June Supper Club with Lionel Davis

2016_06_30_Supper Club

‘From where I am sitting’: supper and conversation with Lionel Davis

Honouring his life and work in the month of his 80th birthday, we have invited Lionel Davis to be this month’s Supper Club storyteller on Thursday 30 June.

Lionel Davis has been a prolific producer of artworks over the past 40 years.  His contributions as an artist and arts activist and educator are integral to accounts of seminal art organisations such as the Community Arts Project (CAP), Vakalisa, the Thupelo Workshop and Greatmore Art Studio.

In 1964 Lionel was arrested and sentenced to seven years on Robben Island for committing acts of sabotage. It was during his prison years on the Island that he completed his Senior Certificate. After his release he was restricted under a banning order and house arrest until 1976. At the Evangelical Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift in 1980 he worked toward a Diploma in Fine Arts. His interest in art led him to complete a BA Fine Art degree with the University of Cape Town in 1994.

Lionel has contributed to literary magazines, books on education, poetry anthologies and calendars. He has produced cartoons for a children’s magazine and taught screen-printing at CAP. He participated in the Triangle Workshop in New York and the Thupelo Workshop in Johannesburg. In 1988 he was deeply involved in community-based children’s education. He has exhibited in Gaborone, Botswana and Pine Plains, New York, USA amongst other places. He has worked for the South African National Art Gallery as a part- time art educator and also as an education officer on Robben Island

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About the District Six Museum’s Supper Clubs and ‘tafel conversations’

The phrase ‘gooi ‘n tafel’ is a familiar one to people from District Six and the Bo Kaap. It references the tables that were laid out by families  for Christmas Choirs on Christmas Eve and for ‘nagtroepe’ (Malay Choirs) at New Year.  Laden with seasonal fruit like watermelon as well as pastries and cakes, the tafels were celebratory – marking the festive season between the December to January period. The table is thus an evocative symbol for the District Six community. It represents coming together, sharing, breaking bread and storytelling around a common space.

Tables also reference the intimate family rituals around food, work and religion that were performed in District Six homes before destruction, on a daily basis.

The ‘Tafel Conversations and Supper Club’ concept emerged from a felt need to create opportunities for conversations of all kinds: enlightening, entertaining, philosophical, lyrical, visual or performative. It is intended to bring people together who might ordinarily not have met, and also create opportunities for friends to meet up with each other. It aims to contribute to a culture which encourages the expression of different points of view in a space which is contained and supportive.

 The 2016 iteration of the ‘Tafel Conversations’ is called ‘From where I am sitting.’ Guest storytellers will be invited to share their stories in whichever  way they wish, from where they are sitting: personally, professionally, socially, politically or from any other perspective that they might choose. Guests attending the session are invited to listen and to later engage in conversations with the storyteller and each other. Conversations continue over supper and dessert.

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Seven Steps Club members (former residents of District Six) support the ‘Reclaim the City’ campaign

Submission by the Seven Steps Club of the District Six Museum

District Sixers understand exclusion. Like many other South Africans, they understand the impact of the loss of homes, and the struggle for decent  and dignified housing . District Sixers are acutely aware of their own struggle to be part of this city’s spatial planning thinking which has made them ever more sensitive to struggles of others in similar situations.

The Seven Steps Club of the District Six Museum is a gathering of former residents of the District, who gather at the Museum on a monthly basis. It is a space of healing and hope where discussions, storytelling, support actions and research ideas are engaged. It is also a place of reconnection. Underlying each monthly meeting is the awareness that we are still struggling to be a part of our city’s planning even though we have contributed so much to its character and growth. The townships where most of us live after being forced out of District Six under apartheid, have not been nurturing spaces, and we have struggled to raise our families and make a living in ways which are dignified and uplifting. The struggle to return to the vacant and traumatised land of District Six is part of our daily struggle, together with striving to build safe places of residences in the townships for those who will not return.

At our meeting on Tuesday 31 May 2016, we resolved that the struggle to stop the sale of Tafelberg land for private use, is part of our struggle. It is a struggle for the right to be heard, to expect due consideration for the daily suffering of poor citizens to uplift themselves and to be housed in ways which acknowledge our human rights. Many of our parents particularly our mothers worked ‘in service’. They endured the indignities of employers who thought of them as lesser beings. We are saddened that there are many who still endure such conditions even after apartheid has ended, and we add our voices to those who work in the Sea Point area, who are crying out for dignified homes. We also support the call for affordable housing for others who do not work in the area. Without such support from our government, those who are currently excluded because of affordability issues, will remain excluded and our city will continue to be as divided as it currently is.

We do not think it unreasonable to expect local government to utilise every opportunity to use land in a transformative way, and call for serious consideration of this to be given.

State-owned land is a precious commodity which is to be used for the benefit of all citizens.

THE SEVEN STEPS CLUB members of the District Six Museum

6 June 2016