This weekend, the residents of Bromwell Street in Woodstock, Cape Town face eviction. Many families who reside there have called it home their entire lives, fondly remembering the vibrancy of the neighbourhood even under apartheid rule. One of the only areas that managed to avoid total segregation under South Africa's former regime, it’s classification as a coloured community meant that people of different races were able to reside relatively close to the economic hub of the city centre. As more restaurants and high-rise apartment buildings spring up in the area, poorer residents are finding themselves homeless with nowhere to go. The ever-present XCollektiv wasted no time in pointing a finger at some of the individuals they deem responsible for these forced evictions, adding two new faces to their roster of ‘Wanted’ persons.
Used as a tool for socio-political change for decades, art has always, at its core, been about resistance. A commentary on the rapid gentrification of one of the last remaining mixed-income areas bordering the inner city, the latest additions to the Xcollektiv’s ‘Wanted’ series feature images of Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille (Pictured above), and Democratic Alliance (the governing party in province) Ward Councillor Brett Herron (pictured below). Doctored so that they appear as flagrant stereotypes of criminals, their faces are transposed against a police-lineup backdrop.
The confrontational and provocative images are accompanied by the wanted individual’s corresponding "rap sheet" which details the many “crimes” the Xcollektiv deems them guilty of.
The Xcollektiv have been stealthily articulating this disappointment for years. Describing themselves as “a creative incubator for collaborative multi-disciplinary projects by visual artists, writers, filmmakers and performers who are exploring issues of dispossession, trauma, memory and resistance through their work”, Cape Town residents began noticing their work when stickers reading “Non-poor only’ began popping up on various public street signs. Though aggravating to some, its purpose is to unsettle and disrupt public spaces, and reach idle or neglected audiences. Any annoyance it inspires affirms its value.
The ‘Wanted’ series first emerged in 2014, featuring the reworked image of South Africa's president Jacob Zuma and other powerful political figures.The series’ new additions speak specifically to the problem of gentrification.
Conflict over housing and land is by no means a new phenomenon – particularly in a city like Cape Town, where the wounds from apartheid-era forced evictions are still somewhat raw. Many people forced from areas like District Six have already died in wait for the return of what was taken from them, their surviving relatives still battling to reclaim the space. This new spate of work from the Xcollektiv speaks to what many feel as the root cause of the City of Cape Town’s perceived reinforcement of apartheid-era spatial planning, starkly invoking the group’s adaptation of the city’s slogan: Cape Town – This City Works For A Few.