2 countries, 3 different cities, 2 full months, 16 workshops and 100’s of people met. These are just some numbers of our mobility experience in South Africa and Namibia from April to July, but during this period we discovered much more, we have found different challenges on the way which were overcome working together with local actors as a team. But let’s start from the beginning.
We left Italy in April with a basic but confident knowledge of San culture: as soon as we arrived in !Kwha ttu, a cultural centre that preserves San culture and education near Cape Town, to run our first workshop we immediately realised that we were not ready enough. All the articles and books we read before gave us an overview of San history and culture but they were not telling us how to interact with the new generations, what their dreams are and which perception of life they have.
The goal of the first workshop was to create a poster showing a personal view of San culture and it was the first milestone of an educational program aiming to empower youngsters with soft and communication skills in order to make them more self aware of their potential which will help them to find a job.
As soon as we started the workshop, students were very shy and they were barely speaking, especially when we presented them the assignment, they seemed to be a little uncomfortable. Probably in their mind they were thinking: here we go again, other overseas researchers that want to study our culture, our people and want to know how we live and how we feel about that.
That’s when we realised that our academic attitude probably would not work with them. We can run all the workshop we want, but first we need to find a shared and comfortable communication channel that goes both ways, otherwise all the results are pointless or guided. So, we simply decided to step out for a minute and we thought: this is not nor the purpose of the project nor the approach we would personally have in life. So instead of just receiving and collecting stories from them, we decided to expose ourselves by making and presenting the assignment given as well. We listened to their stories and then we showed our posters. As soon as we finished our presentation, they started raising their hands, asking questions about Italy, the sound of our language (“do you have “clicks” while you speak as well?”), the food and animals we have… We finally had their attention and participation: they were not shy but it was a matter of making them feel comfortable and not judged. This was for us the biggest result, it was the first step to build an equal and long lasting relationship with them. At the same time, this is the approach and the value that PACO promotes, spreading participatory design by mixing different and suitable approaches instead of using pre-fab and dogmatic solutions.
At the end, the outcomes of the workshops were exciting and interesting topics (genders, family, nature, menstruation and health, theatre…) came up from the individual posters making each participant more aware of her/his views and aspirations. We use these differences to build the next workshop at the end of June when all designed a personal future video CV together. We trained the youth in using Windows Movie Maker first and then we supported them in creating a short movie telling about their personal background, skills, aspirations and plans for their future. It was exciting and tiring but in less than 2 days we made it and they will display their future video CV during their graduation day at the end of their training in !Kwhua ttu.
After this first introduction to San culture in the !Khwa ttu Kabbo academy, we flew with a 30-seat only flight to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia where the goal of our stay was to co-design a manual for associations that work everyday with San youngsters. In particular we prepared a draft version of the manual with Kileni Fernandu, the director of Ana Jeh San Trust, the San association that is working with NUST within the PARTY project. They mainly organize workshops for SAN youngsters to help them improving their soft skills and becoming more confident to look for a job in the so called ‘modern world’. PARTY project and Ana Jey San Trust work together to encourage youth to take part on the development of services for their communities. To help them imagine how certain services can improve and contribute to an equal development of their villages or to simply stimulate youngsters to be leaders of today, as well as tomorrow.
Unluckily, we did not have the opportunity to meet so many SAN youngsters in Namibia because of bank holidays and exam sessions, but we had the fortune to review with their leader, Kileni Fernandu, some of the tools implemented so far during PARTY project workshops. Starting from those, we co-designed a manual composed of 4 phases to be used during workshops in order to implement a progressive empowering action from the individual sphere of the single participant (ME, as a young adult) to its relationship with the local community (ME+, me and my community) and with a global scenario (ME++, me and the youth of the World). Later on, we used the card sorting technique to define the format, features and accessibility from a set of different characteristics previously designed by Paco. The result was a first draft manual that associations can start using during their service design session with youngsters in order to make them become agents of change within their communities. It contains all the information regarding the design process and all the tools available and related to each implementation phase.
