The co-design of a visual arts-based intervention within the community of the Olifants River valley in South Africa
The research was motivated by my lived experience in the Olifants River community of Namaqualand. In this community there are many diverse ethnic and social groupings with considerable potential to contribute to indigenous knowledge and creative practices. These groupings are, however, fragmented, with no platform for their varied and rich cultural assets to be displayed and acknowledged. In addition, the research was motivated by the call for a platform for the arts in the region. It is argued that visual art practice is an instrumental tool in the advancement of both creativity and social cohesion in this community. The research commenced with a pilot study, comprising workshops, which were run by art practitioners from various sectors in the region. Primary literature that influenced the emerging research design was that of Solomon (2007) as well as the holistic cultural viewpoints of Schafer (2014). The organic process of qualitative research methods as described by Ellingson (2009) was a natural personal directive. Body mapping was used during a preparatory phase that led to the creative exploration of community members’ own identity. Storytelling and dance were included in the design methodology since they enabled a psychosocial process of validating art practice as an economic asset within the community as well as enhancing social cohesion in the community. Crystallisation methods implemented in the process-driven body map workshops were held for grassroots -, town – and township sectors in the Olifants River valley. Each of the workshops comprised ten participants who were invited to participate in a subsequent do-designed collaborative event.