Common Life

A research project on the role arts initiatives might play in the intersection creative practice, collective organising and community resource sharing.

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Within the broad spectrum of social change-oriented artistic practice on the African continent, there is a substantial collective engaging their creative practice toward reimaginations of common life. For these practitioners there is a complex navigation of how creative practice plays a role in creating better socialites, shared ways of living and collective interdependence. Much of this practice is deeply context-specific and addresses local challenges to societal and ecosystemic sustainability in ways that enable dignity, subsistence, respect for traditions as well as future-oriented strategies for good living. In many ways these practices respond to the deep impacts of colonialism, racism, extractivist economies and the long-term damage of structural adjustment policies and corruption that has decimated good living across the african continent.

The Common Life project is an action research project that looks to collate case studies on the emerging threads of thought and practice on collectivity and social and economic sustainability in African arts initiatives. The research will run for 6 months and looks to pair researchers with arts initiatives in 5 sites across the African continent. The research is intended to work collaboratively between each researcher and initiative, engaging both with the research interests of the research and those of the initiative. The research is also intended to work towards the development of a collective publication of the case studies, and a series of practical, useable tools that emerge from the practices and knowledges of these collectives.


  1. To better understand creative practices specifically geared towards societal and ecosystemic sustainability, including collective resource facilitation

  2. To frame a set of terms, working definitions and methodologies that help to build a discourse on collective practice and societal and ecosystemic sustainability in African creative practice

  3. To facilitate a community of practice of researchers and initiatives that are inquiring into these debates and practices

  4. To engage with broader debates in the world that deal with similar concerns such as Sumak Kawsay, Buen Vivir and Commons.

Research Group

Group: Afrika Arts Kollective - Ekilawuli (Brian Gisa)

Researcher: David Kaiza

The Afrika Arts Kollective intends to positively influence the society through art. Afrika Arts Kollective will focus on bringing together artists from diverse discipline to collaborate on addressing a social issue through collaborative work. Ekilawuli-‘Glass Works Project’ brings together artists, student artists and recycling communities through workshops and self-sustainability entrepreneurship clubs

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Group: Dzimbanhete

Researcher: Tafadzwa Gwetai

Dzimbanhete sits 25 kilometers outside the center of Harare. Here, artists are given the freedom and support to make work and engage in dialogue. It is also a place where one can commune with music, nature and its spirits.The organization has grown to become a visual center for re-learning, sharing and archiving artistic knowledge and many other things. The center intends to generate inventors / thinkers. It is a place where technology and art are clearly intertwined. Its core values are to establish a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences.

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Group: Kino Kadre

Researcher: Taryn Mckay

Taryn Mckay has been a long time ally and participant in Kino Kadre as well as practitioner and writer in this arena for many years. Kino Kadre is a film collective based in Cape Town that uses film as a conscientisation tool both through film critique and production. Kino Kadre works through non-hierarchical and collective organisation methodologies for the purposes of deeply political creative work.

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Group: Festival Sur Le Niger (Attaher Maiga)

Researcher:Ibrahima Wane

Ibrahima Wane is a senegalese academic, his current research interests are popular poetry and music in West Africa, written literature in African languages, urban cultures and the political imaginary. Festival Sur Le Niger is a music festival with many programmes and workshops held in Segou, Mali. The Festival is run on the principles of Maaya. Maaya entrepreneurship is a philosophy of creative practice, community connection and economic development based on traditional Malian practices. It is a way to ensure the unbreakable bond between individual and community for the good of all parts of society. The festival uses these principles to operate the festival itself but also to integrate the potential of the festival into its immediate community.

Group: Kher Thiossane (Marion Louisgrand Sylla)

Researcher: Dieynaba Ndiaye

Kher Thiossane has developed a substantial archive of collective knowledge on the commons, particularly through their ongoing programme ‘School of the commons’. Kher Thiossane is also involved in the AC collaborative project on the commons. The Defko Ak Niëp fablab is an open production space for the neighborhood where anyone can come to learn, experiment, pass on or produce. Defko Ak NEP mutualizes manufacturing machinery and takes upon the initiative to spin off free culture and digital technology, where the notions of sharing and fortification of common property are effective.

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led by:

ungovernable (Molemo Moiloa)

ungovernable is a collective of neighbours and extended affinity links, based in ‘Parkbrow’, Johannesburg. The collective is aimed at practicing strategies of ungovernability - self determination and autonomous community collective practices - within our neighbourhood and beyond. ungovernability is a concept informed by anti-apartheid efforts of the 1980s in townships in South Africa in which, in the midst of mass protest and violent repression, communitites came together to establish community frameworks and self-organisation strategies. These included ‘people’s courts’, civics and street committees, ‘people’s parks’ and support committees. ungovernable looks to this history, and conjures ways it might impact new imaginations of our contemporary.