Documentary and Youth Media Initiative

Kenneth Gardens is located in Umbilo, Durban, and forms part of an extensive network of cluster housing schemes developed by the apartheid government, as part of government’s protectionist strategy to provide safe and affordable housing to poor and working class whites. There are an estimated 282 units in Kenneth Gardens spread over 28 blocks. An estimated 1500 – 1800 people are accommodated in this fairly high density housing estate.  There are a handful of white residents who live in Kenneth Gardens and have been in the corporate housing system for two or more generations. They have been and continue to be utterly dependent on the state. Black ‘newcomers’ are currently the largest constituency within Kenneth Gardens. This has dramatically changed the landscape of these once-protected white zones. What brings people together in this space is shared socio-economic circumstances. Preliminary research conducted by a group of researchers from UKZN indicates that there are a wide range of social problems within the estate, including fairly high level of unemployment; drug and alcohol addiction; family violence; isolated and neglected elderly residents; apathetic children and young adults with low self-esteem and limited aspirations; a range of safety threats; HIV and other chronic illnesses; and some incidences of racial and cultural intolerance.

Children and youth under the age of 35 made up 64.3% of the residents surveyed in the UKZN Kenneth Gardens demographic survey conducted in 2010.  This initiative seeks to use the medium of documentary making to encourage young people in particular and communities in general, to articulate their history. The youth of Kenneth Gardens seem to believe that they have few choices available to improve their chances for a better future. Drugs and other forms of socially objectionable behaviour in regard to youth are also a concern of the community in the estate.  The strategy is essentially based on the understanding that when groups and individuals have a sense of where they come from, they generally develop a clearer picture of where they are going to. It also aims to introduce the youth to various skills associated with creating documentaries, learning online media skills, editing digital video and telling social and individual narratives.  This process will help young people from the community to think critically about life in Kenneth Gardens and give them an opportunity to develop important social skills like problem solving and communication to deal with the demands of daily living. The idea is to provide young people from marginalised communities like Kenneth Gardens access to knowledge about how the medium of storytelling can help them shape the stories of their own unfolding lives.  The broader community will be able to access these initiatives through outdoor film evenings and an online website.

The youth media programme currently is brought together through three separate but inter-related projects.  Together they aim to:

  1. Engage young people through audio visual documentary storytelling to capture the history of Kenneth Gardens
  2. Develop media and communication skills amongst youth in a practical and innovative way
  3. Bridge the gap between the various generations that reside in the community and to give them a chance to learn from one another.
  4. Provide the youth of Kenneth Gardens with a realistic alternative to the limited choices they have in the community.

Virginia Commonwealth University Project

In June 2012, a joint funding proposal was submitted with VCU for a documentary project entitled: Building Global Bridges. The proposal has been awarded funding from VCU.  The project brings together students from VCU, UKZN and DUT students to create a professional documentary on the everyday lives of residents and the community clinic in Kenneth Gardens.  The students will create four collaborative groups, each of which will be paired with one Kenneth Gardens’ youth.  The peer skills transfer amongst these young people will be supervised by academics from all three universities.  Skills training through practical experience will include documentary making and video editing.  The project begins in 2013 with an aim of showcasing the documentary at the Durban International Film Festival.

Kenneth Gardens Online Legacy Project 

The Legacy Project looks at the development of a digital community media project, run at Kenneth Gardens in Durban. Local knowledge, including the histories of neighbourhoods and the people who lived there, is at risk of being lost, as older members of families pass on or move away. This knowledge has the potential of creating cultural capital for current residents while the development of an online repository of local, user-generated content in the form of a collaborative website – holding articles, images, audio and video – could contribute to civic pride in Kenneth Gardens and an enhanced collective identity.

Current digital media technologies have a democratic potential, giving traditionally marginalized groups the opportunity to publish their own perspectives online, allowing them to partake in the global information economy on their own terms. Essentially, this means giving a public voice to the residents of Kenneth Gardens. Empowerment occurs through the community ownership of their own ‘story’ but also through acquiring valuable and transferable skills. This project would promote ICT use and develop skills among members of technologically-marginalized groups, specifically through the training of volunteers but also through generating interest in locally-produced online content (and ways of accessing it) by other Kenneth Gardens residents.

The project will train up five Kenneth Gardens’ youth who will become digital community journalists for the project, collecting data and creating online content.


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