Cinehack Fieldwork Report

Participatory Action Research in Cape Town

As previously mentioned, in mid-January, I spent four weeks in South Africa with Drs. Gary Pritchard and Guy Schofield conducting a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project involving the production of music videos with musicians from the Cape Town Hip hop community. PAR involves working closely with communities to "address questions and issues that are significant for those who participate as co-researchers" (Reason and Bradbury, 2008).

In this study, we worked with five musicians and groups of musicians, including a pilot study in Amsterdam with Mingus (a.k.a X24th). In Cape Town, we worked with 'The Archetypes' (a 3-MC crew from Guguletu), 'BFK' (an MC from Firgrove who works closely with producers J-Beatz and Evo), 'Die Skerpste Lem' (aka Lee-Urses Alexander, a respected MC from Paarl) and 'The AA Meetings' (a collective from Guguletu, led by Khobs Makuba, which also includes members of 'The Archetypes').

We designed the study around a cyclical 'plan > produce > reflect > adapt' process. Through each consecutive production, beginning with Mingus and finishing with The AA Meetings, we adapted the process, based on our previous experiences, to try to offer as much of the creative process to the artists as possible. The idea behind this was to sow the seed of a sustainable community of video production and learn what support might be valuable to the community and how best this might be delivered.

The Videos

1)  Mingus - 'Stay' - We worked closely together with Mingus, collaboratively discussing locations, sequences, shots and compositions for a couple of weeks beforehand. Mingus provided us with a lot of materials which suggested a particular 'style' of video; city-based, urban, laid-back, dawn/dusk lighting... as well as some ideas for specific shots. We produced the video together over 3 days at locations chosen and organised by Mingus and edited it afterwards based on A structure designed by Mingus. The final video can be seen here:

2) The Archetypes - 'Black or White' - Archetypes were our first collaborators in Cape Town, so we tried to hit the ground running. On the first night in town, we met and discussed influences, but the ideas for the video were a combination of improvised locations and ad-hoc performances over the next few days. the main difference was that there were three different ideas to include. The concept of 'a trip to the beach' was conceived (though never committed to any form of document) by the group, but Guy and I took the lead on shot composition and direction. The editing was completed over two days in liaison with Sole & Lolo, but was mastered by Guy. The resulting video can be seen here;

3) BFK - 'Anyway' - On this shoot we left a lot of the creative decision-making to BFK, Evo and J-Beatz, everything from planning and locations to cinematography and editing. We took a step back and advised, and acted as technical operators of the cameras (predominantly the Canon EOS 5D mkii that we had also used to shoot both the previous videos), but the majority of the sequences, shots and locations were designed and shot by BFK, Evo and J-Beatz. Over the course of thee meetings in the week leading up to the shoot, we designed and built hardware (including a flexible dolly rig) while the guys sourced props and extras (including B-Boys) needed to realise their vision. The editing was compled by Evo, using a loaned laptop with Adobe Premiere CS6, with a minimal amount of help and guidance from us.

4) Die Skerpste Lem - 'Steck Op Hede' - This video was planned and designed by Lee and shot entirely on his iPhone, using a home-made steadicam designed in 3D software by Guy and printed on a commercial 3D printer. The shoot was completed in a single day and edited the following day, with Lee's input, before being mastered and graded based on Lee's specification. It was filmed in Lee's home town of Paarl. Although this was the most technically lightweight shoot, we brought more of our own expertise into the process.

video: coming soon.