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Come Listen to Edgar Pieterse Speak at the Green Building Convention at CTICC

Africa's Urban RevolutionProfessor Edgar Pieterse, one of the editors of Africa’s Urban Revolution, will be speaking at the Green Building Convention on 12 September. The convention is being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). He will be speaking at 12:15 PM.

Pieterse lectures postgraduate courses in sustainable urban management at the University of Cape Town and is a researcher and director at the African Center for Cities. His work looks at the constant challenges and changes of cities.

An all-access pass to the convention costs R9 735, and the rate for a single day is R2 600. Visit the website for more booking options.

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Kerwin Datu Reviews Africa’s Urban Revolution and the African Centre for Cities

Africa's Urban RevolutionAn article by Kerwin Datu, on The Global Urbanist, features a discussion of Africa’s Urban Revolution, which was edited by Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse.

This article is the first of two reviewing the book and the African Centre for Cities, the research institution that produced it. Datu says that this institution is possibly one of the most important of its kind, and that the book contains grounded and yet innovative recommendations for new approaches to urbanisation.

Read the article:

Earlier this year, Susan Parnell and Edgar Pieterse, two founders of the ACC, published Africa’s Urban Revolution (Zed Books), a collection of extended essays by 19 staff and colleagues of the centre on various dimensions of Africa’s urbanisation. Most chapters target one or another urgent challenge facing regulators in Africa’s cities, with potentially radical but always grounded recommendations for how these should and can be met starting now.

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Poor Numbers Author Morten Jerven Believes Outdated Numbers Held Nigeria Back

Poor NumbersWhen Nigeria surpassed South Africa as the largest economy in Africa, it was revealed that the country had been using outdated methods to calculate their gross domestic product (GDP).

Morten Jerven, author of Poor Numbers: How we are mislead by African development statistics and what to do about it, says: “Does it seem to you that the Nigerian economy suddenly is growing faster?”

As Mandy de Waal writes, Jerven believes a change in methodology is needed across the continent:

Jerven’s study of the production and use of African economic development statistics reveals how patchy the continent’s economic data is, and how crucial it is that this changes. The reason for these numbers being poor, says Jerven, is not just one of technical accuracy but also because the “arbitrariness of the quantification process produces observations with very large errors and levels of uncertainty”.

Book details

  • Poor Numbers: How we are mislead by African development statistics and what to do about it by Morten Jerven
    EAN: 9781775820659
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Noëleen Murray and Leslie Witz’s Hostels, Homes, Museum Launched with Ciraj Rassool

Leslie Witz and Noëleen Murray

The Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum was the site of great jubilation last weekend, when members of the Lwandle community celebrated the academic team who had told their story. Noëleen Murray and Leslie Witz’s Hostels, Homes, Museum: Memorialising migrant labour pasts in Lwandle, South Africa is a powerful tribute to the men (and later, women) who lived there. Many of those who had endured under the system of migrant labour, single-sex hostels and the control of black workers through the reviled pass book, were there to celebrate. Now in advanced years, they were joined by a range of visitors who had been instrumental in establishing the museum and who had contributed to the success of the publication.

Masa Soko, Leslie Witz, Noëleen Murray and Ciraj RassoolHostels, Homes, MuseumAcademic and author Ciraj Rassool opened the event by calling for a minute’s silence in memory of those who had lost their lives at Marikana. He paid tribute to the process the museum had undergone and the vision and energy that seen the transformation of the heritage site into its current function.

The team of authors shared an amusing account of their earliest recollections of how the unlikely project took shape. Witz said, “I first heard of the possibility of a museum in Lwandle in 1998 when the University of the Western Cape, together with the Robben Island Museum and the University of Cape Town began offering a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum and Heritage Studies that would extend vocational possibilities in the heritage sector. In the first year of the programme one of the students approached me during a break in class and told me of where he lived and spoke of plans to develop a museum of migrant labour around the last remaining hostel. I was highly sceptical. Within the boundaries of historical narratives of the Western Cape that I had read and studied over the years, Lwandle did not feature at all.”

The academic continued, “Nonetheless the student, Bongani Mgijima, seemed bright and enthusiastic and when he returned with a set of somewhat uninspiring and unremarkable photographs of the area, I promised to go there to see what was happening and how the envisaged museum was progressing. My expectations were not high,” he said.

