and Jo Ractliffe
The GrowBox Art Project is a unique approach to address food security and environmental concerns in the perils of 21st-century urban life. This project engages with themes such as urban spatial planning and design, urban farming and the urban environment. Particularly, it looks to reinterpret and engage with issues of land fertility; commercialised farming practices; the agriculture industry within the context of South Africa’s history and its legacy of socio-economic inequality.
The idea of the project emerged from the Cape Flats community, which faces severe conditions without arable land while trying to provide a sustainable source of fresh produce and vegetation. The GrowBox Project, based in Hanover Park, Cape Town, was founded by Renshia Manuel. It was an innovative means to provide food for her family – by creating portable wooden boxes that could sustain plant life, regardless of one’s environmental and socio-economic circumstances.
Manuel’s GrowBoxes are exhibited in dialogue with 10 commissioned artworks from prominent Contemporary African Artists who responded to these inventive portable-planters as their material and conceptual framework. This was a process initiated and developed by the AAD-Fund- an NGO member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This project is rooted in the AAD’s aim of fostering social business community development with support from Contemporary African Artists. The result of the artists’ interpretations blossomed into design conscious imaginative visual responses using their distinctive aesthetic styles as a platform for re-imagination.
Using Zeitz MOCAA as a platform to encourage dialogue around sustainable practices, GrowBox exemplifies collective achievement, problem solving and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. Here, ideas grow organically and enrich the dialogue of the exhibition, not only between the artworks but also a conversation that reflects the multi-cellular geographies, histories and experiences.
This project is the result of an innovative partnership between the African Artists for Development (AAD) and Zeitz MOCAA.