Bellville’s vibrancy captured through 12 residents’ lenses

LIZAHN WENTZEL

Twelve Bellville residents who used disposable cameras to tell the stories of their community and capture its essence had their work displayed at the ArtB Gallery last week.

The 7535 Community Photo Exhibition, which took its title from Bellville’s postal code, was run by the Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP), along with City Soiree, the social media promoters.

The gallery at the Bellville library filled up quickly for the launch last Wednesday as photographers and their friends and family gathered, excited to see what they’d captured on film.

“The concept seems straight forward, but it’s not as easy as that,” said GTP CEO Chris O’Connor.

“People often forget about the people of the area, and we wanted everyone to see Bellville through the eyes of the people.”

The photographers are of varying ages and backgrounds. Lucinda de Almeida, a matric pupil at the Settlers High School, heard about the project from a friend.

“I got to see all of Bellville, with all its diversity from the upper side to the lower side. What stood out for me from this experience, is that the people make Bellville what it is,” she said.

GTP project manager Rachel Botsis said the exhibition, which was held from Wednesday March 30 to Saturday April 2, celebrated local stories and culture.

“We specifically used disposable cameras to show that although the method is disposable, the underlying stories in our spaces, are most certainly not,” said Ms Botsis.

“We hope there is a change in Bellville and that people start to see the value of the area.”

Keletso Motau, 21, from Boston, came to Cape Town three years ago from Pretoria, with a preconceived notion about the city.

“I believed Cape Town was this beautiful place filled with affluent people. But living in Bellville, I got to see the other side. The best way to describe Bellville is raw and real with no filters,” he said.

Mr Motau first stayed in Oude Westhof but later moved to Boston, where, he says, he experienced the beauty of Bellville.

“There is lots of culture, lots of depth and diversity. It is, however, up to us to make an effort to get to know our neighbour and to see this place for all it is,” he said.

The project was launched in December 2015. GTP approached a diverse group of people to join the project, with the hopes of getting a true reflection of how they saw Bellville. They were given disposable cameras with 27 shots, which they had to finish within a given time.

Rod Botsis has been living in Bellville for 36 years and admits he was not fond of the area when he first moved in. He reflects back on a time when apartheid was rife, when the area was so segregated.

Now, years later, he is proud of the area he stays in and the strides that have been made.

“The vibrancy and the diversity of the area is clear. We see the multi-ethnicity coming through and that is wonderful,” he said.

Mr Botsis fondly speaks about the old Alaskan Steakhouse, which was the only restaurant in the area at the time. Bellville now boasts a number of restaurants and shops.

“This was a humbling experience, as I got to interact with a diverse group of people,” said Mr Botsis.

Jaco le Roux from City Soiree believes initiatives such as this one bring about change in communities.

“We got involved in this project, as we wanted to help bring the people of Bellville together. Judging from all the pictures on display here, it is clear that the people of Bellville, make this area,” he said.

The photographs are displayed on the GTP’s Facebook page.