Murray confirmed that almost a year later, in 1999, Witz kept his promise to Mgijima and set off along Settlers Way. “Bongani had indicated it would be easy to find Lwandle and the museum as it was just beyond Somerset West off the N2. Soon after leaving Somerset West, however, Leslie saw the large billboard on the left hand side of the road indicating that he had arrived at place called Heritage Park. Bongani had written an article for the local newspaper, The District Mail, in June 1998, with the title ‘Let’s talk heritage matters’ and he had given Leslie a copy.”

In the article Bongani pointed to the potential of the buildings of Lwandle being constituted as a heritage tourism site symbolising the struggle of the people. “This aspect combined with the ‘hundreds’ of praise-singers, traditional healers, handcrafts, artists, songs, traditional dancers, art performers and other cultural activists,” he maintained, made Lwandle a potential “showcase … of living heritage”. The sign for what was being called Heritage Park seemed to not contain any of the aspects that embraced Bongani’s claims to heritage for Lwandle that were under construction on the opposite side of the N2.

“The heraldic emblem for ‘Heritage Park’ on the billboard facing the N2 displayed a drawing of a bunch of red grapes and an acorn, signalling a romantic association with a past of leafy European settlement at the Cape winelands. Below the shield inscribed in a scroll of honour were the words: ‘Live, work and play in safety’. This was the motto and insignia of a gated community that was being imagined by a private developer.

“Barely 300 metres after the ‘Heritage Park’ sign Leslie noticed a large open area of land on the right hand side of the motorway. A road sign indicated the correct turnoff to Lwandle, which Bongani had described as the location of the museum project. He went past a house painted white where a flag with an octagonal decal indicated a police presence, and on to a street named Vulindlela (translated as ‘pioneer’) where long rows of buildings were all adorned with solar panels on their roofs.

“Opposite what seemed to be a taxi rank there was a small café, and across a stretch of bare dusty ground was a building that bore all the functionality of apartheid design. It was symmetrical, austere, windowless, largely made of facebrick, and had a sloping roof on either side that reached a central apex. Outside the building he saw Bongani anxiously waiting for him.

Witz took over the narrative: “Bongani invited me to enter what he proudly called the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum. What he had done in the time since graduating with his Postgraduate Diploma in Museum and Heritage Studies was that he and Charmian Plummer, an ex-school teacher and resident of Somerset West, had begun marking out the space of this unattractive building as a museum. Having few resources at their disposal they had resorted to putting notices and photographs to the walls, using A4 sheets and prestik.

“The content of what they had labelled as an exhibition was largely a series of photographs of contemporary Lwandle street scenes by local photographers who had offered their services without payment. A notice indicated that the mission of the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum was: ‘To commemorate the migrant labour system and hostel life.’

“I thought that Bongani was either very brave or stupid, and that it would be almost impossible for this so-called museum to survive. But I also had a great deal of admiration for him in trying to initiate this project with almost no resources and with what appeared to be very little support either in Lwandle, from other museums or from residents of nearby Somerset West. Bongani and I had joked just before I departed about Heritage Park across the N2 and Bongani indicated that he had actually approached the property developer for assistance but that this was not forthcoming.”

Murray reflected on the intervening years: “Somewhat surprisingly, a little over 15 years later and almost by chance, and despite constant threats of closure, there is a museum in Lwandle and it is the story of those fifteen years of museum making that we relate in our book. The project for this book took shape around plans for the museum’s 10th birthday in 2010 and the restoration of a migrant labour hostel, labelled as hostel 33. I had joined the board a couple of years after Leslie and it was Bongani’s enthusiasm over an architectural academic being involved that drew me into an idea of combining design and research.

“From 2008 onwards the museum had turned its attention to the restoration of hostel 33 and had secured funding from the US Ambassadors Cultural preservation Fund, the National lottery Board and the National Heritage Council. I was granted a UWC Arts Faculty two-year post-doc fellowship in the Centre for Humanities Research with the explicit intention of critically reflecting upon the processes of museum making and deepening the intellectual project of the museum. What it became was spending months in my gumboots getting to know the life and structure of the hostel, working with builders, architects, residents of Lwandle, and staff of the museum in the pursuit of what we began to call the rehabilitation of hostel 33,” she said.

