Princess Vlei mobilises Baxter Theatre, Desmond Tutu, Video Exhibition and more…

The campaign to "Save Princess Vlei" in Cape Town from a shopping mall, and instead invest in a public park and ecological rehabilitation, has, after lots of work of those active in the Princess Vlei Forum gained more traction.

Already a while back Desmond Tutu visited the Princess Vlei to give his support, and recently The Baxter Theatre close to the University of Cape Town, opened their doors for the campaign to raise awareness and raise funds, potentially needed for an upcoming legal battle with the City of Cape Town. At Baxter, the Forum gave the audience "Scrooge" by Dickens, and Desmond Tutu again joined in support.

The Forum writes:
Another distinguished guest was Cape Town benefactor Benny Rabinowitz, who had underwritten the performance and sponsored several tickets for students. Franklin Sonn and his wife also attended, as well as Rhoda Kadalie, James McGregor, and Councillor Dennis Joseph, Yusuf Pahad, Kent Morkel and former mayor Gordon Oliver. 
With this increasing support by civil society, celebrities and the access and use of established middle-class/elite spaces in the city, it will most probably become increasingly difficult for the City and Province to go ahead with their plans of a shopping mall. Or at least it will come with a clear cost and further protests.

The Princess Vlei Forum has demonstrated that it can mobilise across various groups and areas in the still "archipelagic" and fractured Cape Town society, and in particular that the issue of Princess Vlei has resonance not only in former coloured areas, and lower working class, but also among environmentalists and former white areas.

The Princess Vlei Forum also reports on their website that the City and Province seems open to scrap the mall:
In a radio interview on the Voice of the Cape Breakfast Show on 7 January, Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson said, “We are concerned about the decision taken 15 years ago, circumstances have changed, people’s views on what Princess Vlei should be have changed and we believe we have to explore different options now, we can’t simply proceed without full exploration.”
The relations to sensitise to the values and multi folded aspects of Princess Vlei has spread to mobilise artists and others, which I have reported on before. In November last year, artist Ayesha Price did a Photo and Video installation at the The Lovell Gallery in Woodstock. In her press release she writes:
Princess Vlei is a wetland in an urban area and a specific site of trauma: haunted by myths, riled with urban legends, inextricably linked to the displacement of people and currently, under real threat of destruction by commercial development. 
This body of achromatic digital works draws upon this site and its legend – a lake of tears- as a symbol of the degradation, disempowerment and injustice visited upon the worlds of the vulnerable by the powerful. 

An upcoming event around the "Peoples's Plan for Princess Vlei" will be on 22 March, called "Imagine Princess Vlei". This is part of the bid for Princess Vlei Forum to participate in the World Design Capital, something the City has denied them since the land at which they are developing a participatory process is not legally settled.

The campaign is now active on multiple arenas from the particular place at Princess Vlei, at schools, and community centres, but also at Baxter, exhibition spaces, Word Design Capital meetings, not to mention research centres. It has developed a row of material artifacts of plants and plans, and generated a string of activities and events during some three years—from planting, 'red flag day' and so forth. In connecting all these, a powerful narrative has been created. The story continues. I am looking forward in being back in April to meet with all in person again.


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