Archive: Issue No. 85, September 2004

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Robert Weinek explores the complexities of cultural mapping
by Kim Gurney

Cape Town will soon have its culture hotspots mapped out on the Internet when a new initiative under the leadership of Robert Weinek goes live later this year.

Weinek, an artist and curator, calls himself a manager of 'cultural mapping'. This new buzzword describes how cultural elements of an area can be recorded and packaged for easy collation and retrieval.

Weinek explains: 'It is a process that seeks to understand cities and dynamics creatively and proactively through technical and more esoteric data'.

Various neighbourhoods and geographical cliques around the world have already begun to map themselves in a disparate way on the World Wide Web. But Weinek's project is more systematic. He aims to record as much as possible of Cape Town's culture online and ultimately to expand to other cities if the Cape Town pilot succeeds.

In order to do so, the website will be fully interactive. Users will be able to map themselves by adding their own information online as well as personal perspectives on the city. Their input will complement existing spatial data from geographical information systems, tools commonly used by city planners.

Weinek already has layers of information available. These include a visual mapping of statistics that show how many people in different areas make a living from the arts sector. Another click of the mouse brings up information about galleries, museums and theatres including website links to their home pages.

Weinek's cultural map is set to become a valuable database and resource tool for Capetonians and visitors alike with regional maps for culture vultures to explore the city. The vast amount of information is quite complex but the visual representation and links deliver it in an accessible way. The digital format also means the information can be changed and updated dynamically.

Weinek's project falls under the CAPE umbrella, which is a broader initiative to reconnect Cape Town with Africa and the diaspora through projects, programmes and cultural events.

CAPE events are scheduled annually for the month of September. The programme will alternate between an international conference and workshop one year with an exhibition the next. This year, plans are afoot to coincide CAPE events with Heritage Day celebrations.

CAPE arose from research funded in 2002 by the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) and the City of Cape Town.

The idea is to promote a new cultural identity for Cape Town, as well as development and economic growth through a vibrant forum. It aims to showcase the city's culture, grow new audiences, increase awareness, celebrate diversity and generate new cultural production from the region.

Weinek's cultural mapping site will be free for both mappers and surfers. The project has several funders including ACSA, the Department of Arts and Culture, the City of Cape Town and Pro Helvetia.