My investigation into Heterotopia started in 2018, when I was toying with the notion of improving the African problem of misrepresentation. Two questions kept on coming up, which have formed the basis of the Heterotopia Initiative: would it be possible to improve the representation and understanding of Africans through an educational artist residency programme? Could I help participants rediscover who they are in the context of an African society and understand more deeply their role and responsibilities they have within this community through this educational programme?
My experience in a variety of educational programmes and teaching methods over the years have helped me to understand what a quality education consists of. If I could understand these approaches and systems of education, would it be possible to develop an inclusive curriculum which may provide answers to these questions?
It was at the end of 2018 when I was studying Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts that I began to immerse myself into research. I spent time writing and gathering information and contacts of those who could join me. I wanted to create a space for an educational programme which was based on solidarity and cultural dialogues. An alternative post-academic education that could provide space to nurture future African creative entrepreneurs: artists in the broadest sense of the word, individuals who use their creative or intellectual knowledge and skills to earn a living.
I planned my trip to Cape Verde and in May 2019, I arrived in the city of Mindelo, on the Cape Verdean archipelago of St Vincent. I explore the cultural spaces and engaged with the members of these communities. After a while, I took the journey to Santo Antao, a sister island and made my way to Pico Da Cruz, home to a small community which I had envisioned for Heterotopia. I participated and engaged in daily chores and activities and began to establish a deeper understanding of the place by exploring the different nuances of life and documented the residents and the environment through photography.
As I left Cape Verde at the end of July, I concluded that although I had gained a better understanding of its people, its history, and its capacity for potential educational opportunities, the reality of an institutional utopia catering for the creative entrepreneur which asked questions about representation and understanding would not be established easily or quickly.
I now understood that there would be several things which would be fundamental to Heterotopia’s success.
We must embrace and understand the environment and make proper use of the community spaces that are open and available to us in Pico Da Cruz for Heterotopia to take place. By establishing such actions, we hope to add value to the participants experience, the place in which the project is undertaken, and the residents to whom the community is home.
We must know how we will tackle the challenges that will present themselves in the spheres of interpretation and the translation of content.
We must develop a suitable curriculum/ cultural program which will provide a good (albeit alternative form of) education. By establishing such actions, we hope to benefit the artists in residence and residents through the sharing of skills, knowledge and experience. This will take considerable planning and help from other educational providers such as artist residency programmers, and art institutions.
We must develop a system of consistent communication between all participants and supporters prior to and during Heterotopia Initiative in order to make sure that our goals are aligned.
There are still questions that need to be asked and money that has to be raised before we can start our journey and discover if a program of entrepreneurial development, accessibility, amenities, and accommodation, will enable the flourishing of an area and improve the lives of Heterotopia’s participants.