation with residents and stakeholders. The public participation process could be more accessible, inclusive and engaging, and in turn people should express ways they may be represented in the public iconography of the city.
Zahira Asmal, See project lead said, “The city’s extremes impel us to reflect on our past and analyse our circumstances in profound ways. They provide opportunities to engage with social and spatial challenges faced in cities more broadly and also serve as a reference and case study for other postcolonial cities both locally and internationally,”
“We are complex, philosophical, poetic beings as well as practical beings that require our histories and memories, alongside places and objects to nourish us and give meaning to our lives.
“When we see students protesting for better access to education, mothers crying for decent sanitation, it is not only a protest for services, but also a right to dignity, acknowledgement, care and ultimately to be recognised as human beings. People want and need to be seen and included in the public life of the city.”
Asmal said the seeds of the See project were planted while she was undertaking research for her Movement series of publications on Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. These analysed the economic, political, spatial, social and cultural movements that have created South Africa’s major cities.
“I noted responses from black and brown residents who expressed that they frequently feel ignored or unacknowledged in Cape Town. And in instances when they don’t feel invisible, they attested to feeling hyper-visible or exoticised – singled out on the basis of difference.
“Considering that black and brown people constitute 84,3% of Cape Town’s population, it is alarming that so many attest to feeling invisible or unrepresented, as evidenced by the numerous protests across the city. That such oppression is routinely shrugged off or deemed normal signals an urgent need to explore the generative potential in the hybrid aspects of contemporary life in Cape Town.”
Workshop delegates gave feedback on how they wanted to be able to interact and be seen as individuals, families and communities in a more adaptive, agile city.
Dutch Consul General Sebastiaan Messerschmid said: “Project See opens our eyes to the fact that belonging somewhere needs to be reflected in the city. Are my people’s heroes represented? Is the public space welcoming to me? Can I feel at home here?
“We Dutch have a particular past in this country, both through our support of the anti-apartheid struggle and also the slavery and discriminatory past from the VOC. We feel connected to today’s developments in South Africa and want to be involved in these conversations. Therefore, we wholeheartedly support the space for these discussions to happen. This project run by Zahira Asmal and her agency, The City, is essential.”