Campus News

Cape Town Diary: Sept. 4. By Julie McGee, Assistant Professor of Art, CBB Cape Town

Story posted September 05, 2001

Cape Town Diary 4 September 2001

Hello Maine friends and colleagues,
This week is the semester break for the CBB Cape Town Program and a good time for me to send my own diary update. Most of the students have traveled outside of South Africa for the week. A few have remained here ó and then there is me, left with a stack of papers and journals to read. This work has been interrupted though by something more immediate and this is what I am writing to you about today.

Much of the work I am doing here, as a teacher and academic would not be possible were it not for a non-profit educational organization called the Community Arts Project Ė better known as CAP. CAP began in 1977 and since that time has been the leading arts educational body for Xhosa-speaking South Africans in the Western Cape. CAP has provided visual and dramatic arts training unavailable to most Xhosa-speaking Capetonians. Nearly every black arts professional in the Cape Town area has spent some time at CAP. In the 1980s CAP served as a site of overt resistance to apartheid, as it allowed its space to be used by various anti-apartheid organizations and turned its printing presses and artistic talents towards the generation of anti-apartheid posters and fliers. Last week, Lionel Davis, who was imprisoned on Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was also imprisoned) came to speak about how CAP saved his life ó gave him hope and gave his life meaning and direction when it seemed to have none. He spoke at length about the resistance work produced at CAP as well. Lionel Davis went from CAP to the Michaelis School of Fine Arts, which is the distinguished art department of the University of Cape Town. A number of students followed this path, receiving their first formal instruction in fine arts at CAP and then entering Michaelis as a student at UCT. Thembinkosi Goniwe went from CAP to Michaelis and now to Cornell (where he has just started a graduate program). Today Lionel Davis is an education officer at the Robben Island Museum.

CAP changed and impacted the lives of many students over the years, and it continues to do so. Not all students go from CAP to Michaelis. Some become schoolteachers. Another, Vuyile Cameron Voyiya received his BFA from Michaelis and is now one of only two Xhosa-speaking education officers at the South African National Gallery here in Cape Town. Mr. Voyiya is helping my class on contemporary South African art curate the exhibition in Langa, at Guga Sí Thebe, the cultural center. Others go on to work and direct community and performing arts organizations. Some may merely find CAP a resting place to be exposed to the visual arts and get assistance with the completion of their matric (similar to the GED or high school diploma). They may go on to live rich and full lives that have little to do with the visual or performing arts. Nevertheless, CAP will have become part of them. CAP also employs artists as teachers, including some who trained there. Velile Soha, an artist specializing in printmaking, works there part time and he too is helping us with the exhibition organization.

Today's quiet grading was interrupted by sad but not unexpected news. CAP did not receive funding from either of the two local arts funding bodies to which it had applied. It will likely not be able to keep its doors open until the end of this year (for the students studying there currently this would mean closure before November). Historically, nearly all of CAPís funding has come from international organizations and individuals. Current Director, Graham Falken, would like to see this change, for CAP sorely needs more local and national financial support. One of the Bates students here, Samantha Dahan, is doing an independent study with me on CAP. She is witnessing first hand how seminal grassroots organizations struggle to stay alive despite unanimous support for their missions, historically and presently. Will CAP survive the year and the following years? We hope so and will do whatever we can to support CAP while we are here. Does CAP need to evolve as a post-apartheid arts educational body? Sure, but the need and demand for what it has done and is doing educationally is no less diminished now. The dismantling of the apartheid state and the ramifications of such a system will surely be a decades-long voyage. For as long as the CBB Cape Town Program is here, we are co-travelers on this voyage.

Anyone interested in learning more about CAP can email the Director, Graham Falken, at or check out CAPís website.

Additional information on the Cape Town program is at CBB Cape Town
Other Cape Town Diaries:
Cape Town Diary: July 3. By Julie McGee
Cape Town Diary: July 14. By Julie McGee
Cape Town Diary: July 27. By Kristen M. Heim
Cape Town Diary: July 27. By Rachel Meiklejohn
Cape Town Diary: August 6. By Paul Min
Cape Town Diary: August 6. By Heather Finn.
Cape Town Diary: August 10. By Chris Reigeluth.
Cape Town Diary: August 13. By Kathryn Spirer.
Cape Town Diary: August 15. By Philip Drake.
Cape Town Diary: August 20. By Dana Kramer.
Cape Town Diary: August 20. By Noah Lambie.
Cape Town Diary: August 24. By Brendan Ferriter.
Cape Town Diary: August 27. By Katie Spirer.
Cape Town Diary: August 27. By Laura Bilodeau.
Cape Town Diary: August 31. By Kristen Heim.

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