I’m Anna Burkey, and I’m here in Cape Town on a three-month research fellowship, to learn about the creative activity in the city, and plans for the future.
My artistic roots lie in Edinburgh, the biggest festival city in the world, and I’ve been sent by our national arts body Creative Scotland to learn and forge links in the run up to 2014: World Design Capital for Cape Town and Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
There is a huge array of creative activity going on here in the visually arresting city of Cape Town, with a wealth of artists, designers, writers, arts festivals and craft markets. It feels like I’m visiting a city at the early stages of a cultural explosion, linked in part to big ideas like Design Indaba (an international conference and Expo) and the city’s status as 2014 World Design Capital.
Cape Town is a sprawling city, spreading out from the central City Bowl area northwards around the Bay, curling south behind Table Mountain and down toward the Cape of Good Hope, and stretching east across the Cape Flats, where the extensive townships of Khayelisha and Mitchell’s Plain sit.
Couple the stunning geography with the very sketchy public transport, and this makes for metropolitan area that feels like a patchwork of neighbourhoods, each with their own distinctive personalities and vibe and each acting as a focus for activity for their particular community or art form.
As a result, I’ve found the creative scene here a little challenging to access. Flagship events like Design Indaba are utterly fabulous if I’m here at the right time, but I’m also looking for ongoing events and buzzy networks. I don’t have a car – but I will be hiring one at weekends, to make sure I can get out to the gigs, events and festivals I see in the What’s On in Cape Town web guide. (I’m missing that there’s not really an equivalent of Scotland’s List Magazine or The Skinny.)
I’m on the look out for events, and as a newbie working here I’m not finding ways in to the cultural scene as easily as I have in other countries. Were I only making a quick trip chances are that I, along with many of the 8 million tourists that visit South Africa annually, would never find out about some of the excellent contemporary creative and artistic culture out here. Then again – maybe the pull of the beach is just too alluring!
Space for a Creative Hub?
I’ve realised that there is no public square or obvious gathering space in Cape Town, besides the touristy and retail-driven V&A Waterfront, and no natural creative hub.
As I wrote in my post on COMMON Pitch: South Arica, the audiences are refreshingly open here and the media seems very positive: I can imagine that an accessible arts space in the heart of the city, with excellent regular programming that served the general public and the local creatives alike, would be a popular place.
Perhaps moves are already afoot for such a centre, that reaches out to the public and visitors and is integrated with the wider offerings in the city. I shall investigate…
Creative Scotland ICE fellow at Design Indaba, Cape Town