Michael Blum- 17 AANDBLOEM STREET
17 Aandbloem Street is the address of the house where I've been staying in Cape Town. It is located in Vredehoek, a neighbourhood between city center and suburb, decay and gentrification, private ownership and public housing. I've tried to portray the house, starting with its current inhabitants and neighbors, as well as going back in time and investigating its past, its former owners and tenants. Memories and story-telling are prominent, as well as data collected from other sources, like the city archive or the office of deeds. To a certain extent, the project seeks to collect micro-stories related to the house before they disappear.
Stories have been provided by:
- Jean Meeran (current tenant), Lindsay Clowes (current co-owner), Iain Louw (architect & academic), Lin Sampson (neighbour 1 Clive St), Lorraine Griessel & Alex Smuts (neighbours twin house, 15 Aandbloem Street aka. Buena Vista Villa n°2), Hadley and Gael Craig (neighbours Clive St. 2), Dichara Pillay (cousin and ex-roommate of Jean Meeran), Melanie Perfect (clairvoyant), Alexa Singer (ex-tenant), Michael (homeless man living around the house), Zariah Dagnell (real estate agent).
After conducting the interviews which illuminate an aspect of the house or the experience people have had of it, the project culminated with the Green Patch Party held on September 24 th . It aimed at squatting the Green Patch in front of the house for a few hours, getting friends (used to parties within the house and on the stoep [balcony in front of the house] ) and neighbours (who usually don't talk to each other) together around a picnic, celebrating the Green Patch itself as a public space to be honoured, the end of my research and the wind of change in South Africa - it took place on Heritage Day. In addition, four Black Noise dancers (Duane, Lester, Denis, Angelo) came for a break-dance performance, which proved technically difficult because of the slope.
Gregg Smith: What did you think of Cape Town?
Michael Blum: It was a lot of work and parties - which is a good combination. I felt comfortable right away but it took me a week to grasp where I was. I arrived here with a project which was basically nonsense - very nice on paper but with no hopes of practical development. Then, I developped a research around the house, there was some potential there. At this point, today, just before leaving Cape Town, I have thirteen hours of footage. From a pure research-base, the project shifted towards local power dynamics – both global and ultra-local.
GS: And the Green Patch Party?
MB: I decided to organize this party for different reasons. First to get together friends and because everybody was doing parties - so why shouldn't I? But it was also a way to occupy the public space in front of the house, to extend the private sphere. There was a real desire to bring together the neighbours I had been talking to, who all mentioned that they basically don't know each other. Because of bad weather we had to re-schedule the party, which in the end took place on Heritage Day. This just made perfect sense – celebrating the political changes in SA was also part of it. The party was a pic-nic on this green patch in front of the house. We invited Black Noise to do a break-dance performance. It's almost been my best party ever, I have to admit. All these amazing things happened. Like Lin Samspon who, despite her political opinions, sat with the Black Noise guys. The people who had had an accident in front of the house the week before who we befriended and invited. I eventually met Anthony, the Black Marx I had heard so much about. It was a very mixed crowd for Cape Town, apparently. The party stretched from 2 to 10 pm ! We just had to wrap it up after the police had raided the homeless people in front of the church – back to reality. In Europe, public space is much more public, even as little public as it is from a critical perspective, it's still much more than here, where it means fear and danger. It was such a meaningful day!
GS: And the parties of Thembi?
MB: Thembi's parties were very different because the party was the pretext to go and visit the other half instead of a melting-pot model. I really enjoyed meeting different people I hadn't met so far and the way he did it was very subtle and smart. The first joint in Nyanga was extremely private and confined, few people but a very hectic atmosphere, gosh! The second one was a more established bar that looked kind of familiar. We seemed to be all happy, on both sides of the racial wall, with the unexpected encounters and intense discussions … But I was still a tourist. I mean: semi-tourist, because the real tourist stays in the car or bus and makes photos through the window…
all images © Michael Blum, 2003, except 'Green Patch Party' by Alistair Simmonds
Videostills from '17 Aandbloem Street', video, 60mm, 2003