Following the Ancestors: Six Moments in a Genealogy of Urban Design and Heritage in the City of Cape Town

Abstract

In 2014, Cape Town is celebrating its design in all its forms, having been voted the World Design Capital (WDC). The hopeful rhetoric of the city as ultimate holiday destination, African creative metropolis, prime global-events location or city of freedom indicates powerful cultural discourses at work. In this paper, I will give a series of insights into the links between colonial modernity, on the one hand, and the origins of contemporary discourses of urban design and heritage in Cape Town, on the other. I intend to discuss the function of official discourse concerning the design of the city as well as the sudden eruptions that disturb these constructs. I point to the recurrent patterns and moments in which design is made plain and unspoken. I will trace the genealogy of official or top-down design and heritage discourses as well as the moments or movements that are at odds with or embarrass this official discourse.

Résumé

Le Cap célèbre, en 2014, son design sous toutes ses formes après avoir été désignée Capitale mondiale du design (WDC). La rhétorique pleine d’espoir de la ville en tant que destination de vacances par excellence, métropole créative d’Afrique, emplacement de choix pour les événements internationaux et ville de liberté indique l’effet de discours culturels éloquents. Dans cet article, je vais vous livrer un certain nombre d’observations sur les liens entre la modernité coloniale, d’une part, et les origines des discours contemporains du design urbain et du patrimoine au Cap, d’autre part. J’entends aborder la fonction du discours officiel sur le design de la ville ainsi que les éruptions soudaines qui perturbent ces constructions. Je signale les tendances récurrentes et les moments où le design est clair et implicite. Je retracerai l’histoire du design officiel ou imposé d’en haut, les discours sur le patrimoine ainsi que les moments ou les mouvements en contradiction avec ce discours officiel ou qui l’embarrassent.

Resumen

Durante 2014, Cape Town está celebrando su diseño en todas sus formas, al haber sido votada la Capital del Diseño Mundial (WDC, del inglés World Design Cup). La prometedora retórica de la ciudad como máximo destino vacacional, metrópolis creativa africana, supremo lugar de eventos mundiales o ciudad de la libertad indica potentes discursos culturales en marcha. En el presente documento, ofreceré una serie de ideas sobre los vínculos entre la modernidad colonial, por un lado, y los orígenes de los discursos contemporáneos de diseño urbano y patrimonio en Cape Town, por otro. Mi intención es analizar la función del discurso oficial relativo al diseño de la ciudad, así como también las súbitas erupciones que perturban estos constructos. Señalo los patrones y momentos recurrentes en los que el diseño se hace puro y tácito. Seguiré el rastro de la genealogía del diseño oficial o de arriba a abajo y de los discursos patrimoniales así como también de los momentos o movimientos que están en desacuerdo con este discurso oficial o que le ponen en evidencia.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Bank, A. (1994) The Erosion of Urban Slavery at the Cape. In Breaking the Chains. Slavery and Its legacy in the Nineteenth-Century Cape Colonypp. 79–98, edited by N Wordenand C Crais, Witswatersrand University PressJohannesburg.,

    Google Scholar 

  2. Barker, B. J. (2003) The Castle of Good Hope from 1666, Castle Militairy Museum FoundationCape Town.,

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bickford-Smith, V. (1999) Cape Town in the Twentieth Century: An Illustrated Social History, New Africa BooksCape Town.,

    Google Scholar 

  4. Boym, S. 2010. The Off-Modern Mirror. E-flux journal 19:1–9.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Cape Town Design NPC. 2014. World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. Cape Town Design NPC, Cape Town.

  6. Coetzee, J. M. (1988) White Writing. On the culture of letters in South Africa, Yale University PressNew Haven.,

    Google Scholar 

  7. Coetzer, N. (2013) Building Apartheid. On Architecture and Order in Imperial Cape Town, AshgateFarnham.,

    Google Scholar 

  8. Comaroff, J., Comaroff, J. L. 2001. Naturing the Nation: Aliens, Apocalypse and Postcolonial State. Social Identities 7:233–265.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Fullard, M. (2000) The State and Political Struggle: Strategies of Repression and Resistance in the Greater Cape Town Area from 1985 to 1989, Institute for Social Development, University of the Western CapeBelville.,

    Google Scholar 

  10. Hall, M. (1985) Resistance and Rebellion in Greater Cape Town. Western Cape roots and realities, University of Cape TownCape Town.,

