A collaboration between the Goethe-Institut South Africa and the University of Cape Town’s African Centre for Cities, Power Talks seeks to critically examine the practice of European cultural institutions working in post-colonial / post-apartheid contexts, to facilitate insight into how these institutions locate and make sense of themselves within the geographical, cultural, social, political, economic and temporal spaces they occupy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Power Talks emerged out of a 2 year process of critical engagement with scholars and cultural producers and resulted in arts and culture-led programmes in 4 contexts in South Africa:
In Durban, Power Talks was a deep dive into how space, people, art, and politics influence local creative dynamics. Through provocation, reimagining and reflection, creatives in the city, alongside leaders, policymakers and art institute representatives, were invited to sit in the Gestalt, play a part in the spectacle, and unpack the meaning of power.
In Bhisho/Gqeberha, Power Talks opened up the region to the necessary but long overlooked potential of diverse funding opportunities; moreover, it allowed the province to form its own voice in the process of partaking in the wider discussions around such forms of power.
In Johannesburg, Power Talks was framed around the notion of Repair. Repair was offered as an orientation from which to think about the work that artists and collectives have operated in and through here; in awareness of the layers of conscious and unconscious attachments to repairing a relation to the city and what has been made and unmade in its cultural life.
In Cape Town, Power Talks asked what purpose is served through the rearticulation and retelling of traumatic incidents; for whose gaze and consumption is this trauma “pornography” and anthropological gaze intended? Is the trade-off worth it? If it is not, what other forms of power merit the space for examination, exploration, celebration and unpacking? What does listening to the pulse of the moment tell us about power realities and alternatives?