RECLAIMING THE CITY
From Diepsloot in the north to Orange Farm in the south, they’ll be out on the streets and walking around their neighbourhoods. Next month the second annual #WalkMyJozi will take place, led by residents of 11 neighbourhoods, who will take others on walkin
Storyteller Baeletsi Tsatsi, who works in the Johannesburg inner city, says many people are intimidated by the neighbourhood because they go there to work early in the morning and are quick to leave when they knock off because of its notoriety.
“There’s a perception that the city is a dangerous place to be and that you’re going to get mugged. We’ve got Red Ants; the minute somebody mugs you people are quick to scream ‘Vimba!’ (“Block this person!”)
“Our walk will explore underground libraries and booksellers to dispel the idea that people don’t read because a lot of people who come into the city are black people,” she said.
Tsatsi says the motive for her walk is to dispel the idea that the city is too dangerous to enjoy, as well as to encourage literacy among its people.
“The walk will give people the safety to walk in the city within a group. It will encourage people who wouldn’t necessarily walk in the city.”
Tsatsi says her role as a storyteller is to change those limiting ideas and to capture the city using the sense of magic that comes from traditional stories. Her experience with traditional African stories will give people a new set of eyes with which to look into the city and see its magic, she says.
“We are the people on the side of the road waiting for a bus or taxi, and that’s where the independent bookseller sits and we are his customers.”
Her team will stop at booksellers’ stalls where people sell amazing books that you wouldn’t find at mainstream bookstores and in libraries.
At the stops the walkers will meet authors and storytellers.
Art activist Tshidiso Setshogwe, from Orlando, Soweto, will be on the heritage trail in his neighbourhood.
“We will walk in Orlando, Soweto, and explore heritage sites, as well as the culture and sound of Soweto,” he said.
“Soweto has a soundtrack, including people who clap and tap, choir members rehearse in the back yard – and you can hear a saxophone from the next street and kids singing in other streets.”
He says his walk will take place on the road between Orlando East and West which is known by the community as “killer road” due to the lives that it has claimed through road accidents.
He says the walk from Orlando West to Orlando East is about making people experience Soweto’s “soundtrack” and “about exploring the art and music that we have in Soweto and we’ll get brass bands and theatre groups to join us”.
For Setshogwe, Soweto represents a “mini-Africa” because of its diverse people.
He says it constantly represents hope and change for all Africans, especially the youth.
“I’ve met people from Kenya who always wanted to come to Soweto and it’s because of the explosive spirit that we’ve always carried,” he says.
“As you know we’ve lost our mother Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and she always told me: ‘Never throw away the art because once you lose your art you lose your voice.’
“As much as we don’t have sufficient arts facilities, programmes or funding from government, we find ourselves in a position where the youth’s energy is misdirected,” said Setshogwe.
He says Soweto could be turned into an arts hub because there are many skilled and creative people whose talents are not explored.
This place holds the neverending hope of the African child, he says.
“There are people from London and New York who come to visit Soweto every day.
“It is a global community that has not unleashed its potential because it was designed to be a dump and for us it became our hope and home.”
The small four-room houses have created imaginations for mansions that we would own later, he said.
Salma Patel, curator of the Fietas Museum in Pageview, is partnering the Sophiatown Heritage Centre for her walk which is centered around their shared history of forced removals during apartheid.
“There’s nowhere in the Johannesburg Central Business District that young born-frees can go and see the geographical spatial planning of apartheid and its effect on communities,” she says.
Patel says the first of the city’s forced removals took place in Sophiatown and the “success” of the apartheid nationalist ideology is evident there, which will educate young people about land dispossession.
Pageview, which was known as Fietas when it was still a mixed community in the earlier years of apartheid, is now home to the Fietas Museum, which will be the second part of Patel’s walk. The walk will start in Sophiatown with a visit to a church, local businesses and the Sophiatown Heritage Centre and will then proceed to the Fietas Museum.
“The Fietas Museum will showcase the destruction of forced removals and ineffectual governance regarding land dispossession and how long it takes to settle land claims,” says Patel. She says a visit to Fietas Museum is an opportunity to contextualise apartheid for young people who have “no concept of it”.
“I think taking the theory and applying it is a fantastic way to learn about South African history.”
In Pageview, says Patel, people will see the Cape Malay architecture reflected in the mosque as well as a visit to two homes of historical significance around forced apartheid-era removals. “I will show people part of Pageview that was destroyed and how the nationalists built homes for white occupation.”
Last, she says, we will go to Fietas Museum which is a struggle site of great importance because the building is the only one in its original state.
The house, Fietas Museum, has sentimental value for Patel because she inherited it from her parents and has been living there for the past 30 years.
“I decided to convert the double-storey house into a museum and residence and I live upstairs.”
The walk, she says, will educate people not only about the dispossession of land but how it also deprived black people economically.
Ayanda Mnyandu has had a passion for skateboarding from an early age. But little did he know that he would use his hobby to empower those around him. His magic word is fun, which he prioritises for his walk around the inner-city neighbourhoods of Marshalltown and Newtown.
He says they will go on skateboarding tours from Beyers Naude square through the two areas.
“The idea is to firstly get people on skateboards because it’s a lot of fun.
“Secondly, it’s for people to engage with the inner city,” said Mnyandu.
He says skateboarding will fit in very well with the broader #WalkMyJozi initiative but he’s always begun with the idea of people having fun before anything else.
“The skateboarding part is fun and this is just a different way for people to engage with the inner city. Jozi Walks are about building community and opening up Johannesburg to everybody.”
He says his “unique” walk will attract people with an interest in skateboarding that will ultimately open up the inner city and expose people to it.
We will move around the city and get immersed in its history and heritage and how they relate with each other, he said.
“This will be an opportunity of skating and getting an education on the city.”
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The walk will give people the safety to walk in the city within a group. It will encourage people who wouldn’t necessarily walk in the city
Salma Patel (far right)
ON HERITAGE TRAIL Tshidiso Setshogwe
NOT DANGEROUS Baeletsi Tsatsi