FUTURE CAPE TOWN | When young urbanists took over our Instagram

 ‘Land really is the best art’

City Take Over 2014

 We look back at the most popular and thought-provoking photography from our #CityTakeover campaign on Instagram.

Over the holidays Future Cape Town embarked on a bold project by inviting 10 young urbanists and organisations to ”takeover” our Instagram platform. They were given the task of sharing their view of urban life, both through their work and personal lives,  at our Instagram page and sharing their images across our social network platforms. This was our #CityTakeOver campaign.

The images that used the #CityTakeOver hashtag garnered a stellar 2276 likes on Instagram alone. Our contributors shared their photographs from far and wide around the world. Striking images of urban life were captured in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo and Dubai.


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Shaakira Chohan, an architect base in Johannesburg, began the takeover with this mesmerizing image of the city of gold. The image breaks with the narrative of Johannesburg as a corporate and featureless landscape. In recent decades the city’s CBD has become emblematic of ”white flight” as investment capital drifted towards the northern suburbs. The JSE and newsrooms have all retreated northwards. However the area is now re-positioning itself as a cultural hub, drawing crowds and tourists to the popular Maboneng Precinct and several others. 

The statue must go


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The images and captions have also acted a vehicle for robust debate about the representation of the city and historical memory. An image of the King Edward statue on the Grand Parade in Cape Town with the caption ‘this statue must go’ divided opinion among our followers:

Those in agreement with the sentiment argued that the statue represented the iniquities of a colonial past and that racially-neutral statues should instead be embraced. Maya Hartmann, an engineer and urbanist based in Berlin, argued that the statue and others represent “a shameful, racist period in the city’s history and that their preservation vindicates past injustices”. Dillion Sphiri, the photographer and co-founder of Creative Nestlings,  defended his stance stating that ‘justice’ for the past demands the removal of the statue.

However others expressed their disappointment, mostly defending the historical value of the statues. Others evoked the statues of both divisive and popular figures at  Freedom Park. Statues of ANC figures are featured alongside international personalities such as communist leader Fidel Castro and Mozambican president, Samora Machel. Therefore it was argued that the statue should remain in the name of wider historical memory in a multicultural South Africa. Another contributor echoed this sentiment, evoking the late president, Nelson Mandela. Arguing that Mandela would not support the removal of the statue as it would antagonize minorities and threaten racial harmony.

Human stories


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As cities are about people, our followers also responded well to the representations of family, friends and fellow citizens. Sharyn Sassen’s photograph of the ornate public toilets in Company’s Garden also demonstrates the altruistic nature of our citizens. Sassen, an occupational therapist who has conducted research about homeless individuals and informal traders captions the facility as a ‘draw card’ for the city’s homeless. The facility has symbolic value in the face of gentrification attempts that has also seen the opening of an upmarket Madame Zingara restaurant.


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Olamide Udoma, the head of Future Lagos captured this scene in Dubai of a man searching for plastic recyclable material in the litter bins. Udoma demonstrates the iniquities of oil-rich Dubai, but this is also a scene that is common in South Africa and increasingly so in European cities. Furthermore the scene offers dignity to the protagonist as it demonstrates the resourcefulness of the urban poor. These actions not only provide fiscal rewards but also have an ecological rationale.



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Elsewhere Jodi Allemeier captured an image of Cape Town’s informal economy. The image shows a woman selling fruits and savoury snacks at a platform in Cape Town railway station. In an earlier article penned by Sharyn Sassen, it was estimated that the informal economy is responsible for up to 27% of South Africa’s GDP. Allemeier’s image will no doubt resonate with the numerous daily commuters on metrorail rains.


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Didintle Nsie’s image of a historical building on Loop Street undergoing renovations reflects the continued regeneration of the city’s CBD. However the building is also emblematic of human tragedy and adversity. In 2009 four people were killed in a fire at the former backpackers. Now work is underway to salvage the architectural features of the building and create a new future for the building.


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The most popular image during the campaign was taken on Long Street, featuring Marco Morgan, a planner and skateboarder who is part of the Sk8collective. The image speaks to the variety of transport in the city. On any given day citizens get around the city on foot or on metrorail trains, MyCiTi buses, minbuses bicycles and skateboards.  A key theme among our participants was transport as a key feature in the daily lives of the city’s inhabitants.

We end our review with a photo taken outside of South Africa, but with a universal messsage. Celebrated pop artist, Andy Warhol proclaims ‘Land really is the best art’. Shaakira Chohan captured this image and quotation in a public space in Hong Kong.

Thank you to the following people for participating in our #CityTakeover campaign: