Q and A between Edward May, Director of Circle Triangle Square,

and Opoku Mensah, artist and initiator of the Heterotopia project.

Edward May:

What are the fundamental aims of the project?


Opoku Mensah:

  • To develop a cultural program within a global education space in Pico Da Cruz. This provision of such an education on the African continent, a place that is not necessarily perceived for stellar education is very important.

  • To help participants rediscover their position in this area of Africa, and the possible positions that they can take in the context of Africa. By reconsidering their position, they will be able to better understand the responsibility that they have to themselves and their society.

What will the artists in residence and the residents of Cape Verde have in common, and what will the differences be in terms of their socioeconomic positions and cultural values?


  • The residents of Pico Da Cruz live on the pick of a mountain top in one of Cape Verde’s Archipelago called Santo Antao. It is around 3 hours travel from Mindelo, a significant cultural and economic hub sustained by the Cape Verdean diaspora. Pico Da Cruz is predominantly a self sufficient and close community with around 50 people. The artists in residence will be traveling in from a number of different continents, and will be much more connected to an international way of life. 

  • The artists-in-residence and residents of Pico Da Cruz will not share equal amounts of monetary wealth or international exposure, but the participants of Heterotopia will engage in the overall experience of the project, regardless of their socio-economic or cultural gaps. The proximity of the space will allow for close interaction and companionship.

  • The act of intertwining the disparities between the groups will help to establish a better understanding of what it means to be part of a community. The specificities which are particular to the identity of Cape Verde is inescapable and the superposition of these different variants is a social phenomenon not to be disregarded.


What knowledge and experience and different ways of living are we aiming to share and who will benefit from this?


  • The participants are from different locations and cultures, and as a result of these differences, they will be able to learn from one another. The participants from the more industrialised countries will learn that they are the most vulnerable to collapse because they are the most disconnected from the earth system, the soil, the trees, living creatures, as well as the climate. It seems actually that these industrialised populations have the most to lose in terms of everyday comfort such as consumption, leisure and accommodation because of their complete lack of resilience and autonomy. The complex global economy - with its reliance on national and international connections and interdependencies - has helped to exacerbate the inequalities created by capitalist competition and has accelerated the destruction of our ecosystem, thus weakening the communal home shared by living beings. Although we are not able to say what tomorrow will look like, understanding the cultures and physicalities of our different environments could help us imagine different scenarios. 

  • The knowledge and experience that Heterotopia aims to transfer between participants starts with the dismantling of the idea of a homogenous, brutal, and linear system collapse. Participants will engage in a conversation which looks at the impact of our different lifestyles in juxtaposition to our existing and possible environments.

  • The act of leadership will become a re-learning process. While participating in the process of re-understanding the world and our positions within it, participants will make observations of nature as a co-teacher.


How can we share knowledge, experience, and the different ways of living between the participants?


By embracing complexity and spontaneity in educational practices. For this to work, we need to consider:


  • How we make space for other teaching voices to be heard on their own terms.

  • How we will learn through the natural world, which will be present as a co-teacher.

  • How we, as educators, will contribute to the potential flourishing of the participants and those in our proximity.


Maybe the answer lies in providing space to integrate experiences, people, cultures, spaces, and processes all together.


What systems can we create which will share knowledge, experience, and the different ways of living?


  • Through a community cultural program. A sense of dialogue needs to be created amongst all participants.

  • That which is worth knowing is largely predetermined by those in control. A different system which ignites curiosity, innovation, adaptation, and resilience in the face of change will be examined.


What will the structure of the teaching be?


  • To continue teaching in the same way which we have been taught previously will not provide the knowledge, skills, and experience which will be required to succeed tomorrow. The teaching will therefore take inspiration from different teaching methods from around the world and consider the benefits, drawbacks, and practicalities of each method. There will be activities and events that will bring people together.

  • Resisting a solid and controllable teaching method will require us to question current metaphors, practices, and understandings of what it means to learn and to know. It will involve overcoming mainstream education’s reliance on defined outcomes, as well as known standards, and measured results. There must be more room for learning that is fluid, flexible, diverse, and accepting. Among other things, this will improve the chances of an unexpected connection to be made and for an unplanned event to occur.

What are the different values of the two groups and how do they intertwine?


  • This complexity can be understood as dynamic, fluid, and unpredictable and is best described in reference to qualities without fixed boundaries. It stands in contrast to a static, deterministic, and linear view of the world. Such complexity of intertwining invites us to understand our physical and social worlds as open, recursive, organic, nonlinear, and emergent, and to be cautious of complying with models and trends in education that assume linear thinking, control, and predictability.

  • The real question is, how does one tackle problems which they have not seen before? This implies that creators need to, at least in part, relinquish the control and self-domesticating forces that are ingrained in our pedagogical thinking and practices. In order to intertwine, it implies that one needs to be more open to spontaneous and surprising occurrences.


Do the intentions and aims of the groups match up?


  • The intentions and aims of each participant would involve pushing off from the safe centre of the human as the centre of the world, in order to allow other ideas, possibilities, spaces of beings, and imaginations to emerge.


There are also practicalities to consider – such as the language barrier – how will we communicate?


  • Every artist in residence must have at least a basic grasp of the language, if they don't, then the artists should complete a course in that language before they arrive as part of the overall project, so that they can communicate when they arrive and engage in a meaningful exchange. That said, creators are also known to communicate in other ways, not just through verbal language. 



What are the other theoretical considerations?


  • A wild approach to pedagogy leads to a reformation of learning, an escape from the current formality, structures, systems of control, standardisation and separation  of each of us from ourselves and our physical reality. These ideas related to systems of control and power structures in order to decree understanding.

What are the other practical considerations?


  • We know that there are many practical considerations which we have not covered, such as health and safety procedures, transportation, and the funding and resources which will make this possible. We will ensure that we cover the basic needs of all the participants: food, shelter, and necessary medical help. We are in the process of methodically going through these practical considerations.  


What happens if something goes wrong?


  • We will take out the correct insurance and complete the necessary health and safety procedures for Heterotopia to be a safe environment for all the participants.

  • We will also develop a contingency plan for any foreseeable problems.

  • Perhaps more importantly in the long term, how do we prepare ourselves for a future that doesn’t yet exist?

    • We need more passion and compassion. 

    • We need people with the heart and wisdom to uplift this planet.

We need to give each other some love in order to give us space to pursue our dreams.