verb to make / create (isiZulu)

dala is an interdisciplinary creative collective that believes in the transformative role of creativity in building safer and more liveable cities. dala emerged as a response to the need for a sustainable space for creative practitioners actively engaging in the production of artarchitecture for social justice in Durban. dala believes that sustainable change can only happen through democratic participation and collaboration. dala therefore facilitates creative initiatives between practitioners from a variety of backgrounds (artists, architects, researchers, performers, urban planners, designers), the municipality and most importantly the people and organisations that live and work within and around the city. dala’s initiatives all revolve around re-imagining the use and expression in and of public space. Founders, Doung Jahangeer, Rike Sitas and Nontobeko Ntombela have been working on similar initiatives individually and collectively for close to ten years. The strength of dala lies in the interdisciplinary skills the founders bring to the organisation – Doung (architect), Rike (social scientist), Nonto (curator). All three are practicing artists and educators who have been involved in a number of local and international projects and exhibitions. dala has recently been joined by Peter McKenzie (photographer).

dala believes that long term ongoing initiatives are more sustainable than short term projects and therefore all of dala‘s projects occur within the framework of one of the following initiatives:

>> CityWalk Initiative

The CityWalk Initiative is one of dala’s oldest ongoing initiatives. The CityWalk is an investigative journey, an exuberant exploration as well as humbling and cautionary tale, an allegory on the infinite complexities of spaces and timings in the city of Durban KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was initiated and has been running since 2001 and is experimental, oral, visual and informal in nature.

Art, architecture, and indeed all cultural expression can function as a medium through which our society is able to articulate and conscientise its citizens around social issues as well as build skill and self-development, and within the context of this initiative, draws attention to ‘other’ marginalized realities of beauty and sadness. Durban is a rapidly growing city responding to the challenges of a post apartheid South Africa. It is within this dynamic urban context that the CityWalk Initiative exists. Many of the projects dala has worked on, has stemmed from the philosophy of the CityWalk: that of a people-centred, grounded approach to creative city making. For example, Cascoland 2008; spaza-de-move-on, the Young Artists’ Project 2009, and Time_Frame 2010.

>> Streetlight Initiative

dala’s Streetlight Initiative facilitates street children to creatively explore their lived reality and build alternatives for the future. Using art as a catalyst, dala explores a child-centered approach to re-imagine city spaces – for children, by children. dala has worked with a number of streetlights in both Durban and Johannesburg since 2004.

>> Livelihoods Initiative

dala’s Livelihood Initiative explores informal livelihoods and the entrepreneurial networks that exist in an increasingly globalised world. This initiative emphasises modes and models of social, spatial and economic innovation in the context of the marginalising tendencies of neoliberal capitalism. Two of the more prominent projects within this initiative have been: the award winning spaza-de-move-on (Design Indaba South Award); and the ongoing support provided by dala in the struggle to save the Early Morning Market in Durban.

>> [shoot me]

For dala, the act of taking a photo or capturing a scene is not enough, it is rather merely the starting point. Through participatory methods, in the [[shoot me]] initiative the camera becomes an anti-weapon, a vehicle through which to address issues of social inequality in our cities. We are exploring how this process can be used as a catalyst to inspire dialogue around and between people and the city. Using the camera (both still and video) as a participatory tool, the [[shoot me]] initiative explores the reconciliatory potential for creative public interventions in transformation – a TRC of the streets.

>> Creative City Initiative

dala has been inspired by the creative cities approach to urban planning and development. In this way, dala aspires to the passionate and compassionate art of city making. City-making involves that a city ‘should not seek to be the most creative city in the world (or region or state) – it should strive to be the most imaginative city for the world (Landry, 2007: 1).

Ultimately a creative city is one that focuses on a sustainable approach to civic creativity. dala imagines eThekwini as a city that nurtures the inherent creativity within it. This has local, regional, global and implications for developing more just and liveable cities. In this light, dala endeavours to explore a variety of innovative experiments in creative city making.

>> Critical Practice

As dala is a learning organisation, and believes in the ongoing development of art as a critical social practice, we are also committed to furthering the field intellectually. We have therefore participated in and presented at, a number of public forums, conferences and colloquia.

In 2009, in collaboration with VANSA, dala set up its internship programme, in order to ensure a transfer of skills to an emerging generation of art for social change practitioners. dala is also committed to supporting tertiary education and has an ongoing working relationship with a number of tertiary institutions such as Vega the School of Brand Communications, Durban University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity.

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