Visual Thinking in South Africa

Exploring Dreams – South Africa 2019 – Combining visual thinking, reflection, social circus and dream catcher creation

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Exploring Dreams – South Africa 2019

Visual Facilitators sponsored an exciting social project in South Africa, combining visual thinking, reflection, social circus and dream catcher creation. See the video here, and an interview with Mona Ebdrup below:

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Combining visual thinking, reflection, social circus and dream catcher creation

For three months a group from Cape Town and Copenhagen came together to explore the dreams people have, individually and collectively, for themselves and for their communities. By combining social circus from ActionArte Foundation SA, dream catcher creation and visual thinking the group invited people from diverse backgrounds into a space space to reflect and act upon their dreams for the future. Because we believe that no change in this world will happen without our ability to dream. This was a very nonlinear process of creation, challenges, joy and success that with the support of many communities became possible. Just like dreams! The group made workshops in and around Cape Town, even in areas with high murder rates due to gang violence. Because we all deserve the right to dream. Finally the group made a show at this year’s AfrikaBurn in the Tankwa Karoo Desert in South Africa.

Thanks to all who backed tis project in crowd funding, thanks NeulandRampire AgencyVisual Facilitators and AfrikaBurn for making this possible! Thanks to Kelvy Bird for the beautiful voice over and holding the process.

A global visual practice conference will be happening in Cape Town, probably 2022, organized by Mona Ebdrup. Stay tuned!

Interview with Mona Ebdrup about the Project:

Questions by Mathias Weitbrecht and Katrin Faensen

There was this moment at the global visual practitioner conference EuViz 2018: You stood up and announced that you will bring a professional conference to South Africa. What drove you and what did you sense that made you do this?

I sensed a huge need and desire in the field for more experimentation. I spoke with a lot of people and heard the wish to experiment more with our own practice. So to come together and have a space with each other not in a client relationship. This South Africa event could be something to have that space and to experiment together what is next in our practice. A lot of people addressed this in different ways.

Another thing was to make it more accessible. Where it is, the way we invite people in, if minorities would be part of our space and so on. And then also people that do not directly identify as visual practitioners. So everything would become more open to other practitioners that might have intersections with our field. 

And my own experience is that experimentation is a really good place to be! 

And why do you want to bring a visual practitioner conference to South Africa? What’s going on in the world, and why this location?

South Africa is a micro-cosmos of the many challenges that we see in the world. And this country is quite explicit about some of these challenges: You are forced to face your blind spots around diversity, inclusion etc. It’s very visible in a country like South Africa. Where we in Europe for example are a little bit “better” in hiding these challenges, in believing that we are super-inclusive and in closing our eyes… In this country we can form a trustful space for experimentation.

How can visual practice help in a place with a lot of challenges?

It can make things more visible so that we can see the dynamics. It can help to go beyond the spoken words that we use all the time. Using visuals can help in getting to a new layer. It’s a new dimension of communication, especially to connect and communicate across cultures and languages.   

Exploring Dreams

Well, and then you created a quite sophisticated project well ahead of the conference. What was your intention and what happened on that trip?

The intention was first of all to explore our dream worlds. Asking a lot of people wat their dreams are and then using different methods to embody that question. We brought in visual thinking, creation of dream catchers and the circus work from ActionArte SA. They use social circus to create change in communities – also in areas of violence and gang wars. That’s South Africa’s contrasts: the gang wars and then the rich areas.

What specifically did you do and what did you bring together?

We set up workshop spaces in public, in schools etc. and we invited people to draw out their dreams and put them on the wall. People went through that process of exploring their dreams trough our different methods. We offered tase workshops in rich and poor areas, at schools etc. We also offered a big show at AfrikaBurn, which is an event similar to Burning Man. We brought in a group from Hanover Park, an area with one of the highest gang violence inn the world. There we also combined the methods with visual thinking. Another result was also an exhibition of dream catchers that were made during the project all around Cape Town. As mentioned we went to different parts of Cape Town, rich and poor. We wanted to explore the similarities across these contrasts. 

We all need to dream, for ourselves, for our communities, and for the world.

If we are not able to dream and to imagine – no change will happen.  

Very touching pictures emerged from that time… What do they show?

Well, at the beginning people were a bit nervous and in a vulnerable space. Then the energy dropped into a more focused space where they actually sat down and crafted their dreams. They carefully come words and images to illustrated their dreams. And then they would discover the dream of others… ave small conversations with each other… 

Connection was made. We actually dream in so similar ways. Even if we did fight in school we actually dream the same.

What was the connection point in your dream between this project and a visual practitioner conference in South Africa?

Nobody had made such a combination of methods before, and to explore how this could be applied – also how visuals could be used a bit more outside of board rooms and meeting rooms. What are alternatives to apply visual practice in more accessible ways?

So you actually bring visual facilitation not a new level by actually combining pen & paper with craftsmanship & maker art with embodiment & community? 

This emerged somehow through our good collaboration and wat we bring in. We found that these elements connect with each other. So usually I visualize people’s conversations. But when there is a Neuland wall, people can express exactly wat they need to express – themselves. So I myself I am am moving out of the way. Sometimes I had to leave because people were in such vulnerable places… completely trusting. I played a role in this project but it’s larger than me and the spotlight shouldn’t be on me. So it also had an aspect of inner de-colonialization…

What will emerge looking ahead to a global visual practice conference? 

Things are emerging right now, and will be announced soon ???? It might be around the ownership of stories, and how we are facilitators of stories, and wat our role is in that. Passing on the marker – there could be interesting exploration around that… Then, going into the intersection of visual thinking and Deep Democracy. How it looks is still unknown. Now dates, location etc. are in the making. 

Sounds thrilling! What’s next? 

I can only encourage people to collaborate cross fields and to build bridges. This is work outside the comfort zone. It as been super challenging to do this. Life is not linear, especially not in zones of gang wars, but such an effort very rewarding. And then to move visuals out of the board rooms and conference halls is also very rewarding. And… sponsors are needed.

Thank you, Mona!

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