One Table. Two Elephants: Environmental Film Making in Cape Town
Environmental Film Making:
One Table. Two Elephants. A Film Essay about The Fraught Toil of Unifying a Rainbow Town
As part of my dedication to contribute to the growing intellectual environmental humanities movement, I am creating a film with director Jacob von Heland based on my years of field work in Cape Town.
In particular, the film we are doing, called One Table Two Elephants, focuses on practices of creating meaning and identities in Cape Town, which includes multiple ways of knowing urban nature.
Cape Town helps to understand the knowledge politics—or the epistemological and ontological politics—that surrounds all urban environments, but those of postcolonial cities in particular. These spaces, which historically were framed as locations though which to exploit environments and peoples for imperial projects, to dispossess people from their land and control and change environments, today offers locations where we can understand deeper-seated conflicts, but also find alternative ways through which to understand urban environments. Indeed, the colonial (and apartheid) project also structured scientific and popular ways of knowing nature, shaping how nature could be talked about and understood. In our postcolonial era, the deep-seated silences, even erasures of alternative ways of knowing, are bubbling up, and Cape Town offers a good location to observe, analyse and participate in these dynamics.
In the film we follow persons, projects and places that I have used for my ethnographic work in Cape Town. We follow biologist and ecologists and their practices to ‘place urban nature in the know’, mainly using maps, databases and scientific practices of ‘ground-truthing’ and computer modelling. In parallel we follow people that have mobilised to protect a wetland in an area previously classified as a so called Coloured area. In the latter, urban nature gets narrated and inserted into stories and memories of oppression, and the wetland becomes a stage through which to articulate the deep divides and differences that exist in the city, but also a way to organize new ways to understand and approach urban nature.
During 2015 we filmed during two intense periods in January and March of 2015. We have since edited and screened the film at the Urban Beyond Measure conference in May, at an STS conference in Stockholm in September, and at the PECS conference in Stellenbosch in October. The finished film will be ready in 2016.