OBSID supports public art project

A focus area for the future is the Observatory Improvement District’s (OBSID) involvement in creative public spaces projects along with other stakeholders, and to beautify the area whilst supporting local talent. One of the recent initiatives OBSID supported was a mural design project run by Streetopia.

“We want to support the installation of public art in the area and will work closely with stakeholders to ensure that both the cultural and historic backgrounds of the area are incorporated into activations in a sensitive way.”

Amanda explained that through the projects, the OBSID hoped to encourage residents to get out more and to engage with public spaces in different ways.

This project involved creating a mural for the Cape Town District Association for the Hearing Impaired (CTDAHI) building, through a creative art workshop attended by students from the Mary Kihn School, where they explored and sketched the architecture of Observatory. The students then translated their drawings into simplified shapes representing the buildings, forming a cityscape.

Artist, Lorenzo Nassimbeni, collated and interpreted the students’ patterns and shapes into a mural design. He and his team then painted the design onto the building, situated on the corner of Herschel and Station road in Observatory.

“The OBSID made a financial contribution towards the project” said the OBSID CEO Amanda Kirk.

“Streetopia is an Observatory community festival and as part of their ongoing legacy project, they run a civic art landscape project to create permanent works of art in Observatory and this mural project has been most successful.,” said Amanda.


The creative process

The primary objective of involving the Mary Kihn School workshop in the mural design, was to broaden the experience of the school students in terms of their relationship to physical space/environment.

“Students are generally confined to their school or their homes, as those spaces are safe. As such, there is little experience of the world beyond those spaces,” said Lorenzo.

“Taking the students into the neighbourhood to observe, appreciate and draw the typical architectural typologies of Observatory, was a wonderful learning experience for them.”

A second workshop saw the students translate their individual line drawings into drawings composed of simple shapes. The shapes were pre-cut, and referred to the proportions and compositions of the buildings drawn in the neighbourhood. Each student translated their own line drawing into a shape drawing.

The students then created a ‘city’ using the same shapes used to draw the individual buildings. The idea here was for students to understand the notion of the unit (house) versus the collective (city).

Through a careful design method, honouring the artistic process of the school students, the work produced in the workshop was translated into an artwork for the mural. The Herschel Street facade talks about the ‘drawing of the individual house’ process, whilst the Station Road facade talks about the ‘city drawing.’ The idea is that the artistic process of the students is evident in the final product, so that they may take ownership of the mural as artists. Aldo van Eyck’s famous principle of, ‘A house is a city, and a city is a house’ comes to life at full scale.

Streetopia Legacy and Illuminated artwork by Ralph Borland

Streetopia Legacy  invited Ralph Borland to work in collaboration with Lorenzo Nassimbeni to design two illuminated artworks for the new mural at the Association for the Hearing Impaired. For the mural, Ralph developed two designs for artwork within the mural that integrated with the architecture and the students’ mural design.

The implementation

The key to the success of the implementation process was the drafting of the design onto the facade. The translation of the complex design from a dimensioned drawing onto the wall was the task of Thandile Giyama. “He did an impeccable job, which is most impressive given that he had not done drafting before, let alone at the scale of a 6,5m building,” said Amanda.

Simon Chinoda and Motebang Masitha painted the mural, co-ordinating their efforts seamlessly with Thandile through the painting process. “They had never worked with such complexity and large scale before in terms of a painting process, and had been used to a more standard approach to painting in the past, where they plainly painted blank walls with no design or pattern. This brought about significant change, as members of the implementation team gained key skills,” said Lorenzo.

Presentation to CTDAHI

The mural was presentated to the Cape Town and District Association for the Hearing Impaired (CTDAHI).

Lorenzo Nassimbeni emphasised that the project was the result of the collaborative efforts of a dedicated team: “Special thanks to Karen Stewart, for her incredible effort and belief in the project and its process. Further to that, a special mention of Thandile Giyama whose effort and contribution was beyond exemplary. Motebang Masitha and Simon Chinoda of the painting team were also excellent to work with. Thank you too to Amanda Kirk and Edwin Angless of OBSID for their support of the project.

“My thanks to you for involving me in this project. I am extremely proud of the outcome, and am very enthused by the positive impact it has had, and will continue to have on the community. The process and workshop were the focus of the project, and were very enriching. The Mary Kihn School group were very inspired by the project, as were the CTDAHI. It seems fitting that the mural itself has come out positively, and therefore a good reflection of the process.”

Thandile Giyama, Project Facilitator said that the presentation to the Cape Town and District Association for the Hearing Impaired (CTDAHI) was a moment of success: “We presented the process and experiences we had of the workshops with students of Mary Kihn. During the presentation we had delegates from AfrikaBurn, CTDAHI, OBSID and artists present. The presentation was followed by a Q&A session. The questions and comments from the audience were very insightful and engaging, they brought a lot of `sense to the project.”

About Streetopia

Streetopia is a free one-day event organised and funded by AfrikaBurn in collaboration with residents & civic organisations based in Observatory, where the streets are filled with art, sculpture, mutant vehicles, performance, music and market stalls.  For one day the streets of Observatory are turned into a blank canvas where artists, performers, buskers, residents and kids can enjoy the open spaces and do their thing. The aim is to keep it villagey, intimate, spontaneous, open to collaboration, a space for causes and social activism.

For more information about the OBSID and its projects, please contact: Amanda Kirk, Chief Executive Officer, Observatory Improvement District (OBSID), 021 448 7090, amanda@obsid.org.za

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