Here at the Global Regeneration Initiative for Neighbourhood Development (GRIND), I am busy with a number of events and activities.
Most centrally, I am embarking on the creation of the Maboneng Living Museum that reflects on the Maboneng Precinct’s rich history, celebrates the neighborhood’s present talent and diversity, and charts a course for the future. On a day-to-day level, this involves meeting with relevant stakeholders, talking with residents of Maboneng and Jeppestown, and writing planning proposals as the museum takes shape. I am also working to re-consider notions of security and crime—one of Maboneng’s most controversial elements—at a neighborhood level through interactive workshops. Finally, I am helping provide space and publicity for local events through the GRIND platform.
Charting a Course: The Living Museum
When I started at Maboneng, I thought of the social structure quite simplistically. I thought of “the community” as one large, diverse entity. As diverse as its members were, I did not yet know the specific communities of interest, profession, or geography that makes the Maboneng neighborhood so interesting. The diagram below might approximate how I considered the local social structure:
I have now come to see the social structure in a different fashion. “The community” is actually not merely a diverse group, but dozens of different groups that interact with Maboneng and Jeppestown—and themselves—in different ways. Some community members feel a stronger connection to Maboneng than they feel to other community groups. Some love the precinct and use the space frequently, while others loathe the Maboneng project. Such a large number of groups use the Maboneng space simultaneously that a community diagram might look more like this:
I have seen a number of different and intersecting community groups, each of which use the Maboneng and Jeppestown space differently and to different degrees. My overarching approach for the museum is to engage and interact with all of these groups. Over the past few days, I have met and interacted with a number of different groups and community members whom I am ultimately hoping to engage for the museum. These community members include members of the retailer community: a local baker who is an immigrant to South Africa from Nigeria, a classic clothing retailer, and members of the Mai Mai Zulu market, who are traditional doctors and healers. I am also talking with the local welders and a welding school. They are interested in hosting political events around the precinct, and I want to find a way to make that possible. In return, the welders might be interested in welding locally sourced material for the museum space. Rather than purchasing furniture or museum stands from around the world and importing them to South Africa, Maboneng can support a community business just around the corner by employing the welders for museum materials. Neighborhood historians are also an interesting group; they are eager to think of the museum as it considers the past, and have industrial artifacts from the neighborhood dating from before the Maboneng development project began.
The local Welding School building, where I contact and interact with many of the neighborhood’s welders.
Tackling Security and Crime in Maboneng
Johannesburg as a city has a controversial relationship with crime, which continues to rise in the city as a whole, according to the latest statistics. In the Jeppestown / Maboneng neighborhood, however, crime is not increasing even as it still remains a vexing challenge. Security guards patrol the streets day and night, even as theft continues for Maboneng residents and as some indigenous residents feel uncomfortable walking on tightly patrolled streets. I am hoping to make security more organic, so everyone feels comfortable walking Maboneng’s public streets and so that crime reduces naturally through socially cohesion. The Maboneng / Jeppestown area has great potential to become one of the safer urban zones in Johannesburg when it comes to crime if we work collaboratively.
After talking with others at the GRIND office, I am planning to organize an event and workshop on security and crime in the precinct. I hope to bring together new Maboneng residents, security guards and staff, and local Jeppestown residents for a frank discussion about crime in the neighborhood. What is working and what is not working? How can we change the way security works in Maboneng to make it both more effective and more cohesive? A big misconception among many Maboneng visitors is that crime only affects the rich and is perpetrated by poorer residents. In fact, crime affects everyone in the district, and the neighborhood’s poorer residents often have the greatest difficulty replacing stolen items. In this event, we hope to make Maboneng’s security more organic, so that everyone watches out for each other, rather than the current top-down security structure. Depending on how the conversation goes, this might take the form of a neighborhood crime line or a neighborhood watch program as opposed to traditional, top-down security methods currently employed.
A security guard (right) patrols a newly developed section of the Maboneng Precinct.
Jeppe Park SuperDream and Event Support
One thing that I am working hard to do at the GRIND space is to create a tradition of reciprocity. GRIND hosts many events for local community members and works hard to bring community members together for these events. But other people from around Jeppestown, Kensington, Yeoville, and elsewhere also plan and host events. One such event is the Jeppe Park SuperDream event on July 19. At this event, young people from Jeppestown will gather in Jeppe Park for a celebration of music, film, dance, and more. I am working hard to ensure that there is a solid GRIND presence at the event; we bring locals to our events, and now we ought to attend and support existing events.
Another such activity I hope to support is the creation of a Kensington Creative Union. One young man I spoke to is passionate about creating a GRIND-like space for his community of Kensington. Having lived there his entire life, this young man can provide the essential networks and local knowledge to get the center started, and GRIND can help provide additional support.
I am excited to meet more and more community members, and am excited to organize and attend these amazing events. Later this week I’ll post “The Daily GRIND” part II, where I will highlight my day-to-day routine in Johannesburg!
Logo and artwork, respectively, for the Jeppe Park SuperDream event on July 19.