Cultural heritage, justice and
creative research during Covid-19
2020 brought an unprecedented
and in a city still struggling with the socio-cultural and spatial legacies of colonialism and apartheid, the Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly devastating. Although budgets to arts, culture and heritage were mobilised elsewhere, and health, hunger and homes became dominant priorities, it has been the everyday lived cultural connections, social networks and heritage practices of residents that became a foundation for the solidarities necessary to survive.
2020 was also going to be the year where fieldwork started on the Whose Heritage Matters project: where we would spend time collectively mapping, making and mobilising. Making sense of the complexity of cultural heritage and identifying in-roads into how cultural heritage can contribute to sustainable and just cities. We had to radically re-think how research can happen with no or limited human contact. We had to re-think how we ask questions and what those questions ought to be..
Cultural heritage is a complex and contested space in any city, and Cape Town is not immune to the competing claims and priorities that shape how heritage lands in local places [link to previous blog post]. Woodstock and Salt River are two neighbourhoods where these frictions are always close to the surface of public debate and interaction. Tussles between developers, city officials and civil society abound.
Greatmore Studios became a key collaborator in the research process. Based on Greatmore Street – a road that intersects with many of these issues – the studio is an historically important artist-led studio space that has an important footprint in art and culture in Cape Town, and notably supportive of black artists over the past +/-35 years. Instead of developing a programme of collaborative activities that are impossible during a pandemic, Director of Greatmore Studios, Ukhona Mlandu, and I devised a plan to appoint creative researchers to respond to a series of questions in whichever way they felt appropriate.
Respondents to the question Whose Heritage Matters include:
Ukhona Ntsali Mlandu
Mohammed Adiel Jacobs
Christie van Zyl
47-49 Greatmore Street Woodstock,
Western Cape 7925, South Africa
Due to Covid-19 Health Regulations and implications studio visits can be arranged directly with artists.