Culture and the right to the city: Diversity in the cultural ecology of Cape town

Zayd Minty
PDF, 2008

This discussion document argues that culture, viewed in terms of its intrinsic value, has a vital role to play in animating cities and, in so doing, addressing issues of polarisation. It asks the question: how can we realise the right to the city culturally in ways that lead to an appreciation of cultural diversity and a more inclusive sense of city-ness in a divided and polarised Cape Town?

A number of principles relating to intercultural practices and urban connectivities are proposed in the report. These suggest the need to recognise and understand diversity locally; to promote interculturalism and foster practices that cross boundaries and borders; to promote debates, dialogue and research and to promote local role models; to develop locally relevant best-practice models of training and education; to foster the development of convivial and interactive spaces; to support creative practices that work with the symbolic; to foster sustained and ongoing engagement rather than only one-off projects; to target youth; to make positive mindshift change happen through supporting progressive networks; and to recognise the importance of necessary infrastructure such as good public transport and affordable communication to make better connectivity a reality.

Short-term recommendations are formulated around four broad areas:

  1. hastening the completion of policy reviews involving culture at a local and provincial government level, and ensuring new models of effective implementation of these policies;
  2. recognising that the creative industries can be effective implementers of state programmes and so urgently address barriers to the development of a more vibrant creative industries sector;
  3. beginning a more extensive and clear process of research and mapping  for definite purposes, aimed at developing a more intercultural city;
  4. developing a spatial framework and approach for promoting cultural diversity in the city.

The discussion document culminates in the proposal of three new interventions that will make the intercultural city a real possibility. These are:

  1. setting up a specialised funding and research unit on cultural diversity and the intercultural city (financing change);
  2. creating an institute of intercultural thinking (fostering change);
  3. creating a high-profile cultural complex to promote the intercultural city (a place for change). The Athlone Power Station is proposed as an ideal space for such a cultural complex.
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