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Hotel Yeoville: A public art project and online community
The Hotel Yeoville is an internet based public art project aimed at building social networks and starting conversations about important public issues and events. It is located in the Yeoville Public Library and reflects the life stories of people who have fled wars, povery, economic decline and persecution in their home countries and who, on arrival in South Africa have experienced rejection and xenophobia. It provides an opportunity for people to tell their stories, map their journey across the continent and connect with others. As he curator, Terry Kurgan says, ” The project aims to address themes of migration, the use of idiosyncrasies of place and the threat of xenophobia by tapping ubto the vital role of the internet as a diasporic hub”.
Instructions to visitors invite them to, “use the Story Booth to practise your skills as a writer, tell stories about home, love, Joâ€™burg, childhood, dreams, loss, longing and more. Use the Journey Booth to zoom in right close to the place that you were born, and map your roots and journeys across Africa and beyond. In the Love Booth you can take a snap with a sweetheart or your friend, or your brother and get to take a photo home with you. In the Video Booth you can make a short movie to upload to YouTube. You can sing, tell a story, perform a short play, talk abut the World Cup or just simply get something off your chest! You can use the Directory Booth to place free advertisements and the Websiteto find all sorts of useful information. You can use the Hotel Yeoville’s Facebook Group and if there is an issue you are burning to discuss, an use the Skills Exchange board to offer French lessons to somebody in exchange for lessons in English. Or exchange bookkeeping skills for a fabulous haircut! The exhibition and website will start to take shape through public participation in each private booth. By sharing snippets from your everyday lives, experience, loves, losses, gains, dreams and desires, you will contribute to building a social map of the pan-African suburb in which you live. At the same time, you will add to the development of the websiteâ€™s community and social networks and resources.”
The Hotel Yeoville project is curated and directed by Johannesburg-based artist Terry Kurgan, in partnership with the Forced Migration Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. To produce the exhibition in the library she has collaborated with Tegan Bristow, an artist and interactive digital media developer who designed and built many of the self-documenting applications housed in all the beautiful â€˜boothsâ€™. In turn, they worked closely with Alexander Opper and Amir Livneh of Notion Architects who transformed the virtual spaces of the ‘Hotel Yeoville’ project’s website into a real-space and real-time exhibition experience. Artist Guylain Melki, designed and produced all the paintings and signage that decorate the walls of each booth.
The project as a whole aims to address themes of migration, the idiosyncrasies of place and the threat of xenophobia by tapping into the cohesive role of the Internet cafÃ© as a diasporic hub. It was developed in close collaboration with a hybrid mix of professionals, from architects to community activists, Internet cafÃ© owners, artists, academic researchers, photographers, urban planners, social scientists, Web developers and more. Hailing from across the African continent and the globe, each of them has shaped the project in different ways, keying into its core ethic â€“ to inhabit difference, learn the art of tolerance in a mixed up world and overcome the impulse to hate by getting to grips with what you fear. The project aims to explore the roots of difference, attempting to give public airtime to the everyday conversations of a mix of South Africans, migrants, refugees and foreigners.
The Hotel Yeoville is supported by: The Ford Foundation, Goethe Institut, National Arts Council, and Johannesburg Development Agency.
See the Hotel Yeoville website for further details.
See also features on the Hotel Yeoville on the City of Johannesburg website: