“One Table Two Elephants” is a research film that explores the politics of urban environmental knowledge in postcolonial cities. The documentary is created by Jacob von Heland and Henrik Ernstson and filmed in Cape Town as part of the Ways of Knowing Urban Ecologies (WOK-UE) research project. The project studies a range of urban environmental issues that provide context for examining these notions, including food security, waste handling, green space struggles, biodiversity conservation and the ‘ecosystem services’ concept.
“One Table Two Elephants” is based on lived experiences shared across a range of groups. It starts by following black, hip hop break dancers who are trying to bring in their own cultural roots into modern dancing techniques. It also follows conservation efforts being pursued by residents of the city. A film can be a powerful way to share research findings with a broad audience hence this film set out to answer and provoke debates about questions of sustainability and equality, including questions about identity and power in the context of a postcolonial city.
The documentary aims to move the audience beyond simplistic understandings while providing possibilities to translate what is happening to wider conversations about race, nature, and the city in other places of the world. It tries to decelerate towards much-needed conversations about how race, nature and the city are intertwined in South Africa’s postcolonial world, where history is ever-present in subtle and direct ways.
The Swedish duo said “the material of the film is rich and textured. It is edited without a voice-over which enables it to convey multiple interrelated histories across the city “. “One Table Two Elephants” has been nominated for several prizes and was screened at film festivals in Copenhagen. The documentary became an amazing learning space for the researchers and highly productive for especially the younger scholars and students that have been involved.