2018 Johannesburg, ZA


Salon Saturday: Women in the City.


Just a few steps away from the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein, BackStory welcomed Johannesburg to a morning of collected stories of women in the city. The project was lead by Sumayya Vally and Sarah de Villiers of Counterparts, where 3 recent female graduates were invited to participate in a panel discussion departing from their respective research interests.

In an intimate lounge-like setting, Natache Lilonga and Tova Lubinsky (of the Graduate school of Architecture, UJ) and Sumayya Mohamed (Wits, Department of Geography) illustrated narratives of women and their passages through space and aspiration on the streets of Johannesburg, speaking of its encountered challenges and restrictions in gendered space. Sumayya demonstrated observations of women’s encounters on the streets and sidewalks of Fordsburg and Mayfair, while Tova described moments for refuge. aspiration and power in claimed in-between spaces in Braamfontein. Through a speculative labyrinthine spatial arrangement, Natache showed moments of opportunity for re-coding the domestic setting, to turn dis-empowering, patriarchal spatial motives on their head. These descriptions of power in gendered space became a basis for a discussion around women and their aspirations in the city, which was joined in and added to by visiting members of the public in the audience.

Following the discussion, Johannesburg citizens and visitors to the event were invited to contribute towards an interactive mapping of the inner city, which offers opportunity for people to map where as women, they feel a sense of refuge or conversely, ‘on edge’ or at risk.

As an ongoing concept driven by Counterspace under BackStory, the BackStory greenscreen was active during the event, as a project in pursuit to develop a library of ‘cut out’ .png representative Johannesburg characters, for use of Johannesburg architects, designers and students for free, in their work. This is made in protest of the non-representative proliferation of stock-images on the internet and on international design websites. The full output library of this project (#backstorystock) will be made via the website soon for download. Please contact us if you would like to support or host this initiative!

BackStory is an initiative driven by 1to1 Agency for Engagement, Liz Ogbu Studio O and Counterspace, its research base made possible with the support of SouthPoint.