Arts activism

Imagining Otherwise

Transforming Spaces through Arts Education

The #ImaginingOtherwise​ project ran from March 2020 to March 2021. Tshisimani partnered with Bottomup and University of Leeds to run this participatory arts process with young people from the Cape Flats. The project explored young people’s experiences of living in contexts of violence and spatial injustice, using film, performance, visual art and writing as modes for young people to reflect on their world, and imagine alternatives.  

The co-creator collective of young people located in Cape Town’s Cape Flats sought to establish a sense of place beyond systemic identification of place with gangs, drugs and violence. We aimed to challenge youth disempowerment related to lack of resources as consequence of systematic erasure and forgetting.

Together with our project partners, University of Leeds and Bottomup, we delivered arts-based activism and education, with an explicit focus on young people’s participation in the community and a mentorship programme. We built capacity through intensive workshops with local artists: performance, storyboards and graphic novel. The cross-arts collaborative storying of experiences and dissemination enables a wide audience to engage with what young people identify in their communities for developing resilience. 

Meet the Participants

ImaginingOtherwise young people explore Cape Town, introducing their understanding of space and the creative use of film-making to represent people, communities and lives from the perspective of creative makers.

Meet Jayden who reflects on his neighbourhood, coping with the loss of friends to gangs and finding freedom in art through imagining possibilities. “You can escape through art, but why should it just be art? Why can’t our art become reality?”

Meet Gomez who is studying engineering and was fascinated by the architecture of the building and reflects on art, representation and politics in his own life.

ImaginingOtherwise Mobile Digital Storytelling toolkit

Developed with young artists in collaboration with (Lo-Def Film Factory), this step-by-step film demonstrates how you can use mobile phones for telling your stories. A group of the ImaginingOtherwise participants learnt how to make films with their smart phones, including basic green screen techniques using minimal equipment. They worked with artists Amy Wilson and Francois Knoetze who run the Lo-Def Film Factory – an organisation that aims to make film making accessible to everyone (see their amazing work on Instagram @lodeffilms or Twitter @lodeffilms ). These three short films made at the end of our project by the participants, aim to reflect on the intersection of story-telling, film and politics. In the second video, the group shows us the basics of shooting with your phone. These videos are a culmination of our learning about how to tell meaningful stories through film.

Youth Arts Toolkit

The Youth Arts Toolkit is a collection of workshops (some online, some in person) that were developed over the year of the Imagining Otherwise project (2020 -2021). This resource is for anyone who wants to use the arts as a means of exploring social justice issues with young people, and includes drama, writing, and creative mapping workshops that the team (Tshisimani, Bottom Up and University of Leeds and freelance artists) developed. We would love feedback on this resource, and how you might or have used it. Please send to  

Arts Activism Toolkit

The final #ImaginingOtherwise project is an Arts Activism toolkit. This toolkit intentionally brings together case studies of innovative arts activism practice from the global South, activities to develop one’s own art activism, and different ways to think about why creativity, the arts, and social justice can work together. This toolkit is free to down-load and  published under a creative commons license. Share widely: we would love feedback.

Reflecting on a year of youth and arts activism

The culmination showcase of IO participants sharing their art work and the celebration of the creative capacities of youth in poor and working class neighbourhoods. This short video highlights IO’s final sharing and reflections from participants and facilitators.