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Public Culture CityLab

The Public Culture CityLab is a two-year proposed platform for research, creative practice, and teaching. It has a conceptual focus on urban culture studies and is a response to the need for theorisation and research on public spaces/ public cultures in South African Cities.

I co-convene the Public Culture CityLab together with Rike Sitas. We are currently fund raising and working hard on conceptualising a programme of events. You can find out more here.

Mobile A2K: Culture and Safety in Africa

zim refugees

Mobile Access to Knowledge: Culture and Safety in Africa is a 2 year research project assessing the impact of cultural events and public art on urban safety in three African cities: Douala, Johannesburg, and Luanda. I am working on Mobile A2K as a principal researcher, specifically tasked with conducting research in Johannesburg.

More information here:


MAK Center LA, Urban Future Manifestos from Robert Ransick on Vimeo.


The MAK Center has invited a number of respected thinkers to contribute a manifesto to the publication concluding the UFI Fellowship Program. Architects, urban planners, activists, and myriad other practitioners have begun to feel an urgent need to respond to the current and impending challenges of the urban environment.

Urban Future Manifestos is inspired by the MAK Urban Future Initiative Fellowship (UFI), launched by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture Los Angeles at the Schindler House in 2008. The UFI’s mission is to promote meaningful exchange between cultural thinkers from diverse nations in order to cultivate visionary conceptions of the urban future.

More info here:

Counter-Currents: Experiments in Sustainability in the Cape Town Region

Counter-Currents cover

Available from March 2010: Cape Town is undergoing a growth spurt driven along by both public and private sector investments. In the process a new city is being fashioned in front of our eyes but there are very few book length perspectives on the direction and meaning of this growth. This is particularly alarming given the many intractable problems that stare the city in the face and which require more considered and informed responses. The starting point of this initiative is that the nature and direction of Cape Town’s physical metamorphosis is unsustainable and culturally questionable if not inappropriate. However, amidst the expansion of real estate, a number of very important counter currents are afoot (as plans or interventions or sometimes, only dreams) which represent both a critique of unimaginative urban growth and hold the seeds for putting Cape Town onto a unique and culturally resonant growth path; a precondition for creating a more inclusive, vibrant and sustainable city at ease in its own skin, perched at the southern tip of Africa. The purpose of this book will be to showcase bold urban development initiatives by the both the state and the private sector with the aim of shifting public ideas and discourses about the kind of Cape Town we should be imagining and nurturing; a city that works explicitly with many unresolved contradictions and tensions but also strives to give expression to a number of core values such as sustainability, social justice, integration and creativity. Contributing authors to the volume include: Mokena Makeka, Gita Goven, Barbara Southworth, Andrew Boraine, Luyanda Mpahlwa, Nisa Mammon, Lucien Le Grange, Iain Low, Karen Press, Jane Alexander, Ashraf Jamal, AbdouMaliq Simone, David Dewar, Mark Swilling. The volume is edited by Edgar Pieterse.

Counter–Currents Exhibition and Book launch

Counter-Currents Invite

Book Launch and Exhibition opening
Date: 6 April 2010
Time: 5:30 for 6pm-7:30pm
Venue: Cape Institute for Architecture
Panel Discussion about the City with Edgar Pieterse (Editor & Director:
African Centre for Cities, Max Price (Vice Chancellor: University of Cape
Town), Mokena Makeka (Architect), Bruce Calland

Debate One: Leadership and the City
Date: 19 April 2010
Time: 5:30 for 6pm-7:30pm
Venue: Cape Institute for Architecture
Participants: David Schmidt (Contributor/Consultant), Mark Swilling
(Contributor/Director: The Sustainability Institute), Luyanda Mpahlwa

Debate Two: Designing Futures
Date: 6 May 2010
Time: 5:30 for 6pm-7:30pm
Venue: Cape Institute for Architecture
Participants: Gita Goven (Contributor/Architect), Robin Carlyle (MEC for
Transport & Public Works), Barbara Southworth (Contributor/Urban Planner)
Moderated by Edgar Pieterse

We cannot Continue to Die like This

Title: We cannot Continue to Die like This
Year: 2007
Medium: Video Montage
Duration: 1min15sec
By: Babak Fakhamzadeh and Ismail Farouk


Avalon Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in South Africa and is the final resting place of many political and cultural activists. The cemetery is about 170ha in size and is managed by the City of Johannesburg’s City Parks division. At the entrance to the cemetery, a memorial with the words, “Never Never Again” inscribed on it pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the Soweto uprisings of 1976.

