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Case studies

Cultural Mapping and Planning


Cultural initiatives are a low priority for government spending in Cape Town, yet there is a constant demand for cultural community services. To discover what cultural resources existed in Cape Town and make better use of them, the City’s Arts and Culture Branch decided to use a cultural mapping and planning approach to capitalise on the city’s resources.

Cultural mapping is a mode of enquiry that uses a wide range of research techniques and tools to map a region or cities tangible and intangible cultural assets. It is often used in urban planning and community development. Cultural planning is an inclusive place-based methodology that engages with local residents to identify the cultural needs, opportunities and resources within their community and create a shared vision, strategy and action plan.

Although these tools have been used for many years internationally, they have never before been applied in a South African context at a local municipal level. The City of Cape Town’s Arts and Culture Branch conducted detailed research into developing a model that would suit the cultural, political and social landscape of South Africa, and is currently testing its implementation in subcouncils. The information gathered will be shared with other City departments and independent organisations to create agreed joint objectives to better share resources. The baseline information will allow the City to make more informed decisions about how to support cultural programmes and infrastructure. It also allows the Arts and Culture Branch to present case studies to the City and create a planning structure to begin to budget for culture.

This grassroots-up approach is potentially transformative in serving the cultural needs of local communities. In a city where major cultural infrastructure is still sparse, harnessing the knowledge of citizens holds the promise of regenerating the city using existing resources when new landmark building programmes are not feasible.