The 100 year anniversary of the 1913 Land Act has brought with it fevered discussion, debate and activism as lawmakers and citizens alike rethink their rights to land and their responsibilities to it. Through its project entitled LAND, taking place in Cape Town from 21-24 November, GIPCA examines these ideals through a creative lens.
To think about land in the present moment is necessarily to think beyond fixed categories, binaries and notions of private property, land tenure or sedimented mappings. Questions of land are imbricated in bodies, movement, memory, migration, forced displacement and removals, and therefore deeply historical. At the same time, commemorating the 1913 Land Act calls for taking on the legacies and logics that continue in the present, and manifest in forms of social injustice, institutionalised violence and historical effacement. Land and Erasure, presented by the African Centre for Cities and the Centre for African Studies, comprises walking tours of the central city and Bonteheuwel, and curated film sessions, addressing these concerns.
The walking tours – more ceremonial than focused on the gaze – take the liminal and itinerant, memory and displacement, the silenced and buried, the living and the dead, as starting points for opening the spatial literacies of the cities we inhabit. Today, Bonteheuwel, like most of the Cape Flats, continues to exhibit the spatial and social legacies of the Group Areas Act, as disinvestment and municipal neglect fail to address the basic needs of residents. This space will be visited considering the layering of time, the idea of landscape as archive, and dialogue with silenced histories in the making of the present. In the central city land comes at a premium – it is a scarce resource and foundational to questions such as who can live in the city, whose desires are accommodated in the city, and the city f or whom. This city walk considers ongoing processes of “regeneration”, and how this affects the quiet dynamics of movement, networks, connections, formality and informality.
The series of related film screenings features audiovisual works by local artists/filmmakers that speak to the way in which land, labour and livelihoods are intertwined. Directed by Emmy-winner Mark Kaplan, The Village Under The Forest (written and narrated by scholar and author Heidi Grünebaum) unfolds as a personal meditation from the Jewish Diaspora and – using the forest and the village ruins as metaphors – explores themes related to the erasure and persistence of memory. South African filmmaker Kim Munsamy collaborates with Guatamalan researcher and producer Sebastián Porras, on three further films which explore these ideas of historical (dis)possession: Where Time Stands Still, Give Me Back That Moment and Bones Don’t Lie and Don’t Forget.
The historic Cape Town City Hall will house award-winning composer Philip Miller’s Extracts From The Underground – a multimedia installation based on his most recent opera. A meditation on the sound-world and improvised spoken language heard in South African mines, the work is informed by a Fanakalo phrasebook and a mining accident register. The audience is taken on a journey both into the deepest reaches of the earth; and into the hidden strata of South African history. Culminating with an evocation of the tragic events at Marikana, the installation provides a historical understanding of the human plight behind the headlines. With music arranged by Thuthuka Sibisi, featuring members of the Cape Town Opera and Voice of the Nation Choir, sculptures and design by Gavin Younge and video production by Svea Josephy and an installation of pick-axe sculptures created by Mark O’Donovan, this is likely to be a highlight of the programme.
Continual tensions exist between our desire for territory and our subtle co-existence with the land in which conflict for territory takes place. The Rondebosch Common is a case in point – home to the critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, it is also framed as a home in a different sense. Over the years the Common has played different roles as a military camp, farmland, and National Monument for recreation. A shortage of available land in Cape Town has opened up the Common to land claims, protests and development, with roughly only forty hectares of the original ground remaining today.
Elgin Rust and Katherine Spindler’s The [Common] Garden is both a virtual and physical garden that examines relationships between land and territory through the act of caring. The performative installation invites members of the public, stake holders of the Rondebosch Common and those working at the Cape Town Courts to participate in the creation of a new common garden. Participants are encouraged to engage in a symbolic act of planting their dreams (seeds). These dreams, pertaining to the Rondebosch Common/Common Ground, will be sown at the planting ceremony held at Cape Town City Hall on 23 November. This new garden will thereafter be installed within the Cape Town Magistrates Court, to be cared for by the judiciary, with the virtual common garden located at www.thecommongarden.com.
Constant Transition: memorial landscape – a labour-intensive text-based mural installed performatively by Nolan Oswald Dennis, consists of around 30,000 handwritten words tracing 500 years of historical, symbolic and personal anguish of South African land; combining rigorous research, historical accounts, poems, songs, oral interpretations and other anecdotal and symbolic sources; and concluding with a rendering of the 1913 Native Land Act. Also at the City Hall, Refilwe Nkomo’s video installation, uLahlekile Without a Home, interrogates space, dispossession, and displacement against the backdrop of land, questioning who the purveyors of land are, how we relate to land and locate ourselves within it.
In Amie Soudien’s Trajectories, the artist painstakingly stencils out her maternal and paternal lineages in sand, tracing out ancestral lines rife with social injustice and racial tension. Trajectories considers her personal family history through the perspective of the national archive, through a public installation in Parliament Avenue – a pedestrian space which separates the Houses of Parliament from the Iziko Slave Lodge, in sight of St Georges Cathedral, also symbolic of the ‘passages’ of many people of colour in South Africa: from a place of oppression through colonialism and slavery, to the present post-Apartheid South Africa.
Members of the public will be invited to participate in a collective public intervention, and produce their own temporary artwork. Leonard Shapiro will encourage members of the public to consider “What Cape Town means to Me?” when passers-by are invited to write a short response to questions in chalk. The questions and dialogues relate to issues around belonging, ownership, citizenship and space.
These installations will be complemented by a programme of performances and public lectures allowing further consideration of the topic. For the full programme, please see www.gipca.uct.ac.za. Admission to LAND is free, but booking for the events at Prestwich Memorial, the District Six Museum’s Homecoming Centre, Iziko Slave Lodge, City Hall and the Land and Erasure tours are essential. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAND will take place at various spaces throughout the City of Cape Town from 21-24 November 2013. The event is kindly supported by the City of Cape Town’s Arts and Culture Department. Laura Kalauz and Martin Schick’s performances are supported by Pro Helvetia.
More Info link:: http://www.gipca.uct.ac.za/
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Still from The Village Under the Forest Photographer: Grünebaum & Kaplan.
Photographer: Amie Soudien. Trajectories. pic by Amber Myers (5)
Cape Town Under Photographer: Kim Gurney.