theFanPalProject in Detroit

Saturday 25, October 2oo8

AMC media lab, 555, Detroit

The space

The workshop took place at the Allied Media Conference/Detroit Summer lab at the 555 Galleries/Studios on Grand Avenue, Detroit.

...multi-use former factory now, well, factory!
...multi-use former factory now, well, factory!

555 is an exciting multi-use space housing studios for visual artists, a multi-media magazine publisher [like SWART!] apparel designer, video artists, as well as galleries.

...uncanny resemblance to the drill hall...
...uncanny resemblance to the drill hall...

Check out for more information.

The facilitators

Nadia Abou-Karr is a multi-tasking [who’s not these days??] and committed community organizer working with high school kids from Detroit, on media literacy projects. Nadia is also involved with the Allied Media Conference [AMC], an annual gathering of key community organizers, activists, educators and artists who share strategies for the democratic use of media techniques. Trained as an artist at Wayne State University and life, Nadia is a gifted printmaker.

Rangoato Hlasane is an artist, activist and community organizer. University of Johannesburg Fine Art M candidate in the research field of Arts and Social Change, Ra also works with hip hop collectives in the inner city of Jozi exploring ways of building communities using the arts for social activism and economic development.

The workshop

Part 1 – A Map

We worked with 5 teenagers from 3 Detroit high schools. The aim is simple. The learners each create a zine to speak to Jozi kids.

We started with a mapping exercise, facilitated by yours trully. A very action based and active activity that allows individuals in a group to map their route to the common gathering place [in this case the 555] for a common cause. This is done using a masking tape, markers, pens, coloured papers and other cool things one can think of.

mapping our routes...
mapping our routes...

We start by identifying the compass as in North, West, South, East and mark the 555 as the common place. From there each one of us use the masking tape as the ‘route’ taken from home to the 555. After marking the route, one then start reflecting on the symbols, landmarks and things that define their route, write or draw them on a piece of paper, and stick them along their ‘route’. In this way, we all get a sense of each others neighbourhoods. This helps one to start paying attention to stuff that may seem unimportant as we encounter them on a dialy basis, but may be a resource of some sort. This exercise is adapted from a strategy used by Marcus Neustetter, an artist and a prolific ‘mapper’ from Jozi, co-owner of the Premises gallery and the Trinity Session check for more info on Marcus.

The purpose of the mapping exercise was to create visual and conceptual reference for the making of the zines. So that the kids can create a sense of their environment in their zines, in that way, allowing Jozi kids to experience subjective aspects of Detroit.

Part 2 – Zine making

We had plenty of scrap that we picked up from a recycling centre that morning. Nadia had also briefed the kids to bring along material such as paper, photographs, clips and any form of reference reflective of their neighbourhoods to use for the zines. the making...donuts! the making...donuts!

It was remarkable how quickly zines came to life, and the variety of styles employed. Very heartwarming to experience so much inventiveness and creativity! We decided to just focus on design and less writing. The idea is that the next workshop will take place in early December, where the kids will write notes for Johannesburg in their zines. the making... the making...

What’s next?

We are looking at a suitable date in December to do the writing workshop. In the meantime, we are also exploring a way to show the zines at a space like the 555 galleries before they hit the atlantic ocean for Jozi.

This was a very exciting workshop that went by very fast, four hours was good but not enough it seemed. I was very impressed with the concentration levels of the young ones, going at it like that without a break.

I also feel very honoured to have been welcomed into the Detroit scene.

Thank you to Nadia, the kids and the media lab. Looking forward to the next one…

love, peace and good health



5 thoughts on “theFanPalProject in Detroit

  1. this looks really awesome. i have been slightly obsessed with maps for a while now and like the idea of sharing zines that plot secret and not so secret routes. big ups to transatlantic connections. this wordpress blog: has a lot of interesting stuff, probably not useful for this project, but an intriguing collection of maps nonetheless.

    it would be quite an experience to see what would happen if these young folks had to depend on the zines and the embedded maps if they were to visit. i.e. based on a map a person from joburg made, would a detroiter understand the spatial politics of joburg, catch a taxi, etc.? this may not be the purpose of the zine, but something i am/was curious about.

    we have to figure out how to get california involved 🙂 we feel left out 🙂

  2. hey kameelah.
    thanks for your thoughts. awesome. i remember saying in the workshop that we must think of these maps as a navigational tool. if they were to direct someone from out of town, what would the landmarks be? where to catch a cab? ‘bad’ neighbourhoods and alleys to watch out for?
    maps are totally fascinating. somewhere in the Trinity Session website above, Marcus and partner talk about how they were doing research in Hillbrow, and these Senegalese natives approched them to warn them about flashing cameras in such a neighbourhood, being white and all. Marcus and Stephen were about to leave for Dakar, Senegal. that encounter led to a project in Hillbrow where Senegalese immigrants were asked to draw maps that Marcus and Stephen would use to navigate the city! and they did. one of the immigrants asked them to go visit their friend in Dakar and they did! Of course it was not as easy as they thought due to ‘spatial politics’ but they found the friend.
    Cali, yes i know. we really need to make it happen. especially now that Seattle is in the house! i will be at the University of Washington on December 5th giving an informal talk and making zines!
    but we have been talking about this [almost] its gonna happen. peace

  3. hmm, washington huh? that sounds nice and also tempting. i was planning to head up to oregon at the same time, so i may think about stopping in washington on the way up. how long do you plan to be in washington?

  4. yeah lets do it…please…
    it would be great if you joined us on the 5th…
    will give you details soon

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