60+: Queer, Old Joburg

"Cruising as archiving; archiving as cruising."

This project is a collaborative design piece evolving out of the archival work from the ongoing Wits City Institute, GALA and SeaM: Security at the Margins (Wits/Edinburgh) project to document the life histories of older LGBTIQ residents of Joburg. The design piece is a collaboration between Jonathan Cane of the Wits City Institute and designers Mishka Naidoo and Andrea Hayes.

We centre the ideas of marginality and queer people’s lives before the end of apartheid and are especially interested in older queer people who can present us with a kind of map, a living archive. How, for many of these queer people, did home and home making become constructed as a mode of safety, what objects and structures coded a place for articulating freedom? What parts of Johannesburg, which places, which intersections, which locations had meaning? By researching the spatial histories of aged LGBTIQ persons we hope to map the profound changes associated with decriminalisation, the end of apartheid and the ongoing struggle for safe spaces for queer flourishing.

The creation of a queer digital archive allows us to experiment with ‘cruising’ as an archival method, as digital practice and as process; exploring the use of the digital in order to collect, manage, process, analyse, share, protect, disseminate, store, access and organise. The proposal opens up a number of questions: How can a digital archival platform make material accessible to those who might not easily engage with and contribute to queer histories? What kinds of spatial representations and connections are made possible by web-based archiving? What is the generative capability for the digital arts in terms of building a queer archive?

The first interview from this series is presented online here for Ellipses [...]. It must be pointed out up front that as a single oral history of a Sunday morning drive through downtown Joburg it represents a particular journey through the city. That many queer people — most queer people — did not move around Joburg with such ease in the 70s and 80s — and still don't — is a critical frame for the current project. Cruising has never been an equal mode of manoeuvre in the city or online.

Jonathan Cane is the Wits City Institute Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand. He received his BA Hons degree in the Centre for African Studies at UCT and completed his PhD in Art History at Wits in 2017. His dissertation, 'Civilising Grass: The Art of the Lawn on the South African Highveld', is a queer postcolonial study the ‘domesticated’ landscape. He his currently working on building an archive of the Rand Mines Properties plan for Ormonde in the late 1960s for the City Institute’s NRF-funded project 'The New “South”: The Rand Mine Properties Project'. He was awarded Edinburgh/Wits SeaM funding for his study of queer aged persons in Joburg for 2018. He is preparing a number of academic articles, on concrete, swimming pools, gardeners, and high-rise housing in the 1940s. Throughout his career he has mostly worked as a designer and design educator. His collaborator for the proposed project is an ex-student from Vega whose skills far exceed his own. Jonathan also writes for a range of publications on travel, restaurant criticism, architecture, design and food.

Mishka Naidoo is an award-winning designer and art director. Based in Joburg, she is passionate about cheese and typography.

Andrea Hayes is a twenty-something year old that is currently doing her MA in Digital Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand. Between part-time lecturing at Digital Arts and studying the representation of women in video games, Andrea does freelance web design work for all types of clients. Twitter: @partypanda555