The See Studio is a series of exchanges, expert presentations, tours and team work taking place virtually and in Cape Town from 1 to 30 November 2022. Ten experts from Africa and the Netherlands, representing a range of creative disciplines, will each be allocated a theme and a partner, and will work together virtually and on site in Cape Town.
The participants will exchange ideas, debate, and develop methodologies with the long-term goal of bringing about representational equity in the public life of cities shadowed by colonialism. The See Studio, led by Zahira Asmal and produced by The City, will conclude with a public programme where work created during the studio will be shared at locations selected by the participants and facilitated by The City team.
Urbanist Zahira Asmal says: “The See Studio brings people together from various geographical, cultural and creative backgrounds that have a connection to Cape Town’s past and present in order to fashion representative, inclusive places. I provided a brief, themes and guidance, and the outcomes will be revealed on 26 and 27 of November with the public programme.”
Zahira says Cape Town has been selected as the location of the See Studio as it is a global port city, a hub for both the voluntary and forced migration of people. While its citizens reflect multiple, diverse histories, Cape Town has largely been modelled as an assimilated version of Europe and is not equally inclusive of all its cultures.
“Cape Town was founded on public policy grounded on exclusion, initially through colonialism and later by apartheid, and lacks representation as a democratic city. It’s time for us to acknowledge and explore our pasts truthfully and meaningfully if we are to make Cape Town the city we wish her to be, for all.”
The See Studio is supported by the Creative Industries Fund and DutchCulture, in partnership with Het Nieuwe Instituut and the Research Centre for Material Culture. The Studio forms part of an ongoing transnational project, See, created by Zahira and produced by her agency The City, in collaboration with individuals and institutions interested in history, memory, and placemaking.
THEMES AND PARTICIPANTS
The See Studio participants will explore five broad themes, with the intention of making Cape Town more representative and inclusive:
- Taming the Wild: (DE)colonial Imprints in Cape Town’s Natural World.
- Invisible hybridity: A journey into Music, Language, and Literature of the Cape.
- The rituals of remembering: Intergenerational healing in forgotten histories.
- Architectures of Resistance: Encountering justice through memory.
- How to belong here? Ways of making home in Cape Town
These themes have been identified by Zahira, drawing on her research in both South Africa and internationally. The participants will present the outcomes in a public forum as part of the See Festival. The work will also be presented in the I See You website. Read more about the five themes and the participants who will explore them:
Theme 1: Taming the Wild: (DE)colonial Imprints in Cape Town’s Natural World.
The iconic reflection of Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, surrounded by breath-taking mountains and beaches, is a well-known image of the city. This theme seeks to uncover the knowledges embedded within the ecological environment of Cape Town, providing spaces to explore the possible rituals or practices that unearth or access this knowledge. Some of these embedded knowledges have been subjected to historical forms of erasure and exclusion.
The erasure of significant spiritual landmarks, in particular, has re-emerged with the recent private sale of memorial grounds to multinational corporations and property developers. The continued imposition and benefit of consumer-driven institutions over these rooted rituals and practices of communities have become a common characteristic of the City of Cape Town: Detached bureaucracies that assume instead of engaging, and dictate instead of communicating with community stakeholders, what they envision for particular spaces. Examples of communities’ resistance to protect their land from the clutches of private development have been the Princess Vlei wetland system and the intersection of the Liesbeek and Black Rivers. These sacred grounds have been subjected to direct corporate threat.
The modelling of Cape Town as an assimilated version of Europe has created visible trauma on the landscape. From the forced removals in District Six (amidst the many other dislocations) to the imposition of the alien Port Jackson trees on the dunes of the Cape Flats, these have destroyed both the social cohesion of communities and the indigenous fynbos of the local floral kingdom.
The disruption and “taming of the wild” has been a common characteristic of the city, imposing control on nature. This theme further explores the environment for insights into recreational and physical activities prior to colonial settlement.
What are some moments of archival significance present within nature? The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the Company’s Garden in the city centre are both locations drenched in colonial history, rife with examples of attempting to control the environment. What are some ways in which self-organised collaboratives emerge, redesigning space through community gardens and parks? This theme provides participants with creative spaces to not only imagine these encounters and how colonial settlement disrupted relations with nature, but their retaliation to this as well.