Calling township artists to reflect on the power of place

25 June 2015 | Story by Newsroom

The African Centre for Cities' Public Art and the Power of Place initiative is calling for proposals for six public art engagements in Cape Town's townships.

The project will address art within the spatial legacy of apartheid, which remains 21 years into South Africa's new democracy.

Recent controversies around public sculptures on the Sea Point Promenade and Signal Hill and the removal of the memorial to Cecil John Rhodes at UCT indicate it's timely to re-think the relationship between public art and place in Cape Town.

Art producers still tend to be well-resourced and networked artists from the academy and still primarily anchored in the affluent City Bowl.

"Representations of Cape Town tend to fluctuate between tourist-friendly renditions of the City Bowl and Table Mountain on one hand and gang-ridden and destitute images of the Cape Flats on the other," said the project's Rike Sitas.

"Neither extreme provides an adequate account of the more nuanced realities of Cape Town. This initiative aims to address this by supporting artists exploring the power of place outside of the City Bowl."

One example of art generated by the power of place is Dollar Brand's (now Abdullah Ibrahim) 1974 song Manenberg – Is Where It's Happening, in reaction to forced removals. It became an unofficial anthem for the anti-apartheid struggle, demonstrating how artistic response may reveal the power of place in times of crisis.

The African Centre for Cities is looking for art projects that:

  • have been developed by township-based artists (original work, or developments of existing project),
  • offer new understandings of or perspectives of urban realities of Cape Town's township through creative means, or
  • have a public dimension, in other words engages public spaces, includes people, concerns public interest or faces the public in a meaningful way.

Applicants should be individuals or groups from or working in Cape Town's townships (collaborations between artists and organisations is recommended) who work in any temporary or permanent public art medium or combination of media, for example, visual arts, performance, graffiti, music, poetry, or theatre.

The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund is funding this initiative.

The deadline for proposals is 16h00 on 10 July 2015. For more information on project specifications contact, or or 021 650 2042. Alternatively go to or the project's Facebook page.

The application form is available here.

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