World Design Capital 2014: Highlights design in Cape Town Townships, no Tourism benefit sought!


Cécile and Boyd FoundationOn Friday The Guardian published a very lengthy article about Cape Town’s role as host of World Design Capital 2014 (WDC), and highlighted the unusual locations of design gems in Cape Town, including the townships and previously run-down city areas, as opposed to art galleries.  Unfortunately this is the second international article about Cape Town in two days with errors!  The article highlights what a visitor to Cape Town should see during this design-centred year, and contains shocking news for the Tourism industry.

Journalist Lisa Grainger anticipated visiting upmarket galleries, style emporiums, and seeing craft art, but instead she spent most of her week in Cape Town in townships with guide Fernie, to experience real creativity born from poverty. ‘Because it is in these townships that some of the most inspiring people live: people who are incredible, positive, engaging, brave. And I want visitors to see the good there is here, the real heart of South Africa’, he explained to her.  

She was told by Priscilla Urquhart, PR and Media Manager of Cape Town Design NPC, the company responsible for implementing World Design Capital 2014 for Cape Town, that our city’s budget (supplied by the City of Cape Town) is R 40 million, compared to close to R60 million spent by Helsinki two years ago, when that city carried the honour. Budget constraints prevented the creation of City-led design projects in Cape Town, but allowed the city’s design industry to offer its design projects for consideration, and about 450 have become official World Design Capital 2014 projects, summarised in a fold-open brochure. There is no showcase for these projects, the Design Indaba and Guild design fair having been the only two exhibitions where some of the work linked to some of the projects could be seen, unfortunately having run concurrently at the very busy end of February.

A shock is reading Urquhart admit to the journalist that ‘the WDC programme wasn’t designed to attract tourists, but to try to make the city a better place‘!  Since Cape Town bid for the honour of hosting World Design Capital 2014 more than two years ago, for which it is said to have paid R 6 million for the title, the Tourism industry was led to believe that tourists would arrive in droves this year, a promise we have not seen materialise to date, and now we understand why! Ironically the funding for World Design Capital 2014 come from the budget of the City of Cape Town’s Tourism, Events, and Marketing Directorate, and its Executive Director Anton Groenewald serves on the Board of Cape Town Design NPC!  

Grainger saw the Cecile and Boyd’s classrooms set up in shipping containers in the townships (photograph above); the Abalimi People’s Garden Centre township gardens on the Cape Flats; Oranjezicht City Farm started by Sheryl Ozinsky, and which they are hoping to spread to other pieces of unused land owned by the City;  sculptures by Edoardo Villa at Steenberg where she had lunch; art for sale at guest house Four Rosmead;  Babylonstoren outside Franschhoek; the Old Biscuit Mill with its Neighbourgoods Market, top restaurants The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club, and numerous design shops;  the Woodstock Exchange with a number of design shops; the Woodstock Foundry; Gold of Africa Museum; South African National Gallery;  Hemelhuijs; Haas Collective; art gallery Ebony;  La Parada; Honest Chocolate; Orphanage Cocktail Emporium; Tjing Tjing bar;  the District Six Museum; Truth; Charly’s Bakery; The Book Lounge; Okha; Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay; Mariner’s Wharf; Brass Bell; and Harbour House in Kalk Bay.

The photograph captions in the article have errors, and have not all been corrected despite promises to do so when the errors were pointed out in the Comments section: The Woodstock Exchange was referred to as ‘The Old Biscuit Mill’, but this was corrected subsequently. Truth on Buitenkant Street is said to be in ‘District Six‘, but this has not been corrected.

One wonders how Urquhart was given the PR and Media job at Cape Town Design NPC when she seems to not be on top of her job, as we have seen with the World Design Capital 2014 Gala Dinner and the monthly media briefing in the past ten days!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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