Mobile Access to Knowledge: Culture and Safety in Africa. Documenting and assessing the impact of cultural events and public art on urban safety.

How do cultural events and public art affect urban safety in African cities?

Project Summary

« Ça réveille » – it wakes you up. This is what a teacher said about the artwork Oasis by Tracey Rose in New Bell, Douala, which you can see on the left.

The research team’s study is based on the analysis of innovative cultural events and public art installations (one of which is Oasis) produced in three African cities: Douala (Cameroon), Johannesburg (South Africa), and Luanda (Angola). They consider that cultural events and public art are not meant to produce safety: they are a space of experimentation with side effects, one of which is safety.

They use the term urban safety as referring to higher livability, civil cohabitation and social cohesion. Through field research, namely surveys, interviews and visual representations, they found that the impact public art can have on urban safety depends mainly on the type of artwork. They identified four types of artwork, namely proximity artworksartworks in passagewayslarge-scale sculptures and monuments, and urban-scale artworks and cultural events. While large-scale sculptures and monuments may provoke negative feelings for a part of the population (as they can be associated with evictions and political statements by the government), proximity artworks often include negotiating the land with the inhabitants and trigger community-based and individual initiatives. The team states that artworks in passageways are particularly relevant, as they do not have a direct impact on urban safety, but are likely to establish a personal relationship with the viewer.

Academic Output

Working Paper

Mobile Access to Knowledge: Culture and Safety in Africa – Documenting and assessing the impact of cultural events and public art on urban safety

In this working paper, we provide a summary of the content and the comparative results of the research project “Mobile A2K: Culture and Safety in Africa. Documenting and assessing the impact of cultural events and public art on urban safety” with a specific focus on the direct and indirect impact of cultural events and public art on urban safety, and on the intentionality of this impact. The research “Mobile A2K: Culture and Safety in Africa. Documenting and assessing the impact of cultural events and public art on urban safety” mapped and compared a series of case studies on the cultural production of Douala in Cameroon, Luanda in Angola, and Johannesburg in South Africa, between 1991 and 2013; in these contexts safety is a concern appearing constantly in the background, determined by the presence and fear of criminality and violence, but also by the threat of forced evictions and natural and man-made disasters. The research highlighted that cultural events and public art do have a direct impact on urban safety, by producing works including infrastructural-functional elements, by “making space” (and triggering the establishment of shared spaces) and by contributing to urban branding among niches; artworks can also generate conflicts (with references to historical, political, social and ethnic issues) and it is necessary to mention that the maintenance of infrastructural-functional elements can indeed be a risk in particular for the rapid deterioration of materials in tropical climate. The indirect impact of cultural events and public art is related to their capacity of being an entrance point in informal settlements, to initiate social transformations and to contribute in changing behavior, by triggering relationships, ownership, humanity, empowerment and active citizenship; it is the process, the construction of value and the sense of pride which appear to have a determinant role; few specific artworks present the capacity of establishing a personal relationship with the viewer and they are described as something which “Ça réveille” [it wakes you up]. The most relevant result from an international perspective is that the research has brought out the existence of common patterns in different typologies of productions: proximity artworks tend to provide infrastructural-functional elements that can directly respond to safety-related problems; large-scale sculptures and monuments tend to be more contested and they can generate conflicts; urban-scale artworks and cultural events participate in urban branding. Artworks in passageways are specifically relevant: they do not produce a direct impact on urban safety, but they are indeed more likely to establish a personal relationship with the viewer, triggering humanity, ownership, empowerment, active citizenship, value, and sense of pride.

Report

Douala Final Report

Report

Johannesburg Final Report

Report

Luanda Final Report

Executive Summary

Cultural events and public art have a direct and indirect impact on urban safety. The research “Mobile A2K: Culture and Safety in Africa. Documenting and assessing the impact of cultural events and public art on urban safety” mapped and compared a series of case studies on the cultural production of Douala in Cameroon, Luanda in Angola, and Johannesburg in South Africa, between 1991 and 2013. In these contexts safety is a concern appearing constantly in the background, determined by the presence and fear of criminality and violence, and by the threat of forced evictions and natural and man-made disasters. The most relevant result from an international perspective is that the research highlighted the existence of common patterns in different typologies of productions: proximity artworks tend to provide infrastructural-functional elements that can directly respond to safety-related problems; large-scale sculptures and monuments tend to be more contested and can generate conflicts; urban-scale artworks and cultural events participate in urban branding. Artworks in passageways are specifically relevant: they do not produce direct impact on urban safety, but they are more likely to establish a personal relationship with the viewer, triggering humanity, ownership, empowerment, active citizenship, value, and sense of pride.

Research Team

David Fornari 
Coordinator
Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana

Cecilia Liveriero Lavelli
Co-Coordinator
Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana

Marilyn Douala Bell
Principal Member
Doual’art

Luca Morici
Principal Member
Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana

Emanuela Fanny Bonini Lessing
Principal Member
Università IUAV di Venezia

Iolanda Pensa
Principal Member
lettera27 Foundation

Serena Cangiano
Principal Member
Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana

Marta Pucciarelli
Principal Member
Università della Svizzera Italiana

Ntone Edjabe
Principal Member
Kalakuta Trust

Didier Schaub
Principal Member
Doual’art

Ismail Farouk
Principal Member
University of Cape Town

Fabio Vanin
Principal Member
Latitude

Aude Guyot
Principal Member
Ecole nationale supérieure des Télécommunications

Fernando Alvim
Associated Member
SOSO – arte contemporânea Trienal de Luanda

Edgar Pieterse
Associated Member
University of Cape Town

Isabella Rega
Associated Member
Università della Svizzera Italiana

Roberto Casati
Associated Member
Ecole normale supérieure

Simon Njami
Associated Member
Sindika Dokolo Foundation

Status

completed

Disciplines

Themes

Regions

Countries

Angola, Cameroon, South Africa

Host Institution

Coordinator

Year