Since Party project didn’t take all our time in Windhoek, we decided to follow up some Paco initiatives going on for years as well. We offered our support on other two projects: one is the Helvi Wheeler thesis and the second one is Mammadu trust.
Helvi Wheeler is a PhD candidate who is focusing her thesis on using technology to encourage kids to read more. Together with NUST and other universities in Europe, she is developing a mobile application that makes kids interact more with books through sounds, quizzes and drawings. At the same time, she is helping elementary schools in Katutura (the biggest township around Windhoek, the name means “the place where nobody wants to live”) to redesign their library according to kids and teachers’ needs and desires.
We decided to support her on both sides: we took part first to an user testing event in Windhoek where we make kids test the app and collect feedback from them to improve it. Secondly we organised a workshop in their elementary school and we co-designed their library on the basis of their imagination.
First, we ran a brainstorming session with participants in order to come up with 4 different inspirational environments to start designing from. Once the topics were clustered and defined (beach, sky, hotel, forest), we created 4 prototypes made with recycled and waste material showing kids desires, furniture and technologies they would love to have in their library. As always, prototyping was a powerful tool to make people express their latent ideas and needs, forgetting about age difference or cultural differences.
On the other side, Mammadú (www.mammadu.org) is a NGO carrying out activities and projects in favour of children in need and distress, from destituted families or hosted in orphanages. As Paco, we are always happy to spend time in their colourful school playing with kids, cooking pizza and sharing ideas with the staff. Moreover, we supported them during the Embassy Day in Windhoek by making and selling cotton candy to all the visitors. Delicious!
Once the month for PARTY in Namibia ended, of course we had some days to travel and experience the desert, its stars and its sunset but, especially, its wild animals with a private visit of a family of 7 desert elephants which came to drink from our tap water 30m away from our tent…
It was time to fly back to South Africa, but this time to the city of Diamonds, Kimberley in the Northern Cape. South Africa is the most developed country in Africa where the southern african countries aim to and also emigrate to for education or to find a well-paid job and send money back home. South Africa is also the country that got their independence last, not from the colons but from the horrible regime of apartheid. South Africa is the country of dreams, the rainbow of cultures but also the country of suffering, hidden segregation and inequality.
A clear example of this is Platfontein, a village located in an arid region of the Northern Cape Province, 15km outside from Kimberley. The community consists of two SAN tribes, the !Xun and the Khwe who have endured much hardship as the result of being relocated from Angola and Namibia to Schmidsdrift also near Kimberley, and from there to Platfontein during the 70’s. Young people are caught up in their struggle to come to terms with their past while at the same time facing integration into a society that does not suit them ideally, or maybe not at all.
Nowadays, the unemployment rate in Platfontein is 97% and people mainly rely on occasional jobs in town rather than governmental subsides (around €30.00 per month per each child they have).
Here we worked together with Sasi institute and a local radio – XK-FM – to implement a new radio program designed and run by young people.
We run 3 workshops in which participants were asked to be the editors, the producers and the speaker of their own radio program. They initially selected 3 main topics (lifestyle, SAN culture and employment) and from there they brainstormed ideas, made a timeline for the broadcast and record an audio sample of 15 minutes with the support of the radio staff inside their studios.
The result was again surprisingly positive for us, especially because of the precious support from Sasi Institute and the two young leaders, Chakwanda and Sarie, belonging to the two main San groups (!Xun and Kwhe) living in Platfontein.
The most important thing we learnt during our mobilities is that, before conducting all the workshops, it is crucial to create a fertile environment to work on. In other words, instead of just stepping into a room and start asking youngsters to do an assignment, it would be better to set first a trustful and equal relationship with them.
Together with our Finnish colleagues, we used sports and games as bonding activities to break the ice or simply having fun together. A great example was the ‘Management Football’ workshop when we played football with them and discussed about team management at the same time. It was amazing to see how sports can be used to pass concepts to people in a direct and effortless way.
This is definitely the approach we will keep adopting as PACOers in October when we are going back to Kimberley to implement the radio program.
Proofreading: Isabela Sierra