Creative Cities, Graffiti and Culture‐Led Development in South Africa: Dlala Indima (‘Play Your Part’)


Creative cities and culture‐led development discourses have come under increasing scrutiny as elite‐centric economic development agendas tend to trump ‘civic creativity’ ideals as imagined by Charles Landry. In South Africa, culture‐led development and cultural policy tends to primarily mimic that of the global North, largely focusing on culture as a catalyst for economic and property development. Public art commissioning processes tend to focus on decorative projects as part of urban upgrading, which are often associated with ensuing gentrification and displacement of the urban poor. In contrast to focusing on these kinds of regeneration strategies, this article investigates Dlala Indima, a hip‐hop‐led graffiti project in a rural township in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. This article situates graffiti as a critical social and spatial practice to argue that this case challenges normative cultural planning paradigms. Dlala Indima’s work is an alternative approach to cultural development by and for young people who are usually marginalized by the mainstream practice of culture‐led economic development. The project challenges dominant creative cities and culture‐led development discourses in three ways: first, it challenges the normative processes of regeneration; secondly, it grounds participatory practice; and finally, it shifts participation from ‘tyranny to transformation’ through the ubuntu of hip‐hop, the notion of ubuntu being based on the communitarian notion of ‘ubuntu, ngubuntu ngabantu’—‘I am because you are’.