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hall, M. (1992) Small Things and the Mobile, Conflictual Fusion of Power, Fear, and Desire. In The Art and Mystery of Historical Archaeologypp. 373–400, edited by AE Yentschand MC Beaudry, CRC PressBoca Raton.,

    Google Scholar 

  12. Hall, M. 1993. The Archaeology of Colonial Settlement in Southern Africa. Annual Review of Anthropology 22:177–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hall, M. 1994. The Secret Lives of Houses: Women and Gables in the Eighteenth Century Cape. Social Dynamics 20:1–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Hall, M. (2000) Archaeology and the Modern World. Colonial Transcripts in South Africa and the Chesapeake, RoutledgeNew York.,

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hall, M. 2006. Identity, Memory and Countermemory. The Archaeology of an Urban Landscape. Journal of Material Culture 11:189–209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hall, M. (2007) Afterword. Lines of Desire. In Desire Lines. Space Memory and Identity in the Posta-apartheid Citypp. 299–308, edited by N Murray, N Shepherdand M Hall, RoutledgeNew York.,

    Google Scholar 

  17. Hall, M., Bombardella, P. 2005. Las Vegas in Africa. Journal of Social Archaeology 5:5–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hall, M., Bombardella, P. (2007) Paths of Nostalgia and Desire Through Heritage Destinations at the Cape of Good Hope. In Desire Lines. Space, Memory and Identity in the Post-apartheid Citypp. 245–258, edited by N Murray, N Shepherdand M Hall, RoutledgeNew York.,

    Google Scholar 

  19. Herscher, A. 2006. American Urbicide. Journal of Architectural Education 60:18–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Ingold, T. (2000) The Perception of Environment. Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, RoutledgeLondon.,

    Book  Google Scholar 

  21. Jeppie, S., Soudien, C. (1990) Introduction: Hands off District Six. In The Struggle for District Six. Past and Presentpp. 12–16, edited by S Jeppieand C Soudien, Buchu BooksCape Town.,

    Google Scholar 

  22. Khan, S. 2014a. 52 Places to Go in 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/01/10/travel/2014-places-to-go.html?_r=1. Accessed 24 Jan 2014.

  23. Khan, S. 2014b. In Cape Town, Fashion With a Side of Fries. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/travel/in-cape-town-fashion-with-a-side-of-fries.html?hpw&rref=travel&_r=1. Accessed 27 Jan 2014.

  24. Malan, A. 1998. Chattles or Colonists? ‘Freeblack’ Women and Their Households. Kronos 25:50–71.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Malan, A. (2012) The Cultural Landscape. In Cape Town. Between East and Westpp. 1–25, edited by N Worden, Auckland ParkJacana Media.,

    Google Scholar 

  26. Malan, A., Worden, N. (2011) Constructing and Contesting Histories of Slavery at the Cape. In Slavery in Africa Archaeology and Memorypp. 393–420, edited by PJ Laneand KC Macdonald, Oxford University PressOxford.,

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  27. Martin, D.-C. (2000) Cape Town’s Coon Carnival. In Senses of Culture. South African Culture Studiespp. 363–379, edited by S Nuttalland C-A Michael, Oxford University PressOxford.,

    Google Scholar 

  28. Murray, N. (2001) The Imperial Landscape at Cape Town’s Gardens. Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Cape TownCape Town.,

    Google Scholar 

  29. Murray, N. (2010) Architectural Modernism and Apartheid Modernity in South Africa. A Critical Inquiry into the Work of Architect and Urban Designer Roelof Uytenbogaardt 1960–2009. African Studies, University of Cape TownCape Town.,

    Google Scholar 

  30. Murray, N., Shepherd, N., Hall, M. (2007) Desire Lines: Space, Memory and Identity in the Post-apartheid City, RoutledgeNew York.,

    Google Scholar 

  31. Newton, C. 2011. The N2 Gateway Project in Cape Town: Relocation or Forced Removal? http://www.ids-uva.nl/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/the-N2-Gateway-Project-in-Cape-Town-Relocation-or-Forced-Removal.pdf. Accessed 21 Jan 2014.

