WE ARE THE BEATUTIFUL ONES
Negotiating Legitimate and Illegitimate spaces in Cape Town
What is the relationship between public space and blackness in Cape Town? Space definition and allocation in the context of apartheid was premised around various dis-enfranchisements which restricted the ‘right of the city’ to non-whites. In post-apartheid South Africa and Cape Town in particular, space definition and allocation continues to mirror its apartheid past centred around binaries of ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ spaces,’ humanised’ and ‘de-humanised’ spaces, ‘modernity’ and the ‘other’/underbelly of modernity. Thus the ‘other’ space was rationalised on the existence of ‘fixed and docile’ black bodies. The creation of township space worked to cast ‘black’ identity into a fixed territory. The result is a limited range of negotiable spaces for the ‘black’ body and ‘black’ psyche. We use Bhabha’s concept of ‘hybridity’ to offer counter narratives of “blackness” that space allocation or essentialism continues to view as fixed. To do this, we ask, how does one think about blackness as it relates to the complex experiences of township life? Beyond the ‘township blackness’ that is packaged, marketed and sold by tour companies as an ‘authentic’ by-product of blackness, what are counter narratives of blackness and place making? How does ‘blackness’ navigate the afore-mentioned binaries in relation to the right to the city’? We will interrogate these questions through a critical analysis of collectives such as Gugulective and Ntyilo-Ntyilo: A Vocal Museum by Masello Motanapitsi. We argue that performance empowers ‘black bodies’ to re-imagine and re-invent futures beyond the ‘ghetto’, despair, poverty and hate. Emanating from a conscious critical social science perspective, we analyse how collectives such as Gugulective situate the ‘performance of blackness’ within a framework of ‘LOVE’ that encompasses various practices and processes. In this way, and in a critical theory stance, we argue that ‘performance’ directs attention towards other possibilities. ‘Performance’ is thus ‘production’, ‘re-invention’ and ‘imagination’ of the relationship between ‘blackness’ and ‘space’ in a context where contemporary Cape Town continues to resist black narratives of ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ in the public ‘legitimate’ spaces where colonial and apartheid monuments continue to perform a generational violence on what it means to be black in ‘post’- apartheid South Africa. Performance’ thus serves as an acupuncture point, allowing for circulation, catharsis and healing meaning the most important thing is not the aesthetic object or product but the collective ; the beautiful ones negotiating and re-making the future against odds.
VASIKI Creative Citizens
VASIKI Creative Citizens is a knowledge production and distribution collective that uses creative practices beyond aesthetics but as practices for knowledge production, civic activism, social engagement and problem solving tools. Vasiki embodies creativity as a meeting point in engaging with the social, political, economic issues of the day thereby placing creativity at the service of society.
Khanyisile Mbongwa is an award winning performance and installation artist and curator. She uses movement, poetry, sculpture and collaborative photography to unpack issues around the identity of place, gender and racial politics. In 2006 Khanyisile Mbongwa was amongst the founding members of Gugulective. She has since exhibited and performed in and around Cape Town and Johannesburg, in Berlin, Spain, Pakistan, Scotland, Hamburg, New York, Switzerland and Sri Lanka. In 2014 she interned at GIPCA under the supervision of Jay Pather, curated the PreLIFE talks and assisted with the general running of Life Art Festival. In 2014 she won the Africa Centre – Artist In Residency Laureate and took up residency at JIWAR in Spain in 2015. Mbongwa was the Special Guest at Liste Art Fair Basel 2015. In 2016 she curated What Will We Tell Freedom?, a public intervention performances kwaLanga as part of Africa Centre’s Infecting The City. As part of Cape Town Art Week, Mbongwa curated a collaborative performance piece titled ‘My Body Is Not An Apology’ with Buhlebezwe Siwani and Thando Doni. In 2013, she curated ‘Demonstrations: Performing Being Black’ at Brundyn+ Gallery, a two part exhibition that focused on photography, installation pieces and performances in township public spaces. In 2012, together with the late Unathi Sigenu, she won the MTN New Contemporary Artist Award. In 2010 she had a solo experimental exhibition at Blank Project Space entitled ‘Ndizakuyivula Ibhayibile’. Currently doing her Masters in Interdisciplinary Art, public art and public sphere at the Institute of Creative Art UCT, Mbongwa also works with HANDSPRING TRUST as Executive Director.
Mike Tigere Mavura is currently a visiting lecturer at Rhodes University in the Department of Political and International Studies. His doctorate research [submitted for examination] is titled Re-thinking International Relations in a transnational world: Contextualizing cross-border migration in Southern Africa and it explores the on-going making and unmaking of Southern Africa via ‘new’ forms of identity, community, regionalisation and international relations premised on the transnational practices of migrants and migrants as actors rather than states in the field of International Relations. Tigere also writes a blog for the Mail and Guardian Thought-Leader website where he pens opinion pieces on contemporary social, economic, political and cultural issues. In 2012, I was one of the chosen participants for a week long British Council and National Gallery of Zimbabwe Curatorial Forum and Workshop New Ideas, New Possibilities in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe which included Raphael Chikukwa (Zimbabwe), Thembinkosi Goniwe (South Africa), Jimmy Ogonga (Kenya) and Tessa Jackson (then CEO at Iniva, UK) as mentors. His recent project was entitled Mapping Creativity in Southern Africa [July2016] and it involved mapping and researching independent art spaces in six southern African countries ‘from below’ using public transport in search of underlying impulses of a regional community and civic away from the narrow regionalism conceptualisation offered by states in Southern Africa.