Writing and visual by Khensani de Klerk
This week I have decided to engage with this post on a more visual level. After having read Situating Eidetic Photomontage in Contemporary Landscape Architecture by Associate Professor at Kansas University, Blake Belanger. I explored imagery as a means of providing visual access to reading space. Let’s admit it, the discourse that designers engage in (whole heartedly) is mostly of value to designers because we assume that the language of plans, sections, elevations and spatial writing we produce are accessible to the layman- the every day Mpho, Jabu, or Sipho (because Sally, Dick or Harry have been the common go to names in our every day language).
This week we have seen intense pressure and happenings with regards to the sale of the Tafelberg site in Seapoint, “a large property sold by the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works to a private school in December 2015” (Reclaim the City 2017) being sold to a system that works with in favour of post-Apartheid socio-economic injustice. The site has been proven to be favourable and feasible for affordable income housing through the financial model that was published on in mid-November 2016 by Provincial Cabinet. Reclaim the City has been tirelessly working to aid the much-needed process of location restoration that hasn’t been addressed by the government in Post-Apartheid segregated Cape Town. Cape Town, due to its geographic structure has maintained itself as a single node tucked in-between the luscious mountain and crystal blue ocean. Everyone gravitates towards the node, the hub where money is generated. Those placed furthest away from the node, by historical injustice, have to pay the most to commute to the node on a daily basis. The income from these often menial laborious jobs pay for the commute to and from the node, but beyond this there is little to no opportunity for those previously disadvantaged to grow and escape the vicious cycle of poverty.
This post is dedicated to Tafelberg, and focuses on the multiple narratives in Seapoint that are lost through the masking blanket of narratives that portray Seapoint to be solely through the lens of bicycle riders, ice cream goers, and Nike runners. Don’t get me wrong, these elements are part of what makes Seapoint one of the best public spaces in Cape Town, and I myself am a bicycle rider of the promenade. However it is extremely necessary and in fact critical at this stage, to widen that lens to the struggle narrative of those fighting to stay in the area, painfully working against the system that aims to push them out onto the outskirts of Blikkies Dorp: The narrative that speaks about the struggle for mixed income housing in the node.
I urge you to follow Reclaim the City, and get involved in their initiatives. Through your skills, or through your mobility- power lies in many places, and the voice of people has the ability to create conditions that catalyze change. We’ve seen this manifest before through #FeesMustFall. The Daily Maverick published an article earlier this week describing the reluctant attitude of the government to address spatial injustice perfectly “This week the Western Cape provincial government had what seemed like the perfect opportunity to show sceptics that it is, in fact, committed to dismantling Cape Town’s ongoing spatial segregation. At the heart of the matter: a piece of government-owned land in Sea Point which activists had shown could be feasibly used in part for affordable housing. Yet the Western Cape cabinet announced on Wednesday that it was proceeding with the private sale of the land, giving justifications which activists reject as spurious.” (Davis 2017)
Speaking on visual access, Reclaim the City has produced a two-part film titled Leaving Home, recently released this past week speaking about evictions in currently hyper gentrified Woodstock.
I’m not going to go into thorough detail as to how photomontage works formally – I’ll let the photomontage speak for itself as it is a medium that gives access to the intangible elements of space often hidden in the exclusivity of architectural language. However, there are a few important things to note with regards to the execution of these eidetic images. (Eidetic refers to images having an unusual vividness and detail, often an illusion of sorts). Photomontage in itself seeks to act against the norm, with its birth in Dadaism which most of us are probably well aware of, an art movement that sought to destroy the elitism of art from about 1916 in Berlin by mocking art itself. Art became reproducible, it became a product, and had recognizable images that spoke to the masses, images that could and would evoke responses. These responses differ according to the viewer, but are powerful nonetheless in their capability to invite the viewer to experience. In some cases it has been an incredible tool of propaganda. I have put Belanger’s reading “On The Shelf” for reference, it’s a very interesting read for those keen to create!
INVITATION TO YOU:
To those who find themselves going through Seapoint, living in Seapoint or experiencing it in any particular way: If you would like to share your narrative, drop me an email through the contact tab. The intention is create an ongoing series of photomontage, which will speak to the ephemeral experience of Seapoint, a dynamic and now contested space. The visuals will be created in order for meaning to be brought through fast images compact with content. The medium speaks to those who are unable to access written content, and unfortunately for the lazy majority who prefer to absorb images than read articles (Ironic if you are reading this and I do apologize for sounding facetious). This series will be in support of the resistance occupants in Seapoint face; this supports the ongoing initiative of Reclaim the City. This series will speak about ACCESS by simply existing in its montage medium. The featured image is an eidetic photomontage of my narrative of Seapoint, and is also an example of what can be created.
How it will work:
- Contact me through the Contact tab.
- Tell me about your narrative, your lens, and your thoughts on Seapoint. Do this in any way that makes you comfortable, perhaps a poem, song, simple paragraph… anything.
- Once 10 narratives have been collected, I will collaborate with the authors of these narratives (you) to manifest eidetic photomontages that speak to the narratives.
- The images will be published online as a dedicated Sunday post, and hopefully come alive in a tangible form for those who do not have access to the Internet, perhaps as public art. Maybe you’ll see an image in the train, or next to Woolworths on your business break, or at your MyCiti bus stop on the way home.
Below find the narrative for the featured montage.
THE LOCAL VISITOR:
How I see Seapoint, not just as Khensani; but as a black womxn, fairly privileged, a visitor of Seapoint, a spatial analysis constantly scrutinizing my surroundings, observing other visitors, watching my black brothers and sisters enjoy the pools. “Molo Ma” I say to the domestic lady strolling (and raising) a white baby in a pram along the promenade. I pass her on my way to hire and ride a bicycle; gazing at the ocean in awe of its uncompromising nature, ever moving against the forces of intervention; imaging how happy everyone would be, if we could enjoy our land, and not have to always visit, and return to our ocean-viewless homes. Imagining the build of mixed income housing, feeling angry and upset for those who weren’t lucky enough to be born out of the loxtion, to be able to gaze at the ocean on a bicycle break like me. I return my hired bicycle, grab a quick ice-cream, and make my way home out of the city. I’ve closed my visit, and now I open my mind. How can my skills as an architectural designer, a spatial thinker, contribute to my narrative? I sit, scratching my brain, and I write to you, this blog article.
Let’s see Seapoint through your lens.
Davis, Rebecca. ‘It’s not over’: Activists react to Tafelberg land decision. March 23, 2017. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-03-23-its-not-over-activists-react-to-tafelberg-land-decision/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=First+Thing+24th+March+2017+Wine+Cellar&utm_content=First+Thing+24th+March+2017+Wine+Cellar+CID_87a41e24da77aa0d1392a6470cda88e4&utm_source=TouchBasePro&utm_term=Its+not+over+Activists+react+to+Tafelberg+land+decision#.WNeJJRKGMp- (accessed March 25, 2017).
Reclaim the City. Affordable housing on inner-city state land. http://reclaimthecity.org.za/stopthesale-of-tafelberg/ (accessed March 25, 2017).
Photomontage: by Khensani de Klerk (images sourced from various sources)