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ACC NOTRUC Seminar Series: Reflection is Part of Rehabilitation: Interventions in the History of a Land Occupation

1 November, 2017 @ 3:00 am - 4:30 pm SAST

The third seminar in the annual ACC NOTRUC Seminar Series is presented by Koni Benson on Reflection is Part of Rehabilitation: Interventions in the History of a Land Occupation at 15:00 in Studio 3, Environmental and Geographical Sciences Building, Upper Campus, University of Cape Town.


In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin writes: “To accept one’s past- one’s history- is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is, learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.” This paper looks at the dynamics of invention and uses of history in the politics of a land occupation in Tafelsig, Mitchell’s Plain, where, in May 2011, over 5000 backyard shack dwellers occupied land to set up shacks on an empty field adjacent to the Kaptiensklip train station.  From an initial 5,000 people the group dwindled to about 30 families who continued to defend their right to erect structures under which to sleep. The city offered them temporary relocation to Blikkiesdorp, a dumping ground, miles away from their families and support networks. What ensued was a round of court cases and appeals and, eventual eviction. What started as a document to record the brutality of the Anti-Land Invasion Unit became a co-authored book, Writing Out Loud: Interventions in the History of a Land Occupation written by Faeza Meyer and Koni Benson.   The quote in the title of this paper comes from this book which creatively tracked 545 days of occupation, and raises questions about housing struggles, activism, situated solidarity, racism, writing, and feminist collaborative methodologies of approaching African history.  The paper today will present a draft of a new introduction to the book, with the aim of sparking a conversation about Baldwin’s proposition of not inventing but of reflecting and using hard ‘truths’ about the past in the present, in this case, building and engaging struggles against ongoing segregation and criminalization of landlessness in Cape Town.


More on the full seminar series here.

More on the NOTRUC programme here.


1 November, 2017
3:00 am - 4:30 pm SAST
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African Centre for Cities
+27 21 650 5903
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African Centre for Cities
UCT Upper Campus
Cape Town, South Africa
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