Cultural Planner, City of Ottawa

Kwende Kefentse spent four years in the Bachelor of Humanities program, and graduated with a B.A. Interdisciplinary Urban Studies in 2011. He is currently the president of the Humanities Alumni Association.

A talk Kwende gave to Ottawa’s “Cultural Mornings” speaker series (2017):

The following profile appeared originally in Carleton’s Alumni Magazine.

THE CULTURE HAWK:

KWENDE KEFENTSE, BA/11, MUNICIPAL PLANNER, CITY OF OTTAWA

By Jennifer Campbell

people - kwende kefentse

Municipal cultural planner Kwende Kefentse did exactly what Carleton University’s dean of arts and social sciences John Osborne suggests one should do with a BA: explore. He figured out what he wanted “to know about” and then found a way to study exactly that.

He started in the Bachelor of Humanities program, a small interdisciplinary program that presents the history of Western civilization in different subject areas, including religions of the world, ancient philosophy, literature/fine arts and, finally, political science and political philosophy.

“You end up reading primary texts instead of books about the books, which is great,” Kefentse says.

In his fourth year, he struggled to find a professor to supervise his directed study idea, which was to explore how urban culture and hip hop are connected. In the end, he found a film course called Cinematic Cities, and through that, he was able to crystallize his ideas. He ended up taking architecture and geography classes to finally bring the paper together.

“In the end, probably at my mom’s urging, I combined four years of humanities, film and geography to get my BA,” he says.

The 31-year-old is also a DJ, and in 2005, while he was studying, he was writing for the Ottawa Xpress weekly paper. Through that job, he met writer Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist and now a professor at the University of Toronto. Florida hired Kefentse to write the “creative class exchange” blog for his think-tank.

“Through that, I ended up connecting with someone at city hall, and then they ended up creating this job where I’d work on the renewal of the city’s cultural plan,” he recalls. “I work with the community to develop a strategy for arts, culture and heritage.” He started that, his current job, in 2009.

“All the things I’ve done led to this job that plays to all the strengths I developed in school,” he says. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as a cultural developer job, an occupation that crossed the aspects I was pursuing academically. To have something there for me that was well tuned to those interests, I think that’s really cool. My BA was unconventional—there were a lot of twists and turns. I knew what I wanted to know about, and I used all the resources at the university to try and put that together for myself. That’s one of the values of the BA—that you can do that.”

Kwende Kefentse is a Cultural Planner with the City of Ottawa.

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