Our Workshop: Making Togetherness
SHARING TIME + SHARING SPACE = SHARING GROWTH
Our Workshop is piloting a simple program of sharing as a strategy for inclusivity and change
From our launch event in Langa in December 2017. This video shows the energy in Langa where Our Workshop is located. The workshop is a vibrant, dynamic and social space that reflects those around us and welcomes the diversity of people who live in Cape Town.
The Our Workshop team in the briefing stage of an upcycling workshop
Ivy working with plastic waste
One of our most prolific members Ace with some of his extraordinary embroidery
The design thinking/process map we like to use in the workshop
Luvuyo has started making this exquisite quilt from Tetra Pak boxes - a material we really love - which are really difficult to industrially recycle. We dream of having these boxes 'custom' printed for exactly this purpose by connecting to the juice-makers and convincing them that craft-use could be thought about in their design process... big dreams.
Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)
The apartheid government actively built the city of Cape Town as a series of segregated areas for the sole purpose of exclusion and separation of different race groups.
They did a very good job of keeping us all apart, particularly after the Group Areas Act of 1950 forcibly removed non-whites from the city centre and mandated racial segregations and hierarchies. Langa, the township in which Our Workshop is based, was created in 1927 and until 1994 was designated for Black Africans only.
Sadly, not that much has changed since 1994. In a way, the spatial segregation has become a bigger problem in the 21st Century, due to rising property prices and gentrification in the city centre and totally inadequate service delivery, living conditions, and transport systems for, in and around the areas of informal housing further 'out' in the townships - where the vast majority of people live.
Cape Town is one of the most economically unequal places in the world, and it remains largely segregated by race. Townships like Langa continue to be "no-go zones" for most whites in nearby communities, and white communities have fortified themselves out of fear. The barriers between these communities are not just physical - they are also psychological, as people have learned to fear, distrust, and resent each other.
Our families all lived through legislated, internalised systems of (mis)education and deeply institutionalised racism and white supremacy. Even the youth we call 'born frees' today people born after the end of apartheid - are still mostly raised and educated in a dysfunctional version of this painful and fractured reality.
It is a very urgent societal, physical and psychological problem and Our Workshop was started in late 2016 as an attempt to create a space for integration between people from different parts of the city, different cultural backgrounds, races and economic circumstances using a seemingly simple solution: we make things together.
Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)
Our Workshop has a long-term plan for connection and creativity. We have chosen a site in a cultural centre called Guga S'thebe in Langa, where transportation access is still poor and work to inspire other people from Cape Town with easier mobility to join us here. We are open to everyone, including visiting foreigners, but our main targeted beneficiaries are locals from Langa and other surrounding communities.
Since we moved in last December, we have attracted an amazingly dedicated and diverse group of members who are around every single day. With this crew we are trying to build ourselves (trial and lots of error) into a member-managed and member-run space for innovation + sharing. We hope to ultimately use this pilot phase and the community processes we are developing to start similar linked spaces around the city, perhaps eventually in other African cities and around the world where people need to share, slow down, and connect across historical divisions.
A snippet of making from our launch event in Langa
Ivy sharing her extensive crochet skills with Gina
Doing a walking tour around Langa - with Guga S'thebe in the background
Khanyi leading the tour of her square
Anele and Heath
How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)
We are the first SHARED, free, community-focused art/design/craft space in any cultural centre in the Western Cape, and we are already working!
Participating in our community benefits individuals, offering them:
> the means to express themselves creatively
> a place to belong
> a means to supply some of their needs by making things themselves
> a means to financial support by selling what they make
> a means to support the planet through upcyling waste materials
However, Our Workshop is not designed only to meet individual needs: it is also a novel way to help heal our city and the still-bleeding wounds of division. It is a space of encounter, a place to develop social bonds and trust, and place to share and connect.
Our idea is in fact a functioning reality, but we do not have the resources to continue to grow without support. We need to start to build a more robust organisational infrastructure and establish systems to ensure our longevity.
Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)
Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.
Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)
Our Workshop (named to be as inclusive a space as possible) focuses on using post-consumer waste + simple craft and making techniques as a medium for personal and interpersonal growth. We have a space (which is open to anyone and everyone to use for free), very basic tools and equipment and a broad collection of ‘rubbish’. With these basics we run workshops for the public, to encourage people to join us and find out about our principles and methods.
In action at the workshop
An Instagram story of our AirBnB experience offering, which is basically a concentrated 3 hour version of our purpose and our principles: sharing our expertise with upcycling, design thinking (process-driven making), craft skill sharing, and sharing lived experience https://www.instagram.com/ourworkshopct/
One of our young visitors explaining her upcycled papier mache creation
Visitors browsing at the Our Workshop display/sales space at the entrance to Guga S'thebe
Our Group Photo in the amphitheatre at Guga S'thebe
Organization Filing Status
Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.
Our Workshop was originally started in Harrington Str in Cape Town city centre. We moved to Guga S'Thebe in Langa township in Dec 2017 because we realised that Our Workshop wasn't able to provide a safe space to make things and collaborate to the people who really needed it. We believe that spending time, sharing skills and making things bridges divisions that exist between people of different races, ages, genders and economic backgrounds and this needs to happen in the right place.
Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).
Peace = we work to build community and inter-cultural, inter-generational, inter-racial connection. We encourage clear, open communication and mutual support, even among those who have been historically divided.
Prosperity = we share hand-skills and design-thinking skills without being didactic or assumptive as we actively assist with promoting our members' work. We support those trying to find new ways to generate income and address the huge wealth inequality in our city.
Planet = our entry-point for craft, art-making and our version of 'loose entrepreneurship training' is to use 'waste' materials to create beauty and functionality while learning about often overlooked environmental issues in informal settlement life in Cape Town.
Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)
A core principle of Our Workshop is to decentralise knowledge production through collaboration at Our Workshop as well as through connecting with other creative professionals and spaces in and around Cape Town (theatre space in Khayelitsha township, women’s weaving group in Nyanga township, education center at the Zeitz MOCAA, V&A Waterfront waste depot). Making meaningful connections with the people in these spaces will help to create a network of resources that extends beyond Cape Town city center. Fundamental to this process is the integrity of Our Workshop as a group; the passionate members we have, help to guide our movements and our direction; connections we make beyond Langa serve to nuture new (and old) skills, develop and engage with different ways of making and communicating, and empower Our Workshop members through integrated relationships. On the flip side, people that we interact with outside of OW gain these integrated, collaborative and compassionate relationships too.
Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)
Our Workshop gains its strength and dynamism from its varied group of members who are eager to share knowledge and learn. We rely on being fluid so that we can work with the community we are situated in and meaningfully reflect their strengths. We are not here to decide how a community should run or what they should find value in producing. OW members are steady in their convictions, thorough, ingenious, playful, positive, open-minded and enigmatic in making and in collaborating (see videos).
Langa, Cape Town - for now
How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)
We are adopting a “slow and steady” approach, since change should be gradual not rushed. We are proposing a three-year span, especially if GHR will be an available and involved funding partner, as mentioned in the webinar. If we can check in often and start to find really effective, functional, new and better ways of reporting (and can therefore reflect on our results and be advised by the global network, and by IDEO), we have a greater chance of growing deeply rather than too fast, too broadly.
Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)