Accepted paper:

Curating the colonial past and a Pan-African future in the making of a reputable arts center in Johannesburg, South Africa


Lotte Nielsen (Basel University)

Paper short abstract:

Colonial and apartheid pasts and convivial Pan-Africanist futures are at the centre of a curational process of "filling up" an arts centre in Johannesburg, SA. The politics of time entangles with art practices and architectural visions in presenting diverse imaginations of the art centre's future.

Paper long abstract:

In June 2017, Windybrow-a former theatre located between Hillbrow, Doornfontein and Berea in the inner city of Johannesburg-reopened as an arts centre. This ornamented, Victorian building from 1896 was first the home of a randlord family. It was morphed into a state theatre during the last two decades of Apartheid, partly to compete with "the theatre of struggle", Market Theatre. Post-1994, the house started to fall apart as Apartheid fell into the shadows of the new South Africa. The re-imagination of this house is thus a balancing act between a history of colonialism, elitism and Apartheid and a desired Pan-Africanist future that makes a positive mark on an area characterised by migrants coming from all over Africa as well as xenophobic attacks. Following Tim Ingold's concept of "making", this project focuses on the re-imagination process taking shape through arts performances and crafts within the Windybrow, as well as in the architectural vision for a new building in the art centre complex. Inspired by RanciƩre's philosophy of art and politics as forms of dissensus, I follow the politics of curating the past through notions of heritage both in terms of architecture and art, with elements of a desired future of conviviality. This is where the drama of the art centre unfolds, as multiple stakeholders, incl. the state, planning facilitators and the Market Theatre Foundation (now the administrators of the centre) come with diverse visions: the future lies between the neighbouring community or the reputable arts community.

panel Cre08
Time and tradition: theorising the temporalities in and of cultural production