Maverick Citizen


Feast of the Clowns highlights meaning of ‘home’ in a time of homelessness and dislocation

Feast of the Clowns highlights meaning of ‘home’ in a time of homelessness and dislocation
Feast of the Clowns 2021 peaceful protest march from Burgers Park in and around the inner city of Pretoria. (Photo: Phlogiston)

This year’s Feast of the Clowns will explore the theme of home, home-ful and homeless from different angles, and consider strategies and actions that can turn precarious living into sustainable homes. It will do so through a series of workshops between 15 and 26 August, a housing imbizo on 22 August, an urban ministry consultation from 24-26 August and a full-day festival in Burgers Park in Tshwane on 27 August.

“Making home” is the theme of the 2022 Feast of the Clowns, being hosted in the inner city of Tshwane this week. The Feast is a community festival that creates awareness for social justice concerns, a playful space of claiming the city, educating the civic and protesting against the forces that render people homeless. 

What does “making home” mean in contexts where many are homeless; where children and women feel unsafe in spaces that are supposed to be home; when home is a makeshift shack or living as a tenant in overcrowded housing? 

“Home” means different things to different people. 

It refers to the physical structure of our living space – a house, apartment, temporary shelter, tent or shack. Some do not even have those and live under bushes, cardboard boxes or bridges. 

“Home” also refers to a sense of belonging, in a social, emotional and even spiritual sense. 

And “home” speaks of the legal or political right to be in a space – a title deed, a lease agreement or the appropriate documents. 

I might live in a gigantic house, but do not feel at home because I feel unsafe, do not sense that I belong, or find myself in a strange place. 

I might live in a makeshift structure on occupied land that I do not own, but it feels like home, as I create access for myself to the city; I have my loved ones with me and I start to live with pride and dignity. 

I might be in a home-ful space, but feel homeless because I have no title deed, a lapsed lease agreement or no documents that validate my presence in the space, or even my being as a person. 

Feast of the Clowns 2019 around the inner city of Pretoria. (Photo: Neels Jackson)

Feast of the Clowns 2021 around the inner city of Pretoria. (Photo: Phlogiston)

“Making home” could therefore be thought of as the art and process of creating a physical structure to live in, that is safe, secure and even beautiful, while at the same time making sure there is a sense of belonging, meaning, memory and agency in that space – and simultaneously supporting people’s right to ownership, secure tenure or legal documentation that could enable a sense of rightful home. 

This year’s Feast of the Clowns wants to explore this theme from different angles. 

It will reflect on the precarious housing of hostel dwellers in Mamelodi, backyard dwellers in Eersterust, shack dwellers in Pretoria East, Salvokop or Mabopane, or homeless residents of Tshwane, living with no place to call “home”. 

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It will consider strategies and actions that can turn precarious living into sustainable homes. 

It will do so through a series of workshops between 15 and 26 August, a housing imbizo on 22 August, an urban ministry consultation from 24-26 August, and a full-day festival in Burgers Park on 27 August.

The main festival will combine the March of the Clowns with live artists, exhibitions, health services, play activities for children and teenagers, and various interactive spaces. 

It will showcase various attempts to “make home” in a city that, too often in its history, made people homeless. It will reflect on contemporary contestations and imagine new inclusions. 

The main stage set in Burgers Park on 16 October 2021 during the Feast of the Clowns. (Photo: Lance Thomas)

Home-makers are people who will create housing for homeless persons and safe spaces for those who are extremely vulnerable. 

Home-makers will defy the dominant narratives of where people are “supposed” to live by creating inclusive housing models in all parts of the city. 

Home-makers will agitate for secure tenure and ensure that every home has access to water, sanitation, lights and electricity. 

Home-makers will not only create houses, but ensure schools, play areas and healthcare facilities are in close proximity. 

For the City of Tshwane – and every other city, for that matter – to be “home”, we have to blend safe, secure and beautiful living spaces with spaces of belonging, memory, meaning and agency – with secure tenure in the form of ownership, fair lease agreements and legal documentation. 

This requires broad-based partnerships to which every person and institution should contribute. Churches and other religious communities should consider how they use their land, while universities should invest in every attempt to make homes that defy the odds. 

The founder of international NGO Habitat for Humanity, Millard Fuller, said: “Housing is to people, what soil is to plants: a place of rootedness.” 

“Home” is the soil in which individuals, families and migrant urban dwellers can root themselves. Or, when individuals, families and migrant urban dwellers are offered spaces where they can root themselves, those can be considered home. 

Let us join hands with each other to be home-makers. Let us outsmart and call out those who work hard to undo “home” for thousands of people. MC

Making Home – A poem by Stephan de Beer

Home is where my heart is.
But my heart is far away.
And I am here.
Alone. Homeless. Scared. 

Home is where my roots are.
But they uprooted us. And said we were too poor, too black, too old, too foreign.
They took my roots away,
and now I’m drifting,
in deep sand. 

They told me home feels safe.
But I sleep awake at night.
For abuse knocks at my door with nowhere to escape
My home is not a home. 

I made my fire in an open park. It warms my limbs and heart.
As long as the Metro Police stay away. And the tsotsis too.
I can call this my home.
At least. For now.  

Where is the home-maker? Who builds and not break down?
Who makes beautiful, and safe and serene?
Who ensures papers, respect and dignity?
Where is the home-maker, resisting the cruel indulgence of officials delighting in taking away the crumbs of home we bathe ourselves in?

Blessed are they who make homes, and build houses, and plant gardens.
Blessed are they who make us belong, and safe, and at peace.
Blessed are they who beautify the earth, and let every creature reside in it.
Because home is where God is, and God is here. And everywhere. DM/MC


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