The Community Arts Project Collection
The Community Arts Project (CAP) was established in 1977 in the wake of the student uprisings of 1976, which sparked the final chapters in the revolt against apartheid. Those involved in its establishment were mainly academics from the Michaelis School of Art, University of Cape Town (UCT), South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), South African College of Higher Education (SACHED) and UCT’s Extra-Mural Studies Department.
CAP was initially housed at 17 Main Road, Mowbray, Cape Town, but moved to the old St Philip’s School (now the Lydia Williams Centre for Memory) at 106 Chapel Street, District Six, in 1982. CAP was a non-racial organisation, with members from across the apartheid divide and from various social layers. However, its particular mission was to provide accommodation, facilities and training in the arts for artists and learners marginalised under apartheid, and to develop the cultural voice of Cape Town’s oppressed communities.
During the liberation struggle in the 1980s, CAP played a prominent role in shaping the notion of ‘culture as resistance’ to apartheid and the idea of people’s culture. In 1982 CAP participated in the historic Botswana Arts Festival in Gaborone, after which CAP members regarded themselves as cultural workers rather than artists. This new identity was adopted to reflect their involvement with the political and social concerns of communities and their organisations, and their intent to make work that upheld the interests and political aspirations of the oppressed.
After the advent of democracy in 1994, CAP transformed from a training organisation, and home for artists, into a more formally constituted education NGO for unemployed adults and youth.
Twenty-five years after the establishment of CAP, the organisation and its offspring, Media Works, which produced resistance posters, amalgamated to form AMAC (Arts and Media Access Centre), located in central Cape Town. As with CAP, AMAC’s goal was to empower people from marginalised communities through training in the arts and media. When AMAC closed its doors in 2008, it brought an end to a chapter in South African cultural history characterised by a firm commitment to, and belief in, the idea that the arts had a vital role to play in the humanisation of disadvantaged people.