Race, Space and the City
Race, Space and the City is a new research group at the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (ccrri).
The Director of the ccrri, Professor Rozena Maart, said this year with the focus on slain activist, former medical student at our University, Steve Biko and the Biko Education Project, students have also engaged with the work of Biko as a means of addressing his analysis and drawing it into their understanding of land, space, and aesthetics.
Maart said the approach was not to simply treat these concepts as though they existed without people and without a history of oppression and subjugation. ‘Learning through their agency as learners, they can develop better approaches to establishing the many parameters of African scholarship,’ Maart noted.
‘There is a belief that somehow the construction of race takes place outside of the construction of buildings, which is erroneous. Every building has a history, every building has a foundation, and that foundation reflects the history of the country, the demarcation of the city, the soil upon which it is built, the history of those who till the soil and the history of those who inhabit it,’ said Maart.
Race, Space and the City was first started in order to address research questions students brought to the Centre on land, race and space. Students reported an absence of discussions on race in a number of disciplines where design, aesthetics, land, the city, and space formed part of the curriculum yet where an analysis of race was either absent as a consequence of imposing this absence or dismissed when raised by students. ‘Somehow this is left outside of architectural textbooks and there are those who still conveniently teach architecture as though racialised living spaces were not the cornerstone of the policy of racial segregation, the aftermath of which we are still living through today,’ said Maart
Students in architecture and the built environment together with students in community development, peace and conflict studies, law, sociology and politics, all come together in the Race, Space and the City Research Group, where they exchange ideas and offer their input.
‘South African colonial and apartheid history is reflected in the buildings and in all the spaces we come face to face with,’ said student, Ms Nompilo Khanyile. ‘I am so fortunate the ccrri provided me with the opportunity, the freedom and academic materials to learn about the history that resulted in the socio-spatial milieu of the African built environment.’
‘I know now that when I graduate I will not become another ordinary architect displaced in South Africa, but I will be a uniquely African architect with global professional and academic appeal,’ said Khanyile.
‘Attending seminars and engaging in general group discussions with students at the ccrri have broadened my views on how crucial social issues should be addressed. In addition to that, I’ve been empowered to write and establish my knowledge beyond architecture.’ Said another student, Ms Nompumelelo Kubheka:
‘The Biko and Black Consciousness seminar was an eye opener for me as a Black woman studying architecture in South Africa,’ said student, Ms Londiwe Sokhabase.
‘I look forward to what these students can produce in the form of published journal articles and we are certainly working towards this process in a number of different ways,’ Maart remarked.