  32. Parnell, S. 1993. Creating Racial Privilege: The Origins of South African Public Health and Town Planning Legislation. Journal of Southern African Studies 19:471–488.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Rassool, C. (2001) Introduction: Recalling Community in Cape Town. In Recalling Community in Cape Town. Creating and Curating the District Six Museumpp. 7–9, edited by C Rassooland S Prosalendis, District Six MuseumCape Town.,

    Google Scholar 

  34. Rassool, C., Witz, L. 1993. The 1952 Jan van Riebeeck Tercentenary Festival: Constructing and Contesting Public National History in South Africa. The Journal of African History 34:447–468.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Robins, S. (2000) City Sites. In Senses of Culture. South African Culture Studiespp. 408–425, edited by S Nuttalland C-A Michael, Oxford University PressOxford.,

    Google Scholar 

  36. Robins, S. (2007) Planning Frictions: The Limits of Spatial Engineering and Governance in a Cape Flats Ghetto. In Desire Lines. Space, Memory and Identity in the Post-apartheid Citypp. 21–34, edited by N Murray, N Shepherdand M Hall, RoutledgeNew York.,

    Google Scholar 

  37. Robins, S. (2013) How Poo Became a Political Issue, Cape TimesCape Town., 9.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Ross, R. (1983) Cape of Torments. Slavery and Resistance in South Africa, Routledge and Kegan PaulLondon Boston.,

    Google Scholar 

  39. Schoeman, K. (1998) ‘Fort ende Thuijn’: The Years of Dutch Colonization. In Blank_architecture, Apartheid and Afterpp. 33–39, edited by H Judinand I Vladislavić, NaiRotterdam.,

    Google Scholar 

  40. Schoeman, K. (2009) Seven Khoi Lives. Cape Biographies of the Seventeenth Century, Protea Book HousePretoria.,

    Google Scholar 

  41. Seed, P. (1995) Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World, 1492–1640, Cambridge University PressCambridge.,

    Google Scholar 

  42. Shepherd, N. (2008) Heritage. In New South African keywordspp. 116–128, edited by N Shepherdand S Robins, Ohio University PressAthens.,

    Google Scholar 

  43. Shepherd, N. (2013) Ruin Memory. A Hauntology of Cape Town. In Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of Modernitypp. 233–243, edited by AG Ruibal, RoutledgeNew York.,

    Google Scholar 

  44. Shepherd, N., Murray, N. (2007) Introduction: Space, Memory and Identity in the Post-apartheid City. In Desire Lines. Space, Memory and Identity in the Post-apartheid Citypp. 1–18, edited by N Murray, N Shepherdand M Hall, RoutledgeNew York.,

    Google Scholar 

  45. Sleigh, D. (2002) Eilande, TafelbergKaapstad.,

    Google Scholar 

  46. Sleigh, D. (2004) Islands, Random HouseLondon.,

    Google Scholar 

  47. Soudien, C. (1990) District Six: From Protest to Protest. In The Struggle for District Six. Past and Presentpp. 143–184, edited by S Jeppieand C Soudien, Buchu BooksCape Town.,

    Google Scholar 

  48. Swanson, M. W. 1977. The Sanitation Syndrome: Bubonic Plague and Urban Native Policy in the Cape Colony, 1900–1909. The Journal of African history 18:387–410.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Twidle, H. 2013. Writing the Company: From VOC Daghregister to Selgh’s Eilande. South African Historical Journal 65:125–152.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Witz, L. (2003) Apartheid’s Festival, Indiana University PressBloomington.,

    Google Scholar 

  51. Worden, N. 1996. Contested Heritage at the Cape Town Waterfront. International Journal of Heritage Studies 2:59–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Worden, N., Van Heijningen, E. 1996. Signs of Times. Tourism and Public History at the Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Cahier d’études africaines 36:215–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Worden, N., Van Heyningen, E., Bickford-Smith, V. (1998) Cape Town: The Making of a City: An Illustrated Social History, Uitgeverij VerlorenHilversum.,

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christian Ernsten.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ernsten, C. Following the Ancestors: Six Moments in a Genealogy of Urban Design and Heritage in the City of Cape Town. Arch 10, 108–131 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11759-014-9254-7

Download citation

Key Words

  • Cape Town
  • Urban design
  • Colonial archive
  • Spatial inscriptions
  • Heritage legislation
  • Sanitation
  • Ancestors
  • Off-modern
  • History of fragments
  • Counter-discourses
  • Future time