The first semester of the MPhil in Southern Urbanism at the African Centre for Cities , University of Cape Town swept away cobwebs of old stale ways of thinking about life in the city and pushed every necessary “refresh” button. My internal adventures, both of the mental and spirit kind carefully choreographed and facilitated by Dr Sophie Oldfield and Dr Laura Nkula-Wenz, had me wading through dense and exciting texts of scholars embedded in the practice of creative ethnographies, interdisciplinary approaches to seeing and understanding urbanism of the south.

These richly layered texts were in turn mirrored with practical action research conducted in Hazeldean, Philippi with a small contained community of activist/homeowners. Overseen by Dr Oldfield and working in partnership with NGO Peoples Environmental Planning (PEP), our class, together with students from partner academic institution, Basel University walked, observed and engaged in conversation with community members of Hazeldean. The interaction in itself was beautifully crafted as an example of responsible and ethical ethnographic research. Mutually agreed outcomes for ourselves as students and for the community members were negotiated prior to our arrival. Open ended questions were in continuous responsive process. Community based research assistants were engaged to act as translators, interlocutors and mediators. Complex questions about; ownership, title deeds (the lack thereof), experiences of first time home ownership, home and belonging  and existing challenges within a gentrifying city circulated among us all.

Our conversations took place in a small public room, on the grass verges where we picnic’d informally and in homes where we were warmly welcomed. Jockeyed out of my tired ways of seeing and being in this crudely and brutally divided city, jaded by the prevailing acts to erode dignity and worth committed through acts of power by the city officials and privileged on peoples labelled as ‘Other’… I can find no better way to articulate the tensions and daily navigation of the everyday struggles for dignity and assertion of rights, and a desire for creating home and beauty than through a poem penned in response. This poetographic extract serves to honor those of Hazeldean who shared their stories and to colleagues and friends who listened.



Of a place called home

Four walls squared

On top – PAUSE

Triangle roof


I am

Not done

You say

Snatching pen and paper




Colour these walls

Shades of purple yellow blue


Not quite right


Calling attention

‘ ek

Is hie R













Draw a line

Untidy at best

But oh, so clear

From there to here

Plant the seeds

And watch them grow

Each bloom

My world


Boundaries drawn



Of a place called Home

I count my 50 cents

For You?

A horde of chappies[1]

For me?

These plastered walls


[1] Cheap sweet bubblegum which comes in different fruity flavours and in multiple vibrant colours
















A place called Home

Windows barred

Doors jarred

Invisible lines between


And there

What’s mine

What’s yours



I write


My Family – made and unmade

With photographs


These walls

My title deed



My name

My erfenis


In a place

In a time

In a space

Where body


And soul

Still erasable



Ek is


I am


I am




Deirdre Prins-Solani is an education, culture and heritage Specialist and student in the MPhil in Southern Urbanism at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town – a programme aimed at analysing cities critically and through creative practices.