Witz reflected on the recent events that had cast Lwandle into the world’s eye. He said, “Until a few months ago on Google maps the Lwandle museum was located next to the Somerset Mall. But from June this year when a series of land evictions commenced, Lwandle, became headline news. As we know in the midst of one of the severest storms in Cape Town residents and their homes in Siyanyanzela (translated meaning: ‘we are forcing’), a settlement on land adjacent to Lwandle that was set aside for the extension of the national road, were forcibly removed by the police and officers from a private security company acting on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL).

“From being a place that was hardly written about, and had received little attention in contemporary urban studies, Lwandle suddenly appeared to become highly visible in the national media. But at the same time as it became ‘breaking news’ Lwandle has remained dislocated and invisible – an urban ‘informal settlement’ that could be anywhere at any time. And when in breaking news a photo appears to accompany a story, an image of Khayelitsha is put in place as a generic township settlement, providing an easy replicable substitute.”

After the talk, guests visited the heritage site and heard about the process of rehabilitation, and how “the hostel 33, with a small ‘h’, became the proper noun Hostel 33, with an upper case ‘H’.”

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Liesl Jobson tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks


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Book details

  • Hostels, Homes, Museum: Memorialising migrant labour pasts in Lwandle, South Africa by Noëleen Murray and Leslie Witz
    EAN: 9781775820772
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Photojournalist Zanele Muholi to Discuss Homosexuality in Africa at Centre for the Book

Jacketed WomenJoin the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) Cape Town in a public dialogue on “The Debate on Homosexuality in Africa” on Wednesday, 20 August, at the Centre for the Book in Gardens, Cape Town.

The two speakers leading the discussion are Zanele Muholi and Zakhele Mbhele. Muholi, contributor to the recent publication Jacketed Women: Qualitative research methodologies on sexualities and gender in Africa, is a photojournalist and gay rights activist, and Mbhele is a Member of Parliament.

Senior Programme Officer for Africa at IGLHRC Thomas Ndayiragije will chair the debate, which will start at 5:30 PM.

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Aninka Claassens Warns about the Pitfalls of Land Claims

Land, Power and CustomAninka Claassens, co-author of Land, Power and Custom: Controversies Generated by South Africa’s Communal Land Rights Act, writes that land restitution claims by traditional leaders could blow up in Zuma’s face, with competing demands that could result in violence.

Jacob Zuma, in his speech opening the National House of Traditional Leaders, encouraged traditional leaders to take advantage of the newly amended Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act and put in claims. The amendment reopens the window for lodging restitution claims, but retains the restriction that dispossession must have taken place after 1913.

Yet hints by Zuma that this date is negotiable have led to an avalanche of claims by traditional leaders going back into the mists of time.

Book details

  • Land, Power and Custom: Controversies Generated by South Africa’s Communal Land Rights Act by Aninka Claassens and Ben Cousins
    EAN: 9781919895505
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Hostels, Homes, Museum to be Launched at Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum with Ciraj Rassool

Hostels, Homes, Museum: Memorialising migrant labour pasts in Lwandle, South AfricaUCT Press and the Board and Staff of Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum warmly invite you to join Noëleen Murray and Leslie Witz for the launch of their new book, Hostels, Homes, Museum: Memorialising migrant labour pasts in Lwandle, South Africa.

The event takes place at the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum on Saturday, 16 August, and starts at 10:30 AM.

Professor Ciraj Rassool from the University of the Western Cape History Department will be delivering the keynote address.

Don’t miss this!

Event Details

Book Details

  • Hostels, Homes, Museum: Memorialising migrant labour pasts in Lwandle, South Africa by Noëleen Murray, Leslie Witz
    EAN: 9781775820772
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Dee Smythe and Aninka Claassens Launch In Search of Equality with Nomboniso Gasa at The Book Lounge

Dee Smythe and Aninka Claassens

During a week when The Book Lounge was a hum of activity with a range of different books launched every night, one evening stood out for the launch of two books simultaneously. Two publishers joined forces, each celebrating the arrival of their title that explored issues relating to the other’s book.

