Sikhula Sonke: Living Archives of Afrofuturist Village Banking is a mixed media artwork and storytelling project that documents informal savings groups as a way of understanding inclusive financial models in Southern Africa. In recognition of the wisdom that already exists within local communities and is little understood outside of them, the project focuses on documenting "living archives" of village banking that redefine the meaning of wealth.
The focus is on women that hold a wealth of knowledge on inclusive open financial systems. These women have created their own financial practices that support resilience and are responsive to their communities' needs. The project spotlights stories, or "living archives," of women who engage in village banking from six groups in three communities including Keiskammahoek (rural) and Khayelitsha (township) in South Africa; and Lusaka (urban) in Zambia.
These communities were selected based on the project leads' connection to them; and also to highlight financial inclusion centring Indigenous knowledge and feminist values within the historical context of colonial and patriarchal norms.
Archiving Village Banking Practices
As part of the project, we have been able to:
- Interviewed 6 communities The audio component of Sikhula Sonke included stories and music from local communities we connected to. The audio featured the audio divided in three main themes including:
- Village Banking
- Empowered Women
- Resilient Families
- Exhibited at the ILP Summit The practice of informal saving groups predates the colonial era and served as a practice of resistance and resilience of oppressed communities in Southern Africa. The artwork shows the relationship between rural, township and urban communities in the practice of village banking or informal savings groups. The artwork combines objects from the six informal saving groups we interviewed in South Africa and Zambia.
Their relevance are outlined below:
South Africa Zambia
The planting season in the Eastern Cape of South Africa includes the planting of the gourd. Once haversted, the gourd provides food and is turned into a multi-purpose Calabash, but especially used in ceremonies to pour drinks and to drink from. One of the informal savings groups involved in the project focused on collectively saving and preserving seeds to plant in the rain season as a goal for their village bank.
The seeds used in the artwork were sourced from the 6th annual ‘Zambian Traditional Seeds and Food Festival’ in Lusaka. Local women collectively held a site of resistance against corporate control over indigenous seeds and food so as to achieve food sovereignity so that no one in their communities goes hungry. The anticolonial movement was celebrating traditional seed for food and the economy.
Plates and Clothe
South Africa and Zambia
The dining room setup using objects that would be found in a village bank meeting, which usually starts with singing, praying, and the sharing of food.
Padlock & keys
Some practices of informal saving groups include keeping money in a safe with three different locks, all kept secretly by different members of the group for security purposes. Some researchers in Zambia took it a step further and are prototyping village banking on blockchain for security.
South Africa, Zambia
Informal savings groups are governed by a constitution that is unique to each group and agreed upon by members.
The audio-visual art exhibition will build an imagery that shifts mindsets about wealth and how it is defined as. The living archives will present stories of elders whose knowledge can inform Afrofuturist village banking that is not centred on capitalism.
The output planned was:
3 Impactful Stories
Audio recordings of from rural, township, and urban communities in Southern Africa who have used informal banking systems, also known as village banking. The recordings feature stories (living archives) of existing parallel financial models that center humanity and equality.
Prior to collecting these stories, we undertook archival research on the same topic so that the stories we collect are a continuation of archives, hence the stories will be living archives shaping Afrofuturist financial systems.
We anticipated the stories might not be fully in English and did for translation and audio editing.
Along with the audio, we presented a mixed media visual artwork to depict the alternative systems we have heard in the stories. This will take an Afrofuturist imagining of financial systems based on village banking. The visual artwork will reflect the stories told by the elders.
The form of visual artwork determined by each of the communities we interacted with – including the object, illustrations, or tapestry. The important thing is that this visual form was representative of the stories of the communities we were working with.
We will write a longform article to explain the concepts outlined in the stories and how the artwork interprets this.
A new website will be developed to host the stories.
Please watch the video where we are describing the conceptual thought around the process.
Our next step is building an online archive so that the exhibit is accessible, and that there's a cross exchange between all the communities that are practicing village banking in some form.
We are eager to hear how you connect to this project, and how it informs how you view wealth.
The ILP Summit was a great space to share and connect with other artists and those creating a fairer world. Thank you to the entire team for the support to make this project possible.
We will update our website here soon.