The Public Face of Anthropology

Article excerpt

STUDENTS in the department of Social Anthropology are making great strides in bridging the gap between academic and public life.

In the current group exhibition, Making Home in Temporary Spaces, UCT Video Production graduate Sydelle Willow Smith, has impressed with her participatory film and photography project.

The exhibition at 38 Special Gallery represents the culmination of the practical aspect of her Honours project in Social Anthropology. Smith spent a month working with four young people living in the temporary relocation area (TRA) of Blikkiesdorp, also known as Symphony Way.

Drawing on methods from participatory visual research methods, she taught basic photographic skills and basic storytelling skills on disposable cameras. The photographs in the group exhibition are comprised of images taken by Smith and research participants.

Another aspect of the visual anthropology project included the making of a documentary film, also titled Making Home in Temporary Places.

The collaborative method employed here included that each participant choose someone from their community to interview, and led Smith around filming what they chose of their given environment. Residents also worked with her on the editing process of the film.

This kind of participatory film-making, or shared anthropology, fulfils the vision of great cinematic storytellers such as Jean Rouch and David MacDougal.

The crafting of the project as a public event is also what aligns it with an activist, or interventionist, cause.

The members of Smith's research group were present for the film screening where two community leaders spoke on behalf of the Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers and the Anti Eviction Campaign. …