In Search of Equality: Women, Law and Society in South Africa edited by Stefanie Röhrs and Dee Smythe was launched alongside Marriage, Land and Custom edited by Aninka Claassens and Dee Smythe, and published by Juta Law. Smythe, who is the Director of the Centre for Law and Society at UCT, and Claassens, a senior researcher in the unit, were joined by Nomboniso Gasa, an independent gender and policy analyst, and the author of Women in South African History.

Dee Smythe, Nomboniso Gasa & Aninka ClaassensIn Search of EqualityMarriage, Land and CustomClaassens commenced the evening with a brief synopsis of the book, which explores the remarkable decline in marriage rates among African people in South Africa, which have reached 10 percent in KwaZulu-Natal. “Against this decline in the marriage rates, we are seeing an unprecedented number of single women claiming and getting residential sites within communal areas, which is completely contrary to the orthodoxy that under customary law women don’t have land rights,” she said. This calls for reflection on the consequences of how law reform affects processes on the ground, for example the Recognition of the Customary Marriages Act. In other instances, it bears contemplation how change is led by rural women outside the law.

A series of chapters deal with the dramatic decline in marriage rates, talking about how this started in the ’60s. “It is related to the increase in unemployment, the decline in migrancy, the dislocation of the agrarian society in which women played a pivotal role, but also the dilemmas of how you count marriage. In the west, you are either married or not. From the African perspective, marriage is much more processional, going through a long process with many questions about where/when the marriage has actually taken place,” she said.

“A key focus is the processes of single women claiming residential sites after 1994. These came to light in a series of consultation meetings about the Communal Land Rights Act. Women’s vulnerability to eviction when their husbands died or the marriages had broken down had come to the fore.

She said that another pivotal chapter surveyed 3 000 women, investigating their anecdotal accounts. Debbie Budlender found that indeed there has been a marked change in processes of women claiming and getting residential sites. Another fascinating question was how women drew on different repertoires in claiming customs and rights.

The problem of binaries that inform the law are reinforced by the way the law looks at society. A whole section of the book looks at the implementation of the Customary Marriages Act. With regard to this, Gasa identified of a number of questions that came to mind: “What is tradition? And who defines this? Why is it defined in a certain way at a given point in time? What does the South African State’s law reform process affirm when it looks at tradition?”

Claassens also spoke about the meaning of liberation which enables people to make the claims they need and want to make. “We liberate those aspects of our beings that have been oppressed or suppressed. Custom and culture is an important part of that and people need to express themselves and lay claim to these. It’s important to recognise that people have cultural institutions that are important and meaningful to them, like chief and traditional leaders. The problem lies in the very point of departure that Government has applied to its legal reform is much influenced by what is familiar and what makes sense. No matter how hard we try to reject our colonial legacy, it keeps creeping back. By putting it into laws stating that we will have areas and terrains controlled by traditional leaders, government has congealed a process that could have been fluid.

She identified a default position; that which is familiar, the “Bantustan”. With this mindset, there can only be one way of being. “Because you are a Motswana, therefore you belong here or there. The fluidity that people have always had in relation to location, or geography, but also in relation to negotiating around powers and centres of authority among themselves becomes compromised. The creativity is lost in a context where you have very fixed boundaries, very fixed areas of traditional leadership,” she said.

Claassens referred to a woman who had spoken at a kgotla in the Royal Bafokeng area who had married in to the community, and was technically an outsider. “Once you start telling people which area they belong to and what they should be doing, it follows that you have to give people other powers, other rules. The interesting thing is that the only roles and powers that traditional leaders can be given over customs and cultures are those that eat into citizenship and chosen – rather than imposed – identity of people. It relates to the debate of whether anybody is a ‘pure’ Zulu at any given time.”

Gasa identified another aspect which lies in privileging certain notions of family, of heterosexuality, that are similar and mirror the colonial notion of family, even as there is a move to undermine these. “Perhaps more serious is the impact that all these laws centring on issues of tradition, including the Traditional Courts Bill, have on citizenship and the right to self determination.”

