Community projects get residents talking

Open Streets Volunteers, Ward 78 counillor Eddie Andrews, fifth from left, with members of Mitchells Plain United Residents Association (MURA), city-planner and a founding member of the National Skate Collective Marco Morgan, holding a skateboard.

At an event called Talking Streets, representatives of the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA) called for meaningful public engagement with the City of Cape Town while residents asked that initiatives be discussed with the community before being implemented.

The discussion was part of the Open Streets event, in Eisleben Road, in Portland and Rocklands, on Sunday March 31.

Open Streets volunteers gathered information as to how people were using streets, and to explore topics around mobility and access, and the opportunities and challenges experienced in different street environments around Cape Town.

It also presented the opportunity for participants to get more out of the Open Streets experience.

Deidre Petersen and Alex Lawrence said trees were being planted, walls painted and paving laid without talking to the community.

“Yes, the City has done a lot but they must look at the open spaces, the lanes, where people are being mugged and all kinds of things are happening,” said Mr Lawrence.

“We want to be free to take a walk with our children. We need the freedom to go to the shop,” Ms Petersen added.

Facilitator Marco Morgan, a city planner and founding member of the National Skate Collective, explored ways in which public transport could enhance social cohesion and celebrate cultural diversity, while delivering a safe and reliable service.

In what he described as “taxi culture”, Mr Morgan said passengers in a confined space, would tap fellow passengers on their shoulders to send their taxi fares forward, and sometimes this would get people talking to each other.

On the topic of taxis, said Open Streets volunteer Gouri Conrad, formerly from Westridge, she preferred this form of public transport because it dropped her off closer to her destination, which ensured her safety.

Steering the discussion to street art, Mr Morgan said Mitchell’s Plain was the birthplace of graffiti in South Africa and that leading artists would look to the area for the expression of culture.

“Mitchell’s Plain also has the biggest skateboard crew, Twenty Skeight, based in Westridge Gardens,” he said.

Mr Morgan also took participants to an artwork, which was done by three different artists Migo Prefix and Dfeat, which was sprayed during last year’s Open Streets’ event.

“This wall is very different to the painted wall we were at previously, which had gang names and extremities written on, which was an eyesore, compared to this wall which has not been destroyed.

He explained that Migo was not from Mitchell’s Plain and that artists from outside of the community were encouraged to collaborate with local artists to ensure sustainability of the artwork and ownership.

Mr Morgan said the mural had been done with the community’s permission.

Councillor for Ward 78 Eddie Andrews added that apartheid spatial planning should not be underestimated in the layout of Mitchell’s Plain and encouraged residents to engage with their ward councillors and the local sub-council office on related matters.