African diaspora reaches out to us

2010-05-28 10:12

Hotel Yeoville sounds like a place where you are bound to experience different cultures and ­nationalities. But it’s not the kind of place you check into. Rather, it is a public art project with stories from across Africa.

Based in Johannesburg’s ­melting pot, Yeoville, stories of love, displacement, transience and nostalgia are told through the use of the internet.

Project director Terry Kurgan said “Hotel” was chosen because most people who live in Yeoville come from across the continent.

Many of the people living here have fled wars, poverty, economic decline and persecution in their countries. On arrival in a ­country where they thought they would find acceptance and a better life, they have often found rejection and xenophobia.

Kurgan says: “The project aims to address themes of migration, the idiosyncrasies of place and the threat of xenophobia by ­tapping into the vital role of the internet as a diasporic hub.”

A series of booths give people the opportunity to tell their ­story and “contribute to building a social map of the pan-African suburb in which they live”.

The journey booth lets people “map their roots and journey across Africa and beyond” through Google Maps.

One notable story is that of Raphael Bope from the Democratic Republic of Congo who has been living in South Africa for the past 11 years and calls this country his second home.

If you have a poem to recite, a message for your peers or something to share with the world, you can record a video in the video booth and upload it on to Hotel Yeoville’s YouTube page.

Kurgan says: “This is the most popular booth, but the videos go through editing to guard against things like hate speech.”

In the love booth, friends, ­family or lovers can take a picture of themselves, add personal details to it and then stick it on to the wall for visitors to look at.

The story booth is also ­popular. Here is where you can tell your life story and your ­experiences in the City of Gold.

Dumie, a Zimbabwean, relates the story of leaving his motherland without any travel ­documents and crossing the border into South Africa to escape “the harsh environment and ­deteriorating working conditions”.

Finally, there is the directory booth, a community resource for listing businesses, services, ­accommodation and skills.

This project aims to encourage the blending and melding of cultures in our city and more particularly in centres like Yeoville. This is one hotel to check out.

» ?The Yeoville Hotel is at the Yeoville Library from Monday to Thursday between 1pm and 5pm, and on Friday between 9am and 1pm

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