Commuting in comics

The Commute shows the everyday journey of a single mother from an informal settlement to Sea Point.

The daily commute might be a normal experience for some, but others spend their whole lives in transition.

This was the focus of a comic strip, which was launched at the third annual Urban Land Justice colloquium last week.

The colloquium, which took place over three days, focused on activism, through the use of law, organisation and research. It hosted a group of diverse activists, urban planners, academics and members of the private sector.

It was organised by the District Six Museum, Social Justice Coalition, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa and Ndifuna Ukwazi.

The comic book, Commute, tells how people have been moved from the city’s centre to its outskirts.

It follows the journey of a single-mother and domestic worker, Nkosazana, from a far flung Cape Town informal settlement,

Andre Trantraal, who’s known for his work as one of the Trantraal Brothers, said the story follows a woman’s every day commute to work and back.

“The trick was how to convey all that information into four pages. How to condense that experience which is not very easy to do.”

Mr Trantraal said the process had very much been a collaborative one.

“We decided we wanted to do something which was thoroughly researched. So part of the process was going out to these places.”

The creators went out to Delft and did the same journey that many working class people make daily. They took pictures everywhere so they could get the details right.

“It was very important for us to do it in a way that was honest,” said Mr Trantraal.

They arrived in town, where they took pictures at the taxi rank in the CBD, before taking another taxi to Sea Point.

“I think the end result shows that a lot of planning went into this,” said Mr Trantraal. “A great amount of personal experience goes into all the work that we do.”

Mr Trantraal said he could identify with any projects that related to social justice.

“That helps to make the story more real, authentic and reach people. I think that comics are an incredibly accessible medium. One of the best things about comics is that they are disarming. People don’t feel as intimidated compared to when they look at a massive thesis written by some academic. People associate comics with stuff that children read. In that sense, you can kind of sneak in important messages.

“I hope that people who actually take the taxi to work in places like Sea Point will say that it’s authentic.”

One of the comic’s co-creators, Daneel Knoetze, who works at Ndifuna Ukwazi, said the daily commute was something a lot of people in Cape Town experienced.

“We try to use the moving through the city space and the entire transition as part of the story. The city is kind of an alien space as many people feel excluded, and we try to communicate that tension as well.”

He said they had also tried to show the historical aspects of forced removals.

The comic book also includes a frame depicting an affordable housing development on the Tafelberg site, something Ndifuna Ukwazi continues to fight for.