FAR OUT - Atlantis
Since 2018, Very Real Time has been active in Atlantis, a town of roughly 70 000 inhabitants. Located 40 km north of Cape Town (2 hours by bus), Atlantis was built by the apartheid government in the 1980’s for people classified as ‘coloured’. The town is divided into five gang turfs, making it difficult for adolescents to finish school as they must cross opposing gang territories. They get drawn into gangs, or drop out of school to avoid them. Child pregnancy and violence against women are very high. Dance and music are strong elements in the culture.
We collaborate with and support existing community structures which protect youth from violence, help them finish high school and build their artistic and professional capacities. Our main partners are community dance groups, church groups, and organisations run by local youth activists.
The problem for all our collaborators is the lack of spaces to carry out their activities. For this reason, one of our central projects is the creation of a 580 m2 Youth Centre to provide a roof for these activities.
We provide the means for the creation of new dance productions. The main aim is to build professional skills and capacities, enabling the creation of community leaders and role models. Dancers receive salaries, equipment, studio space and mentorship. They also attend training on business management, leadership, project development and marketing through the National Youth Development Agency.
We arrange ongoing artistic collaborations with Cape Town-based artists. In 2020, a collaboration between the Swagg United Dance Crew and renowned photographer Pieter Hugo led to an article and commissioned video for Vogue Magazine, giving the group international visibility.
Portrait series by Pieter Hugo, of dancers from SWAGG United Dance Crew, Atlantis, October 2020
Development of a Youth Centre
Since 2021 we have been developing a space to provide a shelter for dance and music groups, trauma counseling, gym, arts and crafts, life and business skills, music, a library, a vegetable garden and other related activities. Our main partners are youth activists Monique Hansen (Gunfree South Africa) and Michelle Fortuin (Xtreme Youth). The building has been designed by Tsai Design Studio (https://www.tsaidesignstudio.com). We are working with local government and (through The French Institute of South Africa) building partnerships in France. The land for this building is provided by a partnership with a local church situated in central Atlantis.
In South Africa under the apartheid government, distance was not only used as a means to separate race groups, but also a means to ensure that non-white adults expend vast amounts of time and energy moving to and from work, limiting their capacity to organise community bodies. The result was the development of gang culture and drug dealing as replacements for normal family life and reliable income.