The University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business’s Bertha Centre has partnered with the community of Philippi to paint a mural on the wall around Philippi Village and turn a potentially divisive barrier into a project that aims to build social cohesion and trust.
Philippi Village is a mixed-use entrepreneurial development zone servicing Nyanga, Gugulethu, Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha.
The colourful mural has earned some admiration from the community and passerbys who mostly praised the work and its brightness.
Vanessa Manyesa, a Lower Crossroads resident, who volunteered in partnering with the artists, said the mural was used not only to empower youth but to tell stories of Philippi.
Vanessa said the wall also shows children how to brighten up their communities with a splash of paint.
“Before we painted the wall we first went out to the people of Philippi, in particular the Siyangena informal settlement, where we asked what they would like to see on the wall.”
The mural now tells the stories of different people as well as the culture and history of Philippi.
“The wall now calls you from afar,” said Vanessa.
Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, interim director at the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UCT Graduate School of Business, said when the management of Philippi Village wanted to build a wall to provide security for its tenants, it could have been seen as an exclusionary and divisive measure by the rest of the community.
She said instead, thanks to an innovative and creative approach, the wall has become a symbol of hope and inclusivity.
“We want to have a trust-based relationship with the community, especially our immediate neighbours, as that relationship impacts the success of what we do inside the Village and this project has taken us a little closer towards this goal even though challenges still exist,” she said.
She said through the building of the wall and the mural project that emerged they had a chance to discover each other and work in unity.
The Bertha Centre is an anchor tenant in the Village, and one of the key drivers of the initiative, together with Philippi Village, is to create an opportunity for communities that are excluded from mainstream economic development.
The centre offers affordable retail space and business support services, via the UCT GSB Solution Space, Silulo Ulutho Technologies, and Business Activator as well as a local library to local entrepreneurs, organisations, foundations and members of the community.
But she admitted that until very recently, many locals were not sure what the development was for, or how it could benefit them. She said young leaders from surrounding communities and graffiti artists reached out to the local community through a series of workshops.
She said from Tuesday January 8 until Monday January 21 more than 200 stories were written down, drawn, sung and spoken, which were then co-designed into a mural for the wall.
The artists painted outlines of the design which the community filled in transforming it into a vibrant reflection of their experiences and hopes for the future of Philippi.
Ms Makalima-Ngewana said the project is the start of a series of interventions that the Bertha Centre and the UCT GSB are planning to work on with the community, especially with young people.
William George, a representative of the Philippi Village Board, said they have been exploring ways to break down the barriers between Philippi Village and the community it wants to serve.
He said that led to the establishment of a stakeholder engagement strategy for Philippi Village, to get to know its neighbours better, to understand their concerns, introduce the Village to the community.
“The decision was taken to undertake a community-driven mural project to act as narrator of the relationship between stakeholders and give the community a genuine way to connect the various spaces available at Philippi Village.
“Ultimately, this was an opportunity to use the wall, amphitheatre and social zone as an instrument for social cohesion and trust building,” said Mr George.