João Ferreira

David Lurie

01 Oct - 01 Nov 2008

© David Lurie
Shacks, 'Ndlovini' / Khayelitsha, 2007
B/W image, coated, fibre base inkjet print
42 X 60 cm
"Fragments from the Edge"

The images for this exhibition are from DavidLurie's forthcoming book, Fragments from the Edge, to be published in 2009 by David Krut Publishing.

1 October - 1 November 2008
Opening reception: Wednesday 1 October at 6pm

According to the United Nations, the majority of the world’s population today live in cities: Out of a world population of 6.6 billion, conservatively, 1 billion people currently live in slums and more than a billion people are informal workers, struggling to survival. These figures are staggering especially if you consider that 95% of the future growth of humanity will occur in cities, overwhelmingly in poor cities, and the majority of it in slums, creating a crisis for this global urban, informal working class –especially in the developing world – who have no formal connection to the world economy, and no chance of ever having such a connection. Inexorable forces are expelling people from rural areas and that population made surplus by the global economy, piles up in urban slums and on the periphery of cities.

Mass movement from countryside to cities is not new; it has been ongoing since the first Industrial Revolution. What is new today, aside from the sheer magnitude, is how it is not driven by industrialization or even economic growth in these cities (parts of China and India excepted), but by desperation.

Cape Town is a mirror image of most of the problems facing other African cities and other cities in the developing world, albeit that it obviously has its own particularity. How does this surplus humanity improvise survival in the city? My book is an attempt to distill my experience of these fragments of life – of unfinished stories - on the ledge beyond the edge of Cape Town: a study in informal survivalism., in a world of radically unequal and explosively unstable, sprawling squatter camps, “informal settlements”, garbage hills and sand dunes of the Cape Flats, where urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization and even from economic growth. My book portrays a vast humanity, the excluded, warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy, a world-habitat largely constructed out of crude brick, recycled plastic, metal sheets, cardboard, cement blocks, and scrap wood ... surrounded by pollution, excrement, and decay, displaying a range of responses from charismatic churches and street gangs, to drug and alcohol abuse as well as small businesses.

Recent studies (The Challenge of Slums by UN-Habitat; Planet of Slums by Mike Davis) have alerted us to the fact that the global urban unemployment crisis is coequal to climate change as a threat to our collective future. They have sounded an authoritative warning about the worldwide catastrophe of urban poverty. The informal proletariat constitute the fastest-growing social class on earth – the ‘excluded’; this phenomenon, which has been driven by neo-liberal economic policies and a thorough-going retreat of the state, clearly deserves more attention than it’s getting from planners, sociologists, environmentalists, epidemiologists and demographers.

The future evolutionj of slums needs to be determined by political interventions on the ground, rather than by uncontrollable economic and political developments. These issues, if left unaddressed, will not just wither away, but will go instead in search of more radical answers. Are these urban slums volcanoes waiting to erupt?

- David Lurie

June 2008