Participants from the 2018 project What are my health needs? Participants from the 2018 project What are my health needs?

Outreach Foundation Collaboration

I have been working in collaboration with the Hillbrow Theatre Project at the Outreach Foundation since 2015 when we co-hosted students from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Since 2018, Gerard Bester, the manager of the Hillbrow Theatre Project and Phana Dube, a Hillbrow Theatre Facilitator, and I have been co-running a 4 year project called African Futures, funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund. The project addresses some of the challenges of urban living by using performance-based work and digital storytelling to question, provoke and extend understandings of health rights, access to healthcare and support, and the experiences of urban living.

Hillbrow, in Johannesburg, Gauteng, is a high-density high-rise inner-city area which has borne the brunt of a rapid influx of urban migration, high levels of crime, poverty, unemployment and urban decay.

African Futures explores issues identified by the Outreach Foundation’s Hillbrow Theatre Project related to sustainable living in the community where the issues outlined above have impacted on social interaction and access to the arts. Working with Gerard, Phana and other colleagues, I co-facilitate safe, creative spaces where social interaction can be prioritised, where issues of women’s agency in relation to community building can be acknowledged and discussed, and issues of sexual health can be discussed and examined. Reclaiming public spaces seen as unsafe, this project seeks to reduce conflict, promote peace and improve the sense of wellbeing through greater connectedness with places and neighbours, and by building networks with local support organisations.

The 2018 Project What are my health needs? A health manifesto by the youth of Hillbrow, was a collaboration with the local Adolescent and Youth Friendly Health Clinic, Ward 21, run by the University of Witwatersrand Wits RHI Hillbrow Health Precinct in Hillbrow. Using performance, poetry and visual arts, the young people explored and discussed their understandings and experiences of health and created a short video performative health manifesto (which can been seen here).

The 2019 Project Extraordinary, Ordinary Women was part of the Stories of Hillbrow: Alternative narratives and forgotten stories about women in Hillbrow project, examined the role digital storytelling can play in exploring forgotten histories of women and communities and examining new ways of promoting equality and women as community leaders. In this project, we also partnered with the Boitumelo Project which is part of the Outreach Foundation.