Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 21 November 2014
Category: Features
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Throughout the year the Ukusela eKapa team has been travelling around greater Cape Town encouraging people to "squeeze", thereby giving each person a chance to make a permanent, personal mark on a ceramic cup that will be shared with the world.

The World Design Capital project that, arguably, has been the most visible, has been the most interactive, and has touched the most lives in and around Cape Town has been Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), a collaboration between ceramics artist Hennie Meyer and architect Janine de Waal that's backed by a small studio team based in Durbanville.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: Hennie Meyer introduces the project at Mogalakwena Gallery in Church Street, Cape Town.
The project is inspired by the connection that a handshake creates between two people, whether they are friends or strangers, and takes the form of an art piece that a person can interact with and, at the end of the project, own. The entire experience is free and just requires five minutes of participation, yet the effect is long lasting.



How Does It Work?
"Ukusela eKapa", when translated, means "slurp Kaapstad op", or "drink Cape Town in", which is a fitting name for the project, the core of which is a drinking vessel called an ikomityi, which is made by the studio team. The choice of a drinking vessel is significant because everyone needs a cup to drink water or soup - it's a common tool in the human experience that unites everyone, no matter your age, gender, and financial situation and whether you're a CEO or jobless.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Dozens of ikomityi are made in the studio out of wet (unfired) clay - I'll have more on this process in a future post. They are then taken to a squeezing event where, one by one, participants grip one in one hand and squeeze slowly to make a finger and hand imprint in the clay.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

The participants then write their name and age on the base, fill their details in the register, and take a keyring.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

The keyring gives everyone who has participated access to the special installation, which has been built at The Castle in the city centre, on Sunday (23 November) where they can take someone else's squeezed, glazed, and fired ikomityi, for free, thereby completing the "handshake".

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: These are two complete ikomityi. They have been squeezed, glazed, and fired and now can be used as cups.
Over the course of 2014 the project's aim was to make 10 000 drinking vessels and take them to various venues in all the sub councils in Cape Town, as well as to Stellenbosch, to get them squeezed by as many Capetonians and local and international tourists as possible to try to reach the 10 000 target. It took many months of hard work but the team succeeded and, in fact, the squeeze total is now closer to 11 000 ikomityi as the project kept going due to public demand.



Squeezing All Over
I first met the team at a "squeeze", as the pop-up participation events are known, at Alex Hamilton's studio in Woodstock in June, although I was already aware of the project as the team kicked off in April and by June it had already been to numerous places all over Cape Town and had squeezed about 4000 ikomityis.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: Team member Peter Jacobs sets up for a public squeeze.
Over the course of the next five months the team very generously let me tag along to various events so I could document the project. I was also given access to what goes on behind the scenes in the studio and was even invited to attend the opening of the 46664 installation on Robben Island (expect a post on that shortly too).

The photos below are a selection from various squeezes I attended: at a group exhibition at Alex Hamilton Art Studio; at The Avant Garden rooftop fashion cocktail party and food and craft market; during a meeting of The Cape Magicians Circle; between classes at The College Of Magic with staff and students; and at an exhibition opening at Mogalakwena Gallery.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: Alexander May does a special squeeze (see below).
Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: Jacques le Sueur does a special squeeze.
Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: Matt Gore, The Ginger Ninja, does a special squeeze.
Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze



Special Squeezes
Part of the project also involves "special squeezes", for the purposes of fundraising, by celebrities and people who have made notable contributions in the arts, entertainment, and sports, and through social upliftment. Notable special squeezes have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, David Kramer, and Zapiro.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: Hennie Meyer helps Jacques le Sueur (well known as the magician who stole Madiba's watch - twice) complete a special squeeze.
The people who complete special squeezes write their names on the sides of the vessels instead of the bottom and the name is then glazed with a bright colour. (I'll have more photos of special squeezes, including some going through various processes in the studio, in future posts.)

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: Special squeezes packed safely for their trip to the studio to be glazed and fired.
Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze
Above: A special squeeze in wet clay.


A World Design Capital 2014 Success Story
Ukusela eKapa has been one of the defining projects of World Design Capital 2014 as it resulted in a year's worth of public interaction with art, all for free due to the assistance of a generous benefactor and extra fundraising via a crowd-funding project.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze

It's been a wonderful experience to see people from all over Cape Town interacting with the project and watching how, when they first come into contact with it, there is often confusion and suspicion but as soon as someone explains what it is and what is going to happen all those protective layers fall away and for five minutes the people genuinely forget to put on their public façades and instead experience a moment of joy as they participate in the physical, fun process of making art.

To me, that's what the World Design Capital initiative is supposed to be about. Ukusela eKapa epitomises it.

Ukusela eKapa (#WDC411), Part 1: The Big Squeeze


Keep an eye on brainwavez.org for future posts focussing on the Ukusela eKapa project, in which we go behind the scenes into the studio to see how an ikomityi is made and visit various art projects and installations around the peninsula to see where the finished drinking vessels were put on display for the public to enjoy.

If you've squeezed, visit The Castle in Cape Town on Sunday, 23 November 2014, to collect a free ikomityi between 09:00 and 15:30 (don't forget your keyring!). (If you can't make it on Sunday you can also visit on Monday and Tuesday.)


Ukusela eKapa: Official Site, Facebook, YouTube


Tags: #arts_and_culture, #cape_town





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