“No sooner is there an opportunity for people to reopen the land claims then the president goes to traditional leaders and actively encourages them to put their best resources, consolidate, make a claim. That’s problematic because the leader then determines who will benefit and it will be along certain lines. Mostly importantly, given the fact the people who lead in these areas have multiple identities, multiple areas of loyalty, some might claim more loyalty to their churches than to their cultural identity. One identity takes precedence over others, enforcing one particular version of Christianity onto people. One type of cosmology is then imposed on people. Those who are left at the bottom, and completely disempowered, are women, older women, young women and rural women.

“Finally, the notion of marriage itself needs a lot of conversation. It is frequently written in connection with procreation, continuity of lineage, and so on. Other notions of marriage around protection of wealth, is hardly every explored. Other notions of African women as sexualised, sensualised being in themselves. They have always been in relationships they initiated. With time those courtships can result in interesting unions. These are then written out of the laws that recognise customary marriage because there’s a list of stipulations, like the exchange of cattle, that hasn’t been met.”

Gasa believes that the kind of traditionalism that President Jacob Zuma presides over and actively drives is one that privileges “men of status” and erases women as being. This returns women to the place where they are defined in relation to a man, the daughter, wife or aunt of somebody. Who you are in your own right ceases to matter. The period we are in is a new traditional period with incredible consequences in terms of land, property and association around property and cultural institutions.

Smythe noted that In Search of Equality was born out of conversations between women and activists within the African network of constitutional lawyers about the utility of constitutional rights for women and their advancement on the continent. The conversation was about more than just equality initially. It was about access to justice, about sexual and reproductive rights, sexual orientation and socioeconomic rights.

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:


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Edgar Pieterse to Participate in Design Africa Symposium at Brundyn+ Gallery, Bo-Kaap

Africa's Urban RevolutionThe Design Africa Symposium is set to take place on Monday, 11 August, at the Brundyn+ Gallery in the Bo-Kaap, with the programme featuring Edgar Pieterse, co-editor of Africa’s Urban Revolution, as one of the speakers.

This special event is presented by WDC Cape Town 2014 and Luyanda Mpahlwa DesignSpaceAfrica, with support from PPC Cement | AZA 2014, and is CPD validated by the Cape Institute for Architecture. The symposium continues the dialogue from the UIA 2014 25th World Congress on Architecture in Durban, as both WDC 2014 and UIA 2014 offer significant opportunities to bring international attention to South Africa’s design landscape.

The Design Africa Symposium, with the theme “Design Visions for African Cities of the Future”, will take the form of conversations with international and local voices on the contemporary condition of African cities. Other speakers include Angela Mingas (Angola), Joe Addo (Ghana), Sithabile Mathe (Botswana) and South Africans Iain Louw, Rashiq Fataar and Luyanda Mpahlwa. The interactive discussion sessions will be followed by dinner, drinks and entertainment.

The symposium starts at 3 PM and will finish at 9 PM. Tickets cost R100 for professionals and R50 for students.

Don’t miss this important event!

Event Details

  • Date: Monday, 11 August 2014
  • Time: 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM
  • Venue: Brundyn+ Gallery
    170 Buitengracht St
    Bo-Kaap | Map
  • Guest Speakers: Angela Mingas, Joe Addo, Sithabile Mathe, Iain Louw, Rashiq Fataar and Luyanda Mpahlwa
  • Refreshments: Dinner, drinks
  • Cover charge: R100 for professionals, R50 for students
  • RSVP: Buy tickets on Quicket

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Podcast: Edgar Pieterse on the Future of African Cities and Slum Urbanisation

Africa's Urban RevolutionEdgar Pieterse, co-editor of Africa’s Urban Revolution, participated in this year’s Think!Fest in Grahamstown where he discussed the future of African cities and slum urbanisation. Youlendree Appasamy reported on the event and shared a podcast of the talk.

Pieterse said, “In my most optimistic moments, the best scenario is innovative mayors, and people within urban societies doing tech-smart things.”

Listen to the podcast:

Before engaging with ways to move forward in combating slum neglect in burgeoning mega-cities (and smaller cities) in Africa, Pieterse outlined the bare and bleak facts of urbanisation, population growth and globalisation in relation to Africa. By 2060, 1 in 4 individuals on the planet will be African. This African Development Bank report explains more key figures and statistics of Africa in 2060. With rates of urbanisation increasing, Pieterse stressed the need for all levels of society to “confront material realities”.

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