Multispecies Stories from a Southern City

This project incorporates a series of three walks – along the coast (False Bay), the mountain (Silvermine Nature Reserve) and a nightwalk in the forest (Constantia) – that explore the layered relationships within Cape Town through the eyes of artists, academics, writers and activists. Based on the premise that walking and thinking are closely related and using narrative as method, we were encouraged to experience our environment through a more-than-human lens.

Multispecies storytelling looks at how we can use storytelling to reshape our knowledge of our environment, land use and the accompanying history and heritage. The project will culminate in a symposium and exhibition at the end of May 2024.

I have been drawn particularly to the stories and connections that have surfaced in relation to St James Beach, stirring up memories of the beach as a space of exclusion during apartheid, while simultaneously unearthing narratives of colonisation, enslavement and loss, community, tradition and spirituality.

Featured Image: St James Beach, Cape Town

Re-Stitching District Six

On 3 May 2024 I found myself exploring the remains of a bulldozed house in District Six, Cape Town, an area that was declared  for “whites only” by the apartheid government in 1966. This declaration set in motion the forced removal of 60 000 people to the outlying areas of Cape Town and the subsequent bulldozing of their homes. As I stood on the remains of a cement stoep with traces of red paint, I imagined the former owners sitting down to rest after they had polished the stoep on their hands and knees. I imagined them under the huge palm tree they had planted with future plans of enjoying its shade as they gazed at Table Mountain or out to the ocean. And I thought about the heartbreak caused by being forced to say goodbye to your homes, your neighbours and friends.

Ayesha Mukadam and Antoinette Engel are the directors and producers of this documentary that focuses on four “protagonists” – a tailor, dressmaker, hairdresser and me, chatting about our connections to District Six with Ayesha.

My father was born and grew up in District Six and my paternal grandmother was forced to move from there in the mid-1970s. My memories of the area revolve around the lively and diverse Hanover Street where my uncle had a tailor shop, our house doctor had his practise, and the barber where my brothers and I had our hair cut. Hanover Street today is unrecognisable from the vibrant community hub of my childhood.

During filming we are also in conversation with Cleo Droomer, a story-tailor  who is being tasked with translating our stories into four distinct garments – the literal re-stitching of our history and heritage.  The journey is proving to be both sad and joyful as we relive memories and walk through the largely barren landscape.  I feel honoured to be bearing witness in this way and I am excited by the concept of our stories being brought into the contemporary space through this restitching with Cleo.

All images taken by me in District Six. Featured Image: Film crew in District Six with Table Mountain in the background.

From Signal Hill to the Kamiesberg

This is a journey of understanding, from Signal Hill, in Cape Town, where the voices of our enslaved and exiled ancestors bid us well and offer protection on the journey …

… to the Kamiesberg, in Namaqualand, where our indigenous ancestors have dwelt for more than a thousand years …

… as we follow the path of an 1865 expedition to the Land of the Amacqua, led by Simon van der Stel, Commander of the Cape, under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company …

…  for these three strands – enslaved and exiled, indigenous, and European, are inextricably linked in the history of this country.

I travel in the Company of the Wandering Womb, on the first leg of a journey of return towards Angola, the home of an enslaved ancestor who birthed her children in the slave lodge in the Cape. I join the journey because I am curious about the Kamiesberg, the mountain that bears my name, and what it means in terms of a heritage denied by the Company that traded people and spices – the Dutch East India Company.

This project encompasses four parts:

  • We were Here: In the Footsteps of the Enslaved and Exiled
  • A Mountain without a Name: The Erasure of Indigenous Names on the way to the Land of the Nama
  • To the Copper Mountains: A Journal kept on the Expedition to the Land of the Amacqua
  • My Name is Kamies: Genealogy of a South African Surname

Read preliminary musings on the search for the name Kamies in an article published by Reclamation Magazine.

 

 

Fieldguides for a Preternaturalist

deep histories fragile memories is an artistic research cluster based at LUCA School of Arts, Brussels. It aims to bring together like-minded researchers, practitioners and projects to create a collaborative body of knowledge that will be accessible to a wide audience. Fieldguides for a Preternaturalist is a series of chapbooks, each written by a different practitioner/researcher within the project, Nothing of Importance Occurred: Recuperating a Herball for a 17th century enslaved Angolan Midwife at the Cape.

The fieldguide series is intended to be an ambulatory library of ten chapbooks that mark a return from Cape Town to Angola. Vol. 1-3 (2022) mark the first leg, from a shrine on Signal Hill to a village in the Kamiesberg, Namaqualand. The guides are Nadia Kamies, Rachel O’Donnell, Joshua Cohen and Johanna Lot.

My essay,  UNPICK, RESTITCH Doilies, Medorahs and Labouring Plants, draws on an archive of the ordinary that includes family photographs, hand-crocheted doilies, an intricately embroidered medorah, and a plant held for generations within a family, through which we may rethink the threads that bind us. The essays are intended to be read aloud at gatherings in order to generate further collaboration.

A Fieldguide Gathering & Polyvocal Reading with Ten Voices

featuring the essay of Nadia Kamies,

will be held in collaboration with

Deep Histories, Fragile Memories and Cape Town Museum

on 15 April 2023

at the Cape Medical Museum, Green Point, Cape Town.

Read more here about  the Fieldguides and the guides. The first three issues are available from Berlin-based publishing atelier, K. Verlag and from Clarke’s Bookshop in Cape Town.