Writing retreat at Kloofzicht from 7 – 11 November 2023

Introduction: The entire RED team embarked on a five-day writing retreat at Kloofzicht Hotel from November 7 to 11. This retreat unfolded across three distinct phases, each contributing to the overall experience. Interwoven into the retreat was a unique interphase that involved visits to significant cultural and historical sites in South Africa. The retreat unfolded in a serene and relaxed atmosphere, fostering an environment where the team felt at ease and engaged in vibrant discussions, birthing what we hope are new and innovative ideas from our research with schools in Argentina, Mexico, Germany, South Africa and Sweden.

Pictures showing scenic environment at Kloofzicht Hotel:

Retreat Activities: Commencing promptly at nine o’clock after breakfast, the writing retreat kicked off its activities each morning. The first day primarily focused on discussions centered around the conference and workshop held at UNISA in the preceding two days. Felicitas Macgilchrist steered a thoughtful dialogue on the inception of what we are calling “The Big RED Book” with the retreat’s highlights encompassing the emergence of profound themes slated for inclusion in the book. Every team member assumed a unique role in contributing to the book’s creation.

A pivotal moment transpired during the second highlight, featuring a peer review session dedicated to scrutinizing current papers that the team are writing. The review process proved dynamic and invigorating, with each local team presenting one or two papers for collective assessment.

The third notable event involved Thomas Hillman’s presentation on the InfraReveal workshop and insightful discussions on ethnographic methodology by Federico Williams and Felix Büchner.

Combining Work and Pleasure: The retreat went beyond a singular focus on writing, integrating excursions to significant historical, cultural, and educational centers, as well as a game park. The team explored key locations, starting with an unexpected encounter with a local cultural group that offered drum and percussion playing lessons. A visit to SOWETO (Southwest Township), the largest township in South Africa known for housing iconic leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Oliver Tambo, was a highlight, also led the team to the Apartheid Museum, which preserved historical artifacts from the apartheid era and celebrated the resilience of anti-apartheid activists. The team report that the affective experience at the museum gives them a new perspective on the fieldwork. Overall, the retreat provided not only focused sessions, but also spaces for the kind of “watercooler” talk that an international team like ours, meeting mostly online, rarely experiences, but that led to moments of inspiration that took our thinking forwards.