See is a transnational project which brings together cities, institutions, activists, artists, designers, and other creatives to exchange ideas, debate and develop methodologies to bring about representational equity in the public life of our cities. It draws on emergent transnational solidarity and coalition strategies to fashion more equitable urban futures in the aftermath of colonialism, slavery and apartheid.
Focused on the city of Cape Town, South Africa, a core intention of See is to move scholarly information in archives and museums, and dialogues that have emerged out of recent social justice struggles, into the mainstream. This is important, so that all people may see themselves in the making of the city, past and present, and be encouraged to contribute to positive future making, and in their own image. A second core intention is to recover the idea of Cape Town as a hybrid city. In colonised cities across the world, extensive work went into preparing a tabula rasa or blank slate, ‘cleansing’ public space of time and history so that the colonisers could construct their own orders, references and visual cultures. We need to make the shift from the outdated fixity of the colonial city, which is diminishing and damaging, to a more resilient, agile and adaptable hybrid city based on mixedness and mixing. Outdated ideologies of racial purity and uniqueness are a toxic dead end. Our strength lies not only in diversity but also in transgressive hybridity.
See aims to widen the scope and range of our knowledge about the contributions that various individuals and visionary groups of people have made to the texture of Cape Town’s urban life. Through doing so, it aims to wrestle Cape Town’s hybrid spirit from apartheid’s enduring spatial legacies. The project is driven by an endeavour to document and disseminate marginalised histories and memories, to widen the scope of our thinking about the city, and open out to more inclusive futures.
We want to share information about who contemporary Capetonians are and where they come from so that we can meet each other in a place of greater respect and knowing. We need to remember diverse pasts and recall heterodox inheritances, understanding that no single narrative constitutes the truth of our shared and separate histories.
While focused on Cape Town, See offers insights for global discussions on contested urban histories, and the construction of resilient postcolonial spaces and identities. The project works with a number of partner cities and institutions, looking to those that have challenges with contested urban histories and those that have successfully integrated representative symbols into their landscapes, literature and teachings.