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Culture-led Placemaking in Johannesburg: New Paradigms for Participatory City Making?

Where: Moonvalley Studios, 127 6th Avenue, Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg  
When: 19 October 2019, Saturday.  10.00 - 17.00 (Practitioners Speak)
20 October 2019, Sunday. 10.00 - 13.00 (Special focus on Makers Valley with tour of the area and a popup carnival - meet at Victoria Yard)


Participant biographies

Concept Note

 Urbanisation has increased rapidly, globally and in South Africa. This brings new flows of people, ideas and resources; as well as new opportunities and challenges  Culture can play a key role in the sustainable development of cities, say a range of practitioners, theorists and importantly the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) organisation's Culture21 initiative and Unesco.  The neighborhood scale, is where a multitude of economic, social, cultural and political flows intersect; where everyday life happens; where aspiration, beliefs and values are shaped and reinforced. Its therefore an important space for interaction to build democracy into the planning and further an integrated, sustainable, and just city. There is an international interest in working at this scale, developing  participatory practises that build on the broader assets, and dreams, of a community.  

Creative Placemaking has emerged, especially in North America, and proposes more extensive use of artists with community development interventions at a neighborhood level, leading to improved socio-economic, cultural and built environment ends.  In Johannesburg (Jozi) especially, the language of placemaking first, and now creative (or more correctly culture led) placemaking has been mobilised for several years in a range of state and civil society led initiatives.  Moreover there has been much investment from the state in other contexts of various forms of culture linked urban regeneration projects overtime with contested impacts (see for example Pieterse & Gurney 2012, Gregory 2017).  This raises some questions from a governance perspective. What do we know about this new practice and its experiments?  How does it understand participation/collaboration/ co-creation? How does it speak to other relevant networks of knowledge, past and present in Johannesburg? 

In this colloquium we will hear about the practice of working with culture in placemaking from a number of agencies who have been experimenting with it in some Jozi neighborhoods since early 2000s.  These agencies have sometimes worked closely with the state through procured initiatives, or in the private and non-profit arenas. We will conclude with short reflections from local government, cultural managers, academics, and with audience input, on what we can take away about creatively hacking the state and civil society to further a culture-led placemaking practise in Johannesburg.

Some questions to be examined include: How can we understand culture led placemaking in Johannesburg context? Does it further sustainable development in Johannesburg and if so how?  What are its limits? How does it help us understand culture as a transformative force beyond mere instrumentalism? How do culturally attuned intermediaries work between the state and publics? What are the "hacks" which have emerged in working with the state? What is needed to improve and further this practice from the state, civil society and cultural actors? 

Our motivation for this gathering is to further and enhance an emergent community of practice of working with culture in neighborhood development. Our plan is to engage practitioners, academics, government officials and others interested in city transformation drawing on culture beyond narrow economic ends.This motivation responds to a shift in urban politics which focusses on the importance of relational governance for a more sustainable and inclusive cities


The event is organised under the auspices of Creative City South and
The Cultural Policy and Management Department of the Wits School of Art
It  is hosted by Moonvalley Studios and the Makers Valley Collective.
Invite design by Natalia Tofas.

Contact for more detail: Hlubi Nontlanga 

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