WITS ARCHITECTURE :: EVERY MONDAY IN SEPTEMBER!



WITS ARCHITECTURE

UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND - JOHANNESBURG

WITS SCHOOL DISCUSSIONS : EVERY MONDAY AT 10:15

VENUE: Lecture Hall A1, JOHN MOFFAT BUILDING

ALL WELCOME : FREE

TRANSFORMATION, APPROPRIATION, AFFIRMATION, RACISM + REDEMPTION IN ARCHITECTURE

BLACKS LIKE US

Transformation, Appropriation, Affirmation, Racism and Redemption in Architecture.

This WITS ARCHITECTURE School Discussion Series kicked off today with a Panel Discussion on "Identities" with guests Mphethi Morojele, Kate Otten and Hugh Fraser forming the panel and some one hundred architecture and planning students, visitors and staff making up the audience of auditorium A1 of John Moffat Building.

Hilton Judin, the creator and convenor of the series, opened proceedings by welcoming the panellists and the vividly multicultural audience. In quotes and convictions Hilton delivered a simple but meaningful message; "it is time for us to start talking, and this is the place to do it."

I was touched by the moment. "Our own little TRC", I thought, "and Hilton is our Tutu."

As arranged, the discussion was seeded by panellist statements of identity from which flowed a flurry of questions and counter statements.

Kate Otten opened the panel delivery by saying that as a white person she was considered previously advantaged but as a woman she was considered previously disadvantaged. Since these cancelled each other out she had been able to access provincial government work until recently. "Now they don't want me around anymore, but I don't know if that is because I'm white, a woman or just a bitch."

Hugh Fraser followed Kate's opening by assuring everyone present that although he looked very white and very Scottish he was actually African.

"Mi corazón es negro", he said in bad Spanish. When the audience remained impassive he added, "That is Spanish for my heart is black. I believe that you are what you believe you are, even though others may not. That belief and my black heart make me African."

Everyone took a moment to ponder on Hugh's Spanish black heart and his rosy white African skin. I tried to think of an appropriate word for "white coconut" but failed.

Then he said that nothing was as bad or as good as one thought, but rather somewhere in between the two extremes.

At this point Mphethi related his work experience as a black director of a large architectural practice and concluded by saying that black people were still a tiny minority in the business circles in which he operated. "For the greater part of the time I'm the only African at most meetings."

A lively and frank discussion ensued for over an hour.

Truth was spoken. A process was started. Something important happened.