A few months ago we said a bittersweet goodbye to Zayd Minty, the founder and long-time driver of Creative Cape Town. Who’s at the helm now, you ask? Without further ado, let us introduce you to creative researcher, curator, groupie, producer – and now programme manager for Creative Cape Town – Farzanah Badsha.
Farzanah, for the benefit of our Creative Cape Town readers, who are you?
Gosh, how existential. Professionally speaking, my journey has been a twisty one, but it always seems to come back to how art, visual culture and history can be documented and written about or produced in ways that benefit society and broaden our understanding of who we are as South Africans.
How did you end up in the creative industries?
I am too much of a cynic, critic and enthusiast about all things creative to work in any other industry. At one time I thought that I could perhaps engage with the industry from the outside, looking in as an academic, but then found out that I was fairly good at actually organising creative events and supporting local artists, helping them make their work and do what they do best. My experience working on and managing elements of Spier Contemporary taught me a huge amount and gave me invaluable experience in supporting and enabling the work of creatives. So I guess you might say I could not stay out of the fray, and needed to be active and involved. I’ve also been fortunate enough to consume a broad range of popular culture and my years of being a hip hop music groupie in Cape Town – and going to a wide variety of music, art and popular culture events – really shaped my thinking. Being on the fringes of many circles of different producers and consumers of culture in Cape Town, but never having a single sub-cultural home or being a card-carrying member of any tribe, has meant that my appreciation of art, music and culture is not limited by the divisions that can sometimes make Cape Town a tough city to navigate.
Other than Spier Contemporary, can you talk about some other projects you’ve worked on that have informed your thinking?
As a graduate student I was involved in a project on South African visual history that really shaped how I read images and think about issues of representation. I worked on a research project led by Dr Patricia Hayes at the University of the Western Cape in which we interviewed photographers who had been active in documenting South Africa during the 1980s, with a particular focus on members of the Afrapix collective. This project gave me a deep appreciation of the power of culture – particularly visual culture – to shape society.
What made you apply for this post?
Good question – one I ask myself each morning (it’s good to keep it top of mind). Creative Cape Town is a key space in which I feel I can make a difference and positively influence and support the work of creatives in the city.
You’re the daughter of the founder of South African History Online and the head of the Cape Higher Education Consortium – you must have had a very interesting childhood. What’s your connection to your family history?
It seems a cliché to say that my parents shaped who I am, but the people, places and ideas that my parents exposed me to growing up fundamentally shaped the person that I am and the person I want to be. I joke that if I was to rebel against my parents I would need to become a politically reactionary, religious fundamentalist – which is not on the cards, just in case you’re wondering. Instead I’d like to think that I have followed in their footsteps and am engaged with how history, culture and innovative research and writing can be used as ways to transform society for the better.
What’s your connection to Cape Town?
When I moved here as a child (from Durban where I was born) I hated the place and resented being forced to move here – I didn’t fit in at all and couldn’t find my place in the city and its communities. It’s only much later, and through my active consumption of culture in the city, that I have managed to find a way to make the city a part of my identity. But this only really happened for me when I went to university … I have slowly been seduced by the city and now can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Where do you go to get plugged in, to find inspiration?
Two main places: The internet – I “waste” large amounts of time online looking at beautiful interiors, fashion, photography and design on many, many blogs – and other people. I have a broad circle of friends who continue to inspire me with their energy and ideas. I also listen to music, which I take in at places like the Mahogany Room.
What are some of Cape Town’s stories that still need telling?
So many stories! I think that those already told need to be relooked and made more complex: The narratives around the city and its history need to be enriched and broadened, from our understanding of slavery to our memories of the 1980s struggles.
What’s your vision or hope for Creative Cape Town?
That we can support and nurture the existing creative talent of Cape Town and make sure that it becomes easier for all people in the city to consume its culture and to become active producers of culture – particularly as sustainable and successful creative entrepreneurs. My wish is that we’d all become better at getting out of our cultural comfort zones, and consume some culture we’re not used to or familiar with.
Lastly, what can creatives and supporters of the creative industries in Cape Town look forward to in the coming months?
There are always so many exciting events happening in the city. To name just three, there’s City Hall Sessions, a series of sound experiments throughout the year; the revived Creative Cape Town Clusters, running under the name of Design Storming (our collaborative contribution to World Design Capital); and Creative Week, coming up from 15 to 23 September this year. There’s also going to be a lot more support for creatives in areas that affect them on both a policy and a practical level.