Bella Knemeyer is a researcher at the African Centre for Cities.
Bridging research and practice, my work pivots around the craft of everyday urbanism, artful placemaking and public works. My interests in public life and space are guided by the subversive techniques and materials used to collectively texture and care for cities – their un/making, re-claiming and material flows. Within these commons, I am interested in how landscape architecture can support sustainable livelihoods, climate adaptation, child-sensitive design, social infrastructure and quality of life in southern cities. In my work, artistic and haptic research methodologies are often drawn upon to surface and map stories, learn by doing, reflectively prototype and facilitate different forms of engagement between people and places. I am similarly passionate about the public culture of knowledge – how findings are documented, honoured and propelled back into daily life through diverse media, publications, interventions, exhibitions and other shared learning experiences.
Currently I’m involved in the research and design development of CompleXities (formerly Moonshots), an exhibition of radical ideas for the majority urban world, jointly undertaken by the African Centre for Cities, Cityscapes Magazine and the Max Planck Institute, launching in 2022.
This work intricately maps the genealogy and movement of several thematics, from counter-mapping and in-situ incremental upgrading to green public employment programmes and participatory museums, looking at how grounded innovations are characterised by place and time, whilst continuing to spread.
Fascinated by the complexity of city-making and the intersections of culture, the built and natural environments, I’ve pursued various studies to shape an interdisciplinary approach to engaging urbanism. In 2017 I coupled my Bachelors in Fine Art, majoring in sculpture (with distinction) from the University of Cape Town, with a Masters in Landscape Architecture (with distinction) from the University of Edinburgh. Over the years, I’ve both assisted and collaborated with numerous South African artists, worked in landscape architecture practices both in Cape Town and Girona (Spain) and continued to exhibit in group shows. Within the domain of artful urbanism, I’ve also co-designed and facilitated a number of courses for the Bachelors of Contemporary Art programme at the Cape Town Creative Academy.
Pieterse, E., Green, P. Knemeyer, B., Pulker, A. and Viviers, A. (eds.) (2019) The Integration Syndicate: Shifting Cape Town’s Socio-Spatial debate. Cape Town: African Centre for Cities
Knemeyer, B. (forthcoming). ‘Knowing the City through my Hands’, in: Oldfield, S., Selmeczi, A. & Barnett, C. (eds.) Knowing the City: Urban Scholarship from Apartheid to Democracy.
Bad Paper Kiosk (2020). Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town
A smaller Scale (2019). Ebony Curated, Cape Town
On Second Thought (2015). Smith Studio, Cape Town
Out of Context (2015). University of Johannesburg Gallery, Johannesburg
I take it all Back (2014). NIROXProjects, Johannesburg
Cubical Mobile Gallery (2014). Infecting the City, Cape Town
Greatest Hits 2013: Industrial Harvest (2014). Association for Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery, Cape Town
for flux sakes (2013). Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town
Other design and curation
Ithemba·Keuse·Destination | Alles begin met my | Hoop·Choice·Umvuzo | Iqala ngam | Hope·Khetha·Bestemming | It all starts with me, publication by Brown-Luthango, M et al. (eds.) (2019). African Centre for Cities, Cape Town
CS Praxis Gathering Atlas (2019). African Centre for Cities, Cape Town
The Integration and Ideas Festival at Gugu S’thebe (2018). African Centre for Cities, Cape Town
Perceiving Non-Freedoms Walkabout (2018). Realising Just Cities, Mistra Urban Futures Annual International Conference, Cape Town
Curatorial assistant to Ralph Borland on the Future Foreshore Exhibition (2014). The Engineering and Build Environment Faculty, Cape Town