Opening the streets in Mitchells Plain

It’s incredible, almost magical, how something so small can completely transform something far bigger and more powerful than itself. This is the kind of magic that dazzled Sunday, April 3, at Open Streets Mitchells Plain, where the presence of hundreds of giggling children played a huge role in lightening up a reputedly ‘dark’ street with music, dance, games, street art, laughter and lots and lots of bubbles.

Bubbles and smiles everywhere.
Bubbles and smiles, everywhere. Emma Broadway.

Open Streets Cape Town is an initiative inspired by Ciclovía in Colombia—a citywide event where cars are banned from the street, and people rich and poor instead walk, run, cycle and skate through the streets. The Open Streets Cape Town manifesto invokes that by embracing the concept of Open Streets: we can all create shared places that embody respect 
for all and help to bridge the social and spatial divides of our city.

Small bumper stickers were given out to those who car-pooled, cycled or walked to the event.
Small bumper stickers were given out to those who car-pooled, cycled or walked to the event. Emma Broadway.

The Mitchell’s Plain edition was the 4th leg of a continuing series of events that seek to transform streets in Cape Town, not only by removing cars, but also by filling the space with skate-boarders, inline skaters, bicycles, local performance art, food, games, music, and a profound sense of community across the races, languages and cultures of wider Cape Town.

Two of the graffiti street art pieces, created at Sunday's event.
Two of the incredibly talented graffiti street art pieces, created at Sunday’s event. Emma Broadway.

 

Very serious adults vs children chess games went on all day.
Very serious chess games between adults and children went on all day. Emma Broadway.

Mitchells Plain is a large, sprawling township about 32 kilometres from the city of Cape Town. It is where the apartheid government forcibly relocated ‘coloured’ people who government kicked out of the city under the Group Areas Act. Renowned for almost unprecedented levels of gangsterism, almost everyone, especially the locals, would agree that it has earned a very negative reputation. And because of the actions of a powerful minority, the gangs, the majority continues to live in that shadow.

This fabulous guy led several funky group dance routines in the middle of the street.
This person led several funky group dance routines in the middle of the street. Emma Broadway.

Although not claiming to be a solution, this is one of the reasons why Open Streets Mitchells Plain was such a fruitful, light-bringing event. It created a positive space and platform where people were free to invent themselves and express their talents in front of people from all over Cape Town who were invited to observe, connect, celebrate and even break many preconceptions about Mitchells Plain, as they got to witness first-hand an, albeit limited, part of its narrative. Although there were visibly a fair number of visitors from outside the area, it was clear, especially after the locals were asked by a performer to “throw their hands in the air,” that the majority of the crowd were from Mitchells Plain itself.

Kids on their bikes. Emma Broadway.

 

He was a skater boy.
A skate run at the event. Emma Broadway.

It is no secret that Open Streets Cape Town has been critiqued, largely for being a very ‘white-middle class’ dominated event, serving the City’s inclusivity agenda in an unsustainable way. Perhaps this might have been the case for the Open Streets events held in the city centre, but when thinking about Open Streets Mitchells Plain I find no room for critique and am reminded of the words of South Africa’s late Nelson Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

This little angel child was so pleased with her magical face paint.
This child was so pleased with her magical face paint. Emma Broadway.

The magic, joy and sense of belonging, across all generations, that was created at Open Streets Mitchells Plain revealed something in South Africa’s soul that is undeniably alive and full of creativity and hope, even in the darkest of spaces. And even if it was just for a day, the impact of that space, especially on the children, is something lasting that can only positively transform the soul of our society.

Framed.
Children hold a large picture frame. Emma Broadway.

If you missed out on this event, follow Open Streets Cape Town to find out about the next Open Streets event!

 

Emma Broadway is an editorial intern with urbanafrica.net.

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One Response to “Opening the streets in Mitchells Plain”

  1. Helen Broadway

    Excellent work, well done!

    Reply

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