Arts-Based Research Reflections for the maHpSA (2016-2017)

This series of blog entries under the Migration and Health Project South Africa (maHpSA) will present a series of reflections relevant to my participation within the MoVE project at the Africa Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) as an artist with a background in conducting research through artistic processes. These reflections will draw from my involvement in a range of research projects that used art processes and products as part of the inquiry.

The maHp aims to explore (and evaluate) ways to generate and communicate knowledge in order to improve responses to migration, health and well-being in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Multiple disciplinary perspectives, mixed method approaches, and the involvement of various stakeholders – including migrants themselves – are central.

Within the MoVE projct specifically, I have worked on the Sex Worker Zine Project which took place in Nelspruit and Makhado, and on the Sex Worker HIV Quilting Workshop, which took place in Johannesburg. These projects employed participatory arts based methods in the production of works that have relevance to social research, but also to advocacy movement, namely the Sisonke Sex Worker Movement. I have also worked on an exhibition titled MoVE: Showcasing of New Work, which took place at the Workers Museum in Johannesburg.

Before participation within the MoVE project, however, I worked on the Jeppe Street Story Project through the Wits School of Arts, and later, on the Volume 44 project through the Market Photo Workshop. The Jeppe Street Story Project employed narrative, visual and performative methods in a research undertaking that focused on the migrant Ethiopian and Eritrean business community in Johannesburg CBD around Jeppe Street. Volume 44, which also happens to be one of the MoVE projects, employed participatory photography and narrative methods as a way to document aspects of the lived experiences of migrant sex workers in Johannesburg and Musina.

My ongoing artistic research project is titled Some Combinations. In this project I consider the intricate relationship people have with broader environments.

I will focus my blog entries on experiences and concepts that show a sensitivity to aspects of artistic research, arts-based research, participatory research, and arts-based education in their relationships to collaboration, social inquiry and engagement, as well as advocacy. This series of reflections will look at positionality and the politics of using artistic processes in participatory research projects, and are based on my participation in past and ongoing research projects.