Charlotte founded and ran CDP (Curriculum Development Project – Arts and Culture Education and Training) in Bertrams, Johannesburg, providing training in childhood development, women at risk empowerment projects, counsellor training programmes, arts and social advocacy projects, refugee testimony through the arts… and so much more.
The connection with CMH began in 2005 when Mike White visited SA to research his book. Charlotte and others at CDP were vitally helpful to him, and it was the warmth of those meetings that led to Mary Robson, Dawn Williams and North-East teachers visiting in 2007 to do a residency with CDP, resulting in further relationships, ongoing to this day.
Charlotte’s reciprocal visit to the UK and her passionate presentation on CDP at a Durham University conference in 2008 made a huge impression on our education and anthropology associates here – we saw the possibilities of arts engagement in even the most adverse circumstances and it brought the liberation of the new SA alive to us.
In conversation with Mary in 2007, Charlotte said she felt that the two significant qualities of CDP’s work are responsiveness and responsibility.
“Being responsible is about identifying action that requires a certain positioning in relationship to whom you are serving… Speaking on behalf of others, doing on behalf of others… It is a constant challenge to truly start from where people are coming from.”
She spoke of doing everything possible not to misrepresent the authentic voices of the voiceless, but pointed out that the work is necessarily and proudly interventionist.
“Art is political, healing and subversive. The making of it takes you to subconscious, spiritual places. It is a very deep meditation.”
She faced her illness with positive vibes laced with dark humour. She was a strong woman able to look trauma in the face, a genuine friend to the most excluded members of society, and as a CDP artist she wielded a vibrant palette for a rainbow nation.
She was working to the end – her last email sent from her bed, hours before she passed away. Her friends and colleagues will gather at CDP this Saturday to remember her, safe in the knowledge that the company will carry on, its base secure.