PEACE Module

Through 1to1 I was commissioned by the PEACE Foundation to design a multi-purpose rural centre that will be deployed to tactical areas across northern South Africa. These PEACE Centres will be used to support various NGO’s and institutional operations that work with and for the PEACE Foundation.


The prototype centre has been designed to support an existing waste management facility in
Senwabarwana (Bochum), Limpopo. This centre’s main activity is through educational training
around computer literacy and environmental awareness.

PublicActs/Joburg ACT # 5 & # 6 Socio Spatial Action Research within Mai Mai Market

This project was initiated by the PublicActs/Johannesburg (www.publicacts.org) programme, conceived and curated by Katharina Rohde & Thireshen Govender, under interventions (Act #5 and Act #6) of the greater PublicActs/Johannesburg Project:

Mai Mai Market in the morning (ImageJhono Bennett)


“Focusing on new and emerging public spaces PublicActs/Johannesburg aims to investigate and showcase its many different manifestations and potentials.

Producing a catalogue of urban public conditions based on criteria that respond to the contemporary reality of our city and represent its diverse geographies, six sites are identified for their critical value. These meander between the New Imaginaries, the Everyday, the Grand and Spectacular, the Ephemeral and Politics, Power and Protest.

Acknowledging different interpretations of publicness, six creative collaborators alongside local actors are invited to produce a series of actions, site-specific interactions or performances in defined sites, to provoke discussion and the imagination around future public spaces in Johannesburg.

The project culminates into 24hour choreographed Public Acts which invites spectators to playfully engage and interact with the creative interpretations on site. Additionally to the artistic outputs, the festival program will engage local stakeholders and a greater public to critically reflect and comment on the projects findings, speculations and provocations. This will allow for thought about the conditions and production of public space in Johannesburg

With the research and experiences generated we aim to challenge urban actors and decision-makers to engage and construct public spaces in Johannesburg in innovative and democratic ways. Our findings and creative outputs shall function as a guide on how to approach, use, misuse, appropriate and imagine public space in African cities”. (text taken from www.publicacts.org)

The Kwa-Mai Mai socio-spatial action research intervention was the 6 week culmination of a critical process of engagement with the Kwa-Mai Mai Committee and the Mai Mai users. This article explains the process undertaken by those involved and summarises the experience highlighting the key findings and discoveries along the way.
 
 
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Through a series of discussions, informal workshops and mapping exercises fellow PublicActs provacateurs, Liliania Transplantor and WayWord Sun of AMBush Gardening Collective and myself began investigating the complex and layered qualities of the socio-spatial dynamic of the Kwa-Mai Mai Bazaar (referred to locally as the Mai Mai Market and the entire area as Mai Mai) in Johannesburg’s Central Business District. 
What was amazing was not in the fact that they were taken, but that as the day progressed the chairs were slowly returned to the site as the extended leadership from within the Mai Mai Market exercised its control over the entire Mai Mai site, and through co-ordinated movements all chairs were returned back to their original placement.
Mai Mai Food Court before the Act began – with chairs re-appropriated (ImageJhono Bennett)
Mai Mai Food Court before the Act began – as the chairs began returning (ImageJhono Bennett)
Mai Mai Food Court before the Act began – as the chairs began returning (ImageJhono Bennett)
Mai Mai Food Court before the Act began – all chairs returned (ImageJhono Bennett)
This finding eluded to a much more complex and organised form of leadership and governance that exists in Mai Mai. Simultaneously, more intricate territories amongst the food court users were revealed as the chairs became a symbol of territorial control as users claimed ownership over various arrangements.

Findings

While the experiment did not meet the original aim of constructively provoking forms of seating and gathering it revealed many of the intangible connections and controls that allow the Mai Mai Food Court to work as a highly successful and productive democratic public space in appearance, but a deeply territorialised and governed space in the public realm.
(ImageJhono Bennett)

Looking Forward – and Back

Working Draft of Process of Engagement – see completed version at www.whatdoesmaimaimean.blogspot.com
(ImageJhono Bennett)
This initial engagement was the first step in a much longer envisioned engagement from both 1to1 – Agency of Engagement and AMbush Gardening Collective with the Kwa-Mai Mai Committee and its users in their own goals of developing Mai Mai into their collective vision.
What the process revealed to us, and our project partners, was how crucial the delicate and negotiated process of trust building that is required through critical engagement to even begin to uncover important social and spatial relationships areas such as the Mai Mai Market.
More so, how important it is for city planners and spatial practitioners to understand that not all systems reveal themselves at face value and often in such complex and rich public spaces, one needs to more engaged and critical when interrogating public space towards an understanding or an intervention.