The Streetlight Initiative is an ongoing dala initiative focusing on using creativity as a catalyst for exploring child-centric approaches to city making. Through these exercises we collectively imagine new individual and collective futures. With the financial backing of the NAC, and in collaboration with Umthombo Safe Space, a series of workshops was developed to further the overall aims of the initiative. Ultimately we worked with 2 groups of lights: a young (8-10yrs old) group of lights from the Point area; and a group of older lights (+/-16yrs old) from Broad Street. There were two components to the project: firstly, the workshop series; and secondly, an exhibition of the light’s work and video documentation of the process.
workshop one: home as space of sanctuary / happiness / reflection
The first workshop included a mapping and walking exercise. The discussion revolved around safe and positive spaces within the city – spaces of hope, sanctuary, happiness and reflection. Here the lights were asked to map their city and collectively we developed a route through the inner city to the spaces they have identified. Interestingly they all chose their ‘gulleys’ (the places where they sleep. This task subverted the power relations usually associated with children at risk: those who are usually seen as victims (or vermin) became the leaders and the teachers. Here the lights were given disposable cameras to work with. This walk became the catalyst for the workshops that followed. A selection of images taken by the lights, have also been included in this report, as they are remarkable examples.
workshop two: molo / I see you: home in my body // home in my dreams
The second workshop happened in front of the International Convention Centre (ICC). Ironically, Africa Square, in front of the Human Rights Wall is one of the spaces within the city where streetlights are often excluded, making it a poignant site to work within. Working with charcoal and pastels, the lights explored the notion of ubuntu and the notion of home as the body and the people surrounding us. Being situated in front of the ICC also meant others could see the lights in a positive, creative and productive capacity rather than as urban nuisances.
workshop three: our home: collective visions of the city
The third workshop built on the second, but this time the vision was a collective one. Here the lights explored the perception of the city as home. The workshop took place at one of the ‘gulleys’. Interestingly, members of the public were more interested and felt more comfortable to interact with the project under the trees, than on the start Africa Square outside the ICC. The workshop culminated in a collective pastel drawing of the city from a streetlight-centred perspective.
workshop four: the possibilities of home
The fourth and final workshop focused on future visions of home. Using the photographs the lights had taken as a catalyst for discussion, the lights were asked to paint from a perspective of future visioning, allowing the paint to become a powerful expression of possibilities. The focus was not on pictures, but on paint as a medium for expression. Again, the workshop happened at one of the ‘gulleys’ and as the canvas ran out, the acrylic paint spilled over onto thrown out pieces of card, street poles and the lights themselves.
exhibition: molo // i see you // home
The exhibition was installed semi-permanently in Umthombo Safe Space. It was up for the duration of the Street Child World Cup and the Momentum Arts group of artists used it as a starting point for discussion for the advocacy work they were doing ahead of the FIFA 2010 World Cup. The video documentation was shown sporadically on the TV in the main recreational area.