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July 18, 2012

TEDx Cape Town decoded with Monique Schiess

Don't miss TEDx Cape Town at the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch on Saturday 21 July, 2012. Photo courtesy of TedX Cape Town

The Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch will be abuzz with creatives, innovative thinkers and speakers when hundreds of conference delegates descend on it for TEDx Cape Town 2012 on Saturday, July 21, 2012.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a global non-profit organisation dedicated to the mission of ideas worth spreading, and this year's conference will showcase ideas that challenge the way we think.

To deconstruct this fascinating event and what it means, I chatted to Monique Schiess, creator of the popular arts festival AfrikaBurn and one of TEDx Cape Town’s speakers:

What does this year’s TEDx theme, 'What We Play Is Life', mean to you?

Playing is fundamental to the creative process. It’s the earliest form of experimentation and something that should be allowed to continue rather than being unlearned as you turn into an adult. I like the theme.

What is the importance of hosting idea-sharing forums and events for creatives in Cape Town?

Ideas beget ideas, energy begets more energy. So spreading ideas grows more ideas, and more ideas grow more solutions to problems and more creative energy. It’s just a good thing to do. The growing trend in the world towards open source is great ... the days of clutching your ideas to your breast to protect them are over. If you don’t give them air, they will suffocate. You know how the saying goes that it takes a community to bring up a child? The same goes for ideas: the more nurturers that are taking care, the better.

Your presentation is centred on 'Building snowballs of engagement and practising imagining'. Can you elaborate on what this will be and why you’ve chosen to speak about it specifically?

You'll have to have a look at the talk online! But, well, it’s about the essence of what happens at AfrikaBurn.

Which speakers are you looking forward to seeing and why?

I'm looking forward to seeing all of them. I love hearing people’s stories and ideas, no matter what the subject matter. I believe the world needs more generalists.  Because the more you know about (disparate fields), the more you can do. But if I did have to name someone, it would be Shannon Roydon Turner, as I think that the way we run our cities and the disparate elements within them is massively important and challenging. I'm also interested in what Martin Tai Lyhne Jensen has to say.

How does Cape Town inspire you?

I have travelled a lot and have always had a sense of smugness about the fact that returning home is like getting to the best destination on your itinerary. I have lived in Cape Town for 16 years and it never fails to blow my hair back. The physical beauty is astounding, pristine beaches and mountains are so easy to access. That’s a massive privilege. Even when you are sitting in traffic, the view is beautiful. I also love the fact that the city can feel all cosmopolitan but is also actually just a village. Everyone knows everyone else. There really isn’t another city in the world that I would rather live in.

What are your five hidden creative gems in the Mother City?

The Torch Bearer in Woodstock; it’s where the real artists hang, the ones that don’t believe in the word "art" – old oil, T-bone steaks, beer, it’s a Petri dish where many ideas have incubated.
• The Bijou, the old deco cinema in Lower Main Road, Observatory, where the AfrikaBurn offices, artists’ studios and the Blacksmith forge are.
• Cafe Ganesh in Observatory.
• The tidal pool in Kalk Bay, where you can hear bands playing while you're swimming (on Sundays and preferably in summer).
• Any hike. The most conducive to creative banter is to go for a hike or have a braai. Just make sure you are with playful people.

For more information about TedX Cape Town, visit www.tedxcapetown.org or follow them on Twitter at @TEDxCapeTown.

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