Imagining Identity! Re-Imagining Carnival in CapeTown
A Hasan and Husain Essop photography project in partnership with the District Six Museum and
the ArtPeaceProject/University of Hamburg
September 2012 in Cape Town
A workshop was held over one weekend at the District Six Museum Homecoming Centre with young people from different communities in and around Cape Town. The District Six Museum implemented this project as part of the Baluleka! Youth Network Programme that follows a similar learning approach of collaboration, exploration, discovery and re-imagination to that of the Art Peace Project in Hamburg.
District Six Museum facilitated a series of sessions on identity in Cape Town and dialogues by ex-residents of District Six who are intimately involved in ´klopse kamers´ (carnival clubhouses).
The use of culture as resistance and for community can be traced back in Cape Town to the arrival of the colonists. The Minstrels (or Coon) Carnival has since then continued as an important site of contestation for working-class people. Its roots can be traced to spaces which slaves created to find meaning and to build community, using music and dance. Carnival troupes are part of a broader tradition of community mobilization in the Cape which was prevalent in places like District Six. The idea of carnival offers to play, to leave old-established roles, to revolt against the dominant order, and to capture new space!
Born and raised in Cape Town, the Essop brothers have been collaborating since their graduation from the Michaelis School of Fine Arts at the University of Cape Town. In 2011 they completed a three-month residency at the prestigious Thami Mnyele Foundation in Amsterdam. They have participated in numerous group exhibitions, including most recently Figure and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography at the V&A Museum in London and Les Rencontres d’Arles 2012, a photography festival held annually in France. This is their second solo exhibition with the Goodman Gallery.
The Art Peace Project has grown out of a number of experiments to see whether producing art or analysing art can help to generate fresh ways of seeing oneself and the world, and thereby make a contribution to stimulating a culture of human rights. Methods used in workshops have ranged from improvisation theatre, puppetry, storytelling and photography, to the critical analysis of films and novels. Included in this testing of methods has been working with professional artists. In the “art school” or “writer’s retreat format” there is opportunity for ordinary people to be taken seriously as artists. The Art Peace Project serves therefore as a
forum for the exploration of ways in which the creative arts can contribute to Human Rights and Peace Education. Documentation and analysis of the divergent experiences of participants in the workshops provides the necessary information for ongoing improvement and experimentation.