Standing on NY 115, amidst the chaos of hundreds of meat-seeking locals and tourists, the battle between people and cars played out before us...
Our guide for the day, Siphiwe Ngwenya from the Maboneng Township Arts Experience, led us to nearby NY 147 (Amy Biehl Street) to see how art is transforming the street and its community. We were able to spend some time connecting with the local residents, hearing how they have embraced this initiative and are benefiting from working together to capitalise on their various skills. Along with the existing home gallery spaces and street art, there are plans for a series of Home Innovation Labs and gardening initiatives on some of the properties. In looking forward to planning Open Streets in Gugulethu, this relationship with local residents is incredibly valuable and will hopefully develop as the year progresses.
Making our way down Amy Biehl Street, we were struck by how public art dominates the space and encourages interaction with its residents. The discussion was focused on how Open Streets could collaborate with the established initiative of Maboneng Township Arts Experience, hearing about their previous experience of shutting off the street during last year's weekend exhibition. Ngwenya confirmed that once there is something happening on the street, people flock to the area and want to be involved in the activities. He also suggested that Open Streets could contribute elements that have yet to be explored or implemented.
The question was raised of how feasible it would be to shut off a section of the far-busier neighbouring Klipfontein road, in order to have more of an impact. This was dismissed by Ngwenya as highly ambitious in a community where cars would insist on getting through despite barriers. Evidence of this mentality was certainly clear on NY 115 in front of Mzoli's Place.
The outcome then, of this month's Talking Streets in Gugulethu, is that there is positive potential for a collaborative Open Streets Day with the community surrounding Amy Biehl Street and the Maboneng Township Arts Experience. We look forward to exploring this potential further and developing our relationship with the local community, as we work towards a November Open Streets in Gugs.
By Rebecca Campbell