SITUATED ECOLOGIES gathers art, design and research collaborations to contest and democratise ecologies.

What does hip hop, dance and story-telling got to do with democratic practices?

What does hip hop, dance and story-telling got to do with democratic practices?

What does hip hop, dance and story-telling got to do with democratic practices? What to make of pedagogical experiences to engage youth and marginalised groups across two so different cities like Cape Town and Stockholm?

During February 2016 I have been fortunate to facilitate a collaboration in Cape Town between two experienced pedagogues and cultural workers: Emile Jansen from The Heal the Hood Project in Grassy Park, Cape Town, and the Swedish theatre director Kent Ekberg from Teater Reflex in Kärrtorp, Stockholm. Together they have decades of pedagogical and performative experience. Emile from his work as a hip-hopper and b-boy from the 1908s anti-apartheid struggle in the townships until today’s sprawling work across South Africa. Kent has a wide-ranging national and international experience as director and pedagogue, starting with popular forms of theatre in the 1970s onto his work today with immigrants and youth in Stockholm, but also with South African dance and performance groups in the 1990s and 2000s in Langa, Johannesburg and Bethlehem. In February they are joined by producer Kajsa Nordin from Teater Reflex and the artists, dancers and b-boys Leeroy Philips and Stefan Benting from the Lavender Hill-based group Mixed Mense.

Together they will create an experimental and experiential arena that will explore a set of questions that we have been thinking about for some time. For example:

  • What does an unequal geography mean for dancers, directors and youth pedagogues?
  • How do they face this abstract notion in concrete ways in their many meetings with youth and marginalised?
  • What type of story-telling can engage and create interest in questions about democracy and making democratic claims on the city?
  • What is a pedagogy of resistance and empowerment for-and-of Cape Flats?

These questions are not new. They have been part of many cultural workers’ in Cape Town and beyond on how to work and use cultural expressions, not as some sort of ‘add-on’ to normal life, but as a way to struggle and create meaningful meetings that could lead to empowerment. They also form part of wider questions that we share with others:

  • How to develop democratic pedagogical practices that can be translated to other similar unequal cities and urban geographies?
  • What policies at the city, regional and national level could strengthen the role of cultural workers and pedagogues to deepen South Africa’s democratic project?

If you know of similar work elsewhere in the country, or in other African cities. Or cities of the global South, please let us know (email Henrik). On Monday the 22 Feb they are inviting a smaller audience to their ‘Grassy Park Garage Stage’ to check out and discuss their work-in-progress. More details in another post.


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