May’s First Thursdays in Cape Town was packed with product launches, new spaces, rising artists and contemporary galleries. But what caught our eye the most was the UCT Honours architectural students’ showcase at The Architect pop-up gallery on Hout Street.
The entire exhibition was a result of five group projects: each group was given a site to study between Signal Hill and Vredehoek and conceptualise a design that captures some of the ‘withdrawn’ qualities.
This idea of the design is influenced by Heidegger’s Phenomenology philosophy, which investigates the meaning of what it is to be. He theorises that there are two distinct dimensions in which objects exist in the world – relational or withdrawn. ‘Relational’ existence is the way in which objects exist together in the world: individual pieces making up a whole, while ‘withdrawn’ existence refers to the inherent qualities of objects, independent of their relation to the world.
Sounds complicated, perhaps, but what came from this task merges architecture with art – and it’s a thing of beauty and power.
After coming to Cape Town from Zimbabwe 5 years ago, Mbongisani co-founded F8rever, an independent collective of young artists that aims to emphasise how art is an eternally uncorrupted form of human expression.
As both an architect and an artist, Mbongisane merges his architectural projects with the work he does for F8rever, looking at architecture through the same lens he uses to make art. Already beginning to play with this idea in 2016, he and the rest of the F8rever collective exhibited a series of canvases called Sm8ke City that explored ideas of a utopian world, spatial relationships and perspective.
For his Honours showcase, he looked at the Bo-Kaap site through the conceptual lens of a hunter. His first panel looks at Bo-Kaap as an animal that’s being hunted, caught in a trap and reaching out for freedom. The second panel tells the story of a man hunting another man, while the third panel is based around the idea of ‘broken telephone’ and how people engage with each other. The fourth panel envisions Bo-Kaap in a future where the Dutch didn’t colonise the Cape.
Ceoné’s site was along Orphan Street, a street named after the masses of orphaned children that congregated at St Paul’s Church after an influenza epidemic in the early 1900s killed many parents. She found that her experience of the street was one of hindered movement.
‘The countless fenced-off alleys, solid walls, barbed wire and fences that forcefully manipulate the routes one can take along that part of the city constantly influenced exploration of the site,’ she commented.
Her project embodies this experience of segregation, barriers, hard lines and especially the feeling of being simultaneously removed and restricted.