My investigation started with the notion of improving the African problem of misrepresentation. My eureka moment occurred in Shanghai, China, in 2018-19 during a postgraduate course which pretended to be a preparation for phD future candidates. My design specifics occurred through reimagining a tertiary institution.
I have such a multiplicity of past experiences in different systems of power structures. These experiences triggered my commitment towards establishing an institutional reality of my own. I became convinced that I needed to explore the specificity of a location for the benefit of sharing skills and knowledge.
I have belief in the creation of an alternative post-academic ground that could provide space to nurture future African creative entrepreneurs - by which I mean - those who use their creative or intellectual knowledge and skills to earn a living. In that manner, I propose an artist residency which will provide the appropriate conditions conducive to creative entrepreneurs. This creative entrepreneurial journey will occur in a geographic location bound to that of the African continent. It will make use of the local environment in its development of a suitable curriculum.
In my process of investigation, I came across a wild pedagogy. The theoretical paradigm - which will allow me to explore the answers to the issues raised in the context of this artist residency - is Heterotopia.
My goal involves creating space for an economy based on solidarity and cultural dialogues. In order to achieve this goal, I needed examples of institutions with which I could align myself; exemplary institutions which would provide me with concepts and systems for a curriculum program. I have spent enough time in various art institutions over the course of my creative career and discussing these various spaces of enterprises has helped me to understand what it means to be an institution of prestige, quality, and great caliber.
It was at the beginning of 2019 in Shanghai where I began to immerse myself into research. I spent time writing and gathering information and contacts of those who could join me.
Fast forward to the 26th of May, and to my arrival in the city of Mindelo, on the Cape Verdean archipelago, St Vincent. I started exploring the cultural spaces and engaging their occupants in a dialogue and an exchange. After a while, I took the journey to St Vincent’s sister island, Santo Antao, where I began to establish a deeper understanding of the locality of Pico Da Cruz, the place which I had envisioned for Heterotopia.
My contact with the local residents of Pico Da Cruz came through my embodiment of the role of a photographer, and through the use of photography as a documentation of assembly and memory sharing. I explored the different nuances of local life while attempting to grasp the genuine feel of this multifaceted culture by participating and engaging in daily chores and activities.
As I left Cape Verde on the 20th of July, I concluded that the reality of an institutional utopia catering for the creative entrepreneur would not be established so easily or so quickly. Embracing what the environment has to offer while and making use of the spaces that are open and available to us in order to add value to the state of the place; is one of the most important aspects of the project. Hence the value we placed on the name, Heterotopia, which has been taken from the concept imagined by the philosopher, Michel Foucault.
I began to ask myself fundamental questions about the aims of the project. I knew that I wanted to develop a cultural program in a community space, but I also wanted to:
Help participants rediscover who they are in the context of Africa.
Understand where anyone stands in an African society.
Understand what responsibility one has towards such a society.
I realized that I wanted to create a setting in which these questions could be asked. An educational space which would meet global standards. Heterotopia aims to provide such an education on the African continent.
Reflection on my return
My time in Cape Verde was spent exploring the different nuances of local life, whilst simultaneously attempting to grasp the genuine feel of this multifaceted culture. I had begun to gain a better understanding of its people, its history, and its capacity for potential educational opportunities.
Upon my return to Paris, I immersed myself within the hotel industry to understand its various facets. I took the position of a night receptionist at the Mercure hotel, Paris LaVillette. In my process of investigation, I became interested in corporate social responsibility and how hospitality businesses advocated (or didn’t advocate) sustainability, promoted collective conscience, and how they developed a sense of corporate citizenship within the hotel. I focused on observing and understanding the employee to employer relationship, as well as employee to employee interaction. I compared this experience with my experiences of other hospitality spaces and attempted to understand how one could create shared value and social welfare whilst maintaining financial success.
I shifted my focus towards tourism and speculated about how one becomes a responsible traveller within natural environments and local cultures. How could I bring together these educational systems and ideas into a space of tourism? How would this, in turn, allow for genuine discovery and an understanding of the ramifications of otherness?
It is necessary that we fully understand the environment of Pico Da Cruz for Heterotopia to take place. We must know how we will tackle the challenges that will present themselves in the spheres of interpretation and the translation of content. Will cultural mediation come into play? Or will hospitality, service, and curatorship be enough?
Through a program of entrepreneurial development, accessibility, amenities, and accommodation, could activities emerge which will enable the flourishing of an area and the sustaining of local people as well as participating residents?