TELLING THE STO­RIES OF A CITY – #ARTMYJOZI

A COL­LAB­O­RA­TION BE­TWEEN THE JO­HAN­NES­BURG DEVEL­OP­MENT AGENCY (JDA) AND THE TRIN­ITY SES­SION ART PRO­DUC­TION TEAM, #ARTMYJOZI, IS CHANG­ING THE WAY PEO­PLE EX­PE­RI­ENCE THE CITY OF GOLD.

In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE - #artmyjozi@JDA_SouthAfrica

Think of your favourite place.What makes it spe­cial? Is it the way the sun­shine spills across your bed in the morn­ing, or is it the smell of the sea where you first tried surf­ing? Wher­ever you’ve made your happy place, chances are it’s not the phys­i­cal re­al­ity of the space that draws you to it. In­stead, it’s the story be­hind the place that makes it spe­cial to you.The feel­ings you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced there and the mem­o­ries it holds.

This is the essence of place-mak­ing – and, be­cause of the tran­sience of Jo­han­nes­burg’s com­mu­ni­ties, it’s a fea­ture that’s miss­ing from many parts of our city.

A CITY OF STO­RIES

It’s not that Jo­han­nes­burg doesn’t have sto­ries to tell. Far from it: In the city’s 130-year his­tory, it’s been a stage for drama, tragedy, and tri­umph. But the re­al­ity is that these sto­ries have been told by an ever-chang­ing cast.Visit the mu­se­ums of west­ern Europe, which record the his­to­ries of a largely ho­moge­nous pop­u­la­tion that ex­pe­ri­ences com­par­a­tively lit­tle change, and you’ll un­der­stand just how true this is.

That’s why, Trin­ity Ses­sion was ap­pointed by the JDA to en­gage with the com­mu­ni­ties along the three devel­op­ment cor­ri­dors lin­ing the City’s Bus Rapid Trans­port Routes, Louis Botha, Em­pire-Perth and Turf­fontein. Con­tex­tu­al­is­ing this Tran­sit-Ori­en­tated ap­proach to Devel­op­ment, or TOD, the goal was to fo­cus on place-mak­ing, ex­plains the com­pany’s codi­rec­tor Stephen Hobbs.The idea was to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive of the places in ques­tion so that they be­come more at­trac­tive to those who live there.

Com­mu­nity res­o­nance is the cen­tral premise of the pro­gramme. Hobbs says that when the pro­gramme was first con­ceived, the brief was to cre­ate iconic sculp­tures. Four years on, the em­pha­sis has shifted: “We’re fo­cused on com­mu­nity co­pro­duc­tion, with a more on-the-ground, en­gaged, col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach,” Hobbs ex­plains.

With this in mind, the JDA andTrin­ity Ses­sion have launched a so­cial-me­dia cam­paign which calls on mem­bers of ev­ery com­mu­nity where #artmyjozi is ac­tive to talk about how they feel about their space, and how it could be im­proved. The next step is to work­shop this in­put, en­gag­ing mul­ti­ple cre­ative pro­duc­ers, so that it can be ex­pressed through dif­fer­ent artis­tic and func­tional forms.That might be with a per­for­mance, a sculp­ture, street fur­ni­ture, or some­thing else al­to­gether, so long as it holds rel­e­vance and mean­ing for the com­mu­nity.

PATERSON PARK PER­SPEC­TIVES

The in­ter­ven­tion tak­ing place at Paterson Park in Or­ange Grove is a case in point.This is just one of the points along the Devel­op­ment Cor­ri­dors – there are sev­eral more, given that the cor­ri­dor starts at No­ord­ge­sig in Soweto and ends in Marl­boro South. Along the way, it passes land­marks and sub­urbs like He­len Joseph Hospi­tal, Brix­ton, Balfour Park, and Alexan­dra.

Hobbs points out that Paterson Park has tra­di­tion­ally been a home to artists, de­sign­ers, and mu­si­cians, so it’s fit­ting that the Trin­ity Ses­sion has com­mis­sioned the­atre maker Myer Taub to cre­ate a piece of the­atre that will be per­formed in the park. This, in turn, will pro­vide clues to the kind of art­works that will even­tu­ally be placed in the park, with pos­si­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing works that re­spond to the flora and fauna of the site, or per­haps per­for­mance spa­ces.

What’s im­por­tant, Hobbs em­pha­sises, is the fact that these pieces won’t be cre­ated sim­ply be­cause they’re pretty. Rather, they will be a direct ref­er­ence to the peo­ple who live in this area and the ex­pe­ri­ences that are part of their daily lives.

What’s im­por­tant, Hobbs em­pha­sises, is the fact that these pieces won’t be cre­ated sim­ply be­cause they’re pretty. Rather, they will make a direct ref­er­ence to the peo­ple who live in this area and the ex­pe­ri­ences that are part of their daily lives.

Whether these items still hold rel­e­vance in 15 or even 20 years is any­one’s guess.When you look at how Jo­han­nes­burg’s sub­urbs and neigh­bour­hoods con­stantly evolve, it’s easy to imag­ine that they won’t. Take the Louis Botha Devel­op­ment Cor­ri­dor, for ex­am­ple, a key ar­te­rial route be­tween Alexan­dra and the In­ner City. Al­most ev­ery Jo­han­nes­burg dweller has crossed it at some point, giv­ing lit­tle thought to the fact that it was once the only con­nec­tion be­tween Pre­to­ria and the rapidly ex­pand­ing min­ing town of Jo­han­nes­burg. Or that at one stage, it was a con­duit for the Nde­bele jour­ney­ing down from Zim­babwe, driv­ing their cat­tle as they did. In this way, Louis Botha isn’t just the spine of the city. It is, as Hobbs says, an iconic ur­ban thread that stitches to­gether 100 years of his­tory.

And if #artmyjozi can find a way to bring that his­tory back to life, to re­mind us of who we once were, even as the BRT route which brought the project to life changes the shape of the sub­urbs by fa­cil­i­tat­ing trans­port through it, bring­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties and new peo­ple – well, doesn’t that make it so much more than art?

First Page: Artist’s draw­ing work­shop, ad­ja­cent to Short Road Park, Or­ange Grove. This Page Top: No­ord­ge­sig artist’s pre­lim­i­nary de­sign work­shops and pop-up per­for­mance. This Page Bot­tom: Pub­lic fur­ni­ture de­sign ac­ti­va­tion with Northview High School...

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