Arts activism

Imagining Otherwise

Reflecting on a year of youth and arts activism

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. This culminated in a sharing of our art work, the story of the project, and a celebration of the creative capacities of youth in poor and working class neighbourhoods. This short video highlights our final sharing and reflections from participants and facilitators.

Transforming Spaces through Arts Education

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. Drawing on the team’s collective experience in working with marginalised young people and the arts as method for critical engagement in public life, we approached the context of violence and exclusion through participatory arts.

Meet the Participants

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.