Avalon Cemetery is facing severe pressure. With the death rate is increasing by 10% per year and more than 200 funerals occurring each weekend, the cemetery is running out of space. Compounding the problem is the Aids pandemic. With more than 6.5 million of the country’s 47 million people infected with HIV, demand for space is increasing. Every weekend, convoys of buses carrying mourners bring the Old Potchefstroom Road to a standstill. This has resulted in special traffic marshals being deployed to deal with the traffic congestion every weekend. Cremation is not considered appropriate for most people so City Parks are encouraging families to consider the “second burial” option, where several members of a family are buried in the same grave.

“We Cannot Continue to Die like this” is a short animated movie which responds to the pressures experienced by the cemetery because of the increase of funerals as a direct result of AIDS related deaths. The film frames the dense weekend funeral traffic in relationship to the 1976 memorial located at the entrance of the cemetery. This is done to bring about awareness to the current day struggle our society is experiencing. History is represented by the memorial to fallen heroes of 1976 – history will demand to know where our leaders are now, when this preventable disease continues to kill millions of people.

God’s Land

Highlands Hill in Yeoville is an important public space where African Indigenous religious practices dominate. This spiritual hill provides open space for hundreds of worshippers to gather in prayer on a daily basis.

Much of the religious activity occurs in contravention of the regulations set out by the city parks utility company who manage the space. City Parks have signposted the hill as a ‘no prayer’ zone. It seems the city does not recognize the inherent spiritual value of the space and often enforce the ‘no prayer’ regulation by threatening to arrest worshippers for loitering. Much of the hill is earmarked to be redeveloped as housing for inner city residents.

no gatherings

‘God’s Land’ attempts to bring much needed attention to the spatial justice issues being experienced on Highland’s Hill. By altering existing exclusionary signposts on the hill, the work attempts to point to the conflict between the spiritual needs of the local community vs. the needs of mainstream development.

Lecture: Informal Economies in Global Cities

Invite: Lecture Ismail Farouk - Ghent University

I’ve been invited by the University of Ghent to give a lecture exploring the importance of informal economies in global cities.

In the context of a visit and social-cultural project in Ledeberg Ghent, the lecture treats the importance of understanding informal economy, socio-cultural practices and interventions in urban renewal projects, and the links between cities in the Global South and North.

The lecture is a cooperation between the City of Ghent (Arts Department and the Office of North-South Co-operation), Africalia, Hogeschool Gent, Kask, and research groups MENARG en CRG at the Department of Third world Studies at the University of Ghent. now using WordPress

Last week I received an email from Blogger informing me that they are discontinuing the Blogger ftp service for custom blogs. It seems the service was not required by the majority of blogger blogs with only 0.5% of all blogs  hosted independently.

Unfortunately, my blog was one of the 0.5% and so the end of ftp support has meant the end of the blogger platform for The problem presented my web guru, Babak fakhamzadeh with a serious challenge and after some extremely geeky dreams, he concluded that migration to the WordPress platform was the solution.

So its my absolute pleasure to launch the new website – now using the WordPress platform. There are some significant functional changes to the site but Babak has retained the overall look and feel of the old website. So far, the migration to WordPress has gone fairly smoothly, thanks to dedicated support from Mastababa.

1001 thank you’s to Mastababa – Still the coolest traveling web guru by far!

Planning for Chaos: African Cities Reader

hansa on friday

Below find a link to my visual essay, ‘Planning for Chaos: Urban Regeneration and the Struggle to Formalise Trolley Pushing Activity in Downtown Johannesburg’ – published in the African Cities Reader (2009):