Tuesday 2 September 2014


In Performance - Building a Theater 
Langa - Cape Town 

Since last week I am in Maastricht again after spending three weeks in Cape Town (South Africa). Although I am already back in my regular working routine Cape Town is still fresh in my thoughts. 

Project background

The starting point of the project is the development of a children's theatre in Langa and Cape Town World Design Capital 2014.

In a cooperation of the Department of Arts and Culture of the City of Cape Town, the architectural faculties of RWTH Aachen (DE), PBSA Düsseldorf (DE) Georgia Tech Atlanta (US), the support of UCT (SA) and the local community, a children's theatre is being built in the township of Langa, Cape Town. The building is mainly built by architectural students and local participants with a completion date of October 2014.
During Cape Town's hosting of the World Design Capital 2014, Langa has been chosen as one of the project areas of the city. The focus will be on the theatre as key design project as well as a venue for events during the Design festival.

Therefore the project „In Performance - Building Theater“ links the process of building to the anticipated utilization of the space. Before the official opening of the theatre, a performance developed through an interdisciplinary collaboration between architects, textile as well as fashion designers and performers as representatives for the future users, will thoroughly explore the endless possibilities of the space and structure.

FASHIONCLASH in Langa / Cape Town
Arriving in Cape Town felt like a trip down memory lane, bringing us back to the roots of FASHIONCLASH. As some may know FASHIONCLASH was initiated after a developing project in Palmeiras township in the Brazilian city Fortaleza. 'FASHIONCLASH Brazil' dates back in 2006/2007 but still remains a source of courage and inspiration to connect people, cultures and artistic disciplines.

Ever since Brazil we have been longing to do a project like this again. So there we were in South Africa. 

The project in Cape Town takes place in the Guga 'S Thebe Cultural Centre, located in the heart of Langa township. Langa is the oldest township in South Africa and has a rich historical background. Compared to other townships Langa is rather friendly and safe. 

Shortly after our arrival we went to visit the children of the Happy Feet Youth Project in their own neighbourhood and their tiny dance space. This was truly inspiring and touching to be surrounded with so much energy and positive vibes in a place where dreams seems to be far away. Their living condition are far from ok and Happy Feet project is a huge encouragement and motivation where they can express their childhood and creativity. 
first encounter with Happy Feet
We were very joyfully welcomed and treated with various energetic performances in their too small rehearsal space. Sure they got the moves and the rhythm. Although Cape Town is a marvellous city with many stunning nature attractions visiting Happy Feet was one of the highlights. Two weeks later we went once more to visit them. 

Before we started designing we first had to install our temporary studio in
Guga 'S Thebe. Furthermore we visited various companies who where so generous to contribute in the project. Show Tex will provide us with fabrics, Cape Town Sewing with sewing machines, Aga with sewing yarns and so on. People are friendly and willing to help when they hear about the project. 

Thanks to all the help and materials we were able to start designing and making prototypes for the costumes.

In the weekend of 16 and 17 August, the new 'in the making' theatre at Guga S'Thebe was transformend into a playground for various disciplines. In connection to Open Design Festival various activities were organized including workshops by Saskia Oidtmann, Jolijn Fiddelaers (IXX) and FASHIONCLASH. FASHIONCLASH workshops involved kids of the Happy Feet Youth Project. All kids were given the opportunity to design and create their own 'vest' that carried Happy Feel logo. Although it was an intense experience to take care of a large group of excited kids. However, the result was more than we could hope for and there are now 45 unique vests. It was also great to see the potential of the theatre for the Langa community.  

After the this weekends our focus went on development of the costumes and this went quite well within the short period of time. We very much enjoyed working in our pop-up studio in Guga and all the social encounters that happened along the way. 
Before departure we handed over our work, costumes prototypes and patterns, to a very kind lady Zola. She will take care of production of 43 outfits for boys and girls of Happy Feet. What pleases us in this process is that she will make the costumes in Guga S'Thebe and also include local sewers to assist her. The costumes will be worn by Happy Feet dancers and on display end of September during the Fringe Festival. Saskia Oidtmann will develop a brand new choreography for this presentation.
The costumes we designed are resulting in two outfits. For the girls a fabric with a african print and for the boys and smaller kids an overall (Zola and some others call it a 'Wanzi'). These overalls are in blue or yellow. In the process we have carefully tried to include wishes of Happy Feet in the costumes as well maintain their signature look worker overalls. For the girls we where looking for a more feminine look and they where in love with the african fabric so that explains the choice.
For the boys overalls we where inspired by Langa street styles where we noticed that hoodies where popular so we created an overall with a hoodies.

Past three weeks where truly empowering and inspiring due to many encounters. The beauty of this project is that many goals and ideas cross each other in the process, just as it is in the name 'In Performance – Building a theatre'. For now our work was done although we would have liked to stay longer. We just have to make sure we come back. This project has already cleared new pathways and showed potential for new projects and perhaps continuation of this current one.

Saying goodbye to all the lovely people we met was not that easy but somehow it really feels as we will come back.

For more information about the project: http://www.inperformance.net

Also worth taking a look is this website where you can follow the development of the new children's theatre: http://designdevelopbuild.com

Take a look at my visual report below, including the children's theatre. 

opening of Open Design

Guga S'Thebe

preparations for Open Design

our studio

Open Design Festival exhibition

choosing the fabrics at studio 47

Cape Town Sewing lend us two machines

Show Tex provided with fabrics

visiting Southern Sewing Thread 

encounter with Zola 


fitting of the prototype

costumes workshop

first making a design

workshop: making your own vest

boys where in particular very creative

dance workshop with Saskia Oidtmann

exploring the building and its sounds, workshop with Saskia Oidtmann

textile workshop with Jolijn Fiddelaers

workshop day ended with dance and music

with our little friend Mlibo

with Happy Feet girls

Happy Feet girls with their vests

costumes samples for the boys overall

costume for the girls

Langa settlements

streets in Langa

the sweetest letter ever from our little friends, Liza, Mlibo and Sikelele

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