The project needs to be a project by the people who use the place; it cannot be our project. Our tools, the relational object, the open working process, our naïve way of approaching foreign situations – all these things make it possible for us to hand over responsibility and ownership to others already in the process of working together. If the neighbourhood is fully involved in the planning and making of a place, it will want to continue to be involved in how that place lives on. If a person has put two months of hard work into building benches, barbeque stands, and a stage, that person will want these things to be used and kept in good shape. If the kids who live next to the park are asked to perform on the stage and manage to make the whole festival work, they will want to do it again. In Ubuntu Park, the community became relevant.
From our personal perspective we felt we had rendered ourselves irrelevant to the project by the time we left South Africa.
This feeling first arose on the day of the parade. One month of planning – when would who go from where to where, who would perform when, how would this be secured, and so on – was all swept away by the immense rain that flooded the streets and kept all the neighbourhood residents in their homes. Basically no spectators showed up at the starting point of the parade. There were only about thirty kids from the brass band that was supposed to lead the parade and about ten police cars and two huge fire trucks that were supposed to escort it. We didn’t know what to do.
But Sannah, our host, did. She and a policewoman drove down to the main road and persuaded two minibus drivers to come back with them. All the kids and their instruments were put into the minibuses, and a convoy of the two minibuses, the police cars, and the fire trucks replaced the parade. Just before it reached the final destination, Ubuntu Park, the performers stepped out of the minibuses and started the festival. The rain had stopped.
Most of the musicians who had planned to play did not show up because they were sure there would be no festival in such a rain. Again, we had no idea know how to handle this. But some young kids from the street did. We got the music equipment from them, and they brought their friends. Most of them were rappers, singers, or poets. So they improvised a whole evening of great performances, and we didn’t interfere at all. We became irrelevant to the festival.
Our feeling of being irrelevant continued to grow when it came to the organization of Ubuntu Park. During our two months in Soweto, we organized a lot of community meetings. Together we planned what was going to happen at the park and how. When most of us left for Europe, two of our group stayed behind for another two weeks. During this time, the Ubuntu Park Committee held community meetings almost daily. We didn’t play any role in these meetings: the committee organized them, conducted them, and invited the neighbourhood. We were invited, too, but we just listened as the others talked about their ideas and how they imagined the park would live on. We became irrelevant to Ubuntu Park.