urbanter

Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

The Daily GRIND Part II: My Day-To-Day in Johannesburg

In my last blog post, The Daily GRIND Part I, I briefly discussed some events and activities I am working on in the precinct. In this post, I hope to provide more color on my surroundings and context in Jeppestown and Johannesburg.

I spend my nights in the neighborhood, just about a block from the GRIND office, on Fox St. Curiocity backpackers is owned and operated by Bheki Dube, an well-known local photographer and community leader. Whether I talk with retailers, young people, or religious leaders, everyone knows Bheki, and they all respect him greatly.

Home for now is at Curiocity, a hostel, backpacker’s lodge, and bar.  Curiocity is always abuzz with local residents, and staying with Bheki has given me the opportunity to meet dozens of talented local young people.

Home for now is at Curiocity, a hostel, backpacker’s lodge, and bar. Curiocity is always abuzz with local residents, and staying with Bheki has given me the opportunity to meet dozens of talented local young people.

On my way to work, I often stop at Eddy’s Bakery, also on Fox St.  Eddy is a Nigerian immigrant who came to South Africa looking for a job.  He found an old confectionary and decided to start his own business.  Eddy makes delicious fresh bread each day, and also serves pastries, coffee, and tea.  The two of us are good friends.

Eddy and Precious sell bread, coffee, tea, and pastries to customers on a Wednesday morning.

Eddy and Precious sell bread, coffee, tea, and pastries to customers on a Wednesday morning.

Next to the GRIND office, I pass an abandoned building which houses 54 families and a thriving recycling operation. This building’s residents inhabit the ground floor without documentation, and run a recycling center on the roof. Maboneng developers termed it a ‘hijacked’ building, and GRIND is hoping to initiate a project that gives the building a renovation, running water, and a new recycling space while still keeping the 54 families in their building.

Fifty-four families live in this ‘hijacked’ building and run an informal recycling operation on top.  Today is recycling day.

Fifty-four families live in this ‘hijacked’ building and run an informal recycling operation on top. Today is recycling day.

A walk to the GRIND offices along Fox Street in Maboneng.

A walk to the GRIND offices along Fox Street in Maboneng.

The GRIND building itself is a beautiful place. It was once a large industrial building home to printing companies and other factories, and the large concrete warehouses reflect that history. The GRIND office is on the top floor. GRIND director Alice Cabaret has done a fabulous job of turning this once empty industrial space into a thriving, creative studio hub. GRIND is filled with work tables, innovative urban exhibits, chalk boards for creative collaboration, and even a message table and small bed. GRIND also has one of the best views of downtown Johannesburg; it is an inspiring place to work, to say the least.

The GRIND studio.  My desk is in the foreground.  With one of the best views of Johannesburg’s skyline out the window, the GRIND space is inspirational!

The GRIND studio. My desk is in the foreground. With one of the best views of Johannesburg’s skyline out the window, the GRIND space is inspirational!

The backside of the GRIND building.  This building used to be filled with industrial warehouse space for printing factories and other operations.

The backside of the GRIND building. This building used to be filled with industrial warehouse space for printing factories and other operations.

I love my GRIND office space, but most of my day-to-day work with GRIND takes place outside of the office.  I often walk the streets of Maboneng and Jeppestown talking to local residents, meeting talented young people, and thinking about how best to put together a community museum.

A Walk Around the Neighborhood:  Maboneng and Jeppestown

A short walked around the neighborhood from the GRIND office provides a good overview into the changing urban dynamic of east inner city Johannesburg.  GRIND has done a fabulous job initiating public art and mural projects, and Maboneng is also filled with public spaces and exhibits of participatory urbanism.  Maboneng does a good job of taking spaces like highway underpasses or vacant street areas, for example, and adding artistic and creative elements.  Participatory chalkboards allow residents (new and old alike) to join into the artistic conversation.  Larger murals (pictures below) are full portraits of Jan Van Riebeeck (Dutch colonial administrator and founder of Cape Town), Nelson Mandela, and a Springbok drinking water.

Street art in Maboneng.  Can you decipher the meaning?  Do you find it ironic?

Street art in Maboneng. Can you decipher the meaning? Do you find it ironic?

Kruger Street in Maboneng.  The building on the left is the Museum of African Design (MOAD), and the building on the right is an abandoned space that used to house the Cosmopolitan Jazz Club.  Maboneng hopes to re-open a jazz club in this same historic building.

Kruger Street in Maboneng. The building on the left is the Museum of African Design (MOAD), and the building on the right is an abandoned space that used to house the Cosmopolitan Jazz Club. Maboneng hopes to re-open a jazz club in this same historic building.

Full murals of Jan Van Riebeek and Nelson Mandela boxing take up the entire wall.  Street art like this can be found on the side of buildings throughout the Precinct.

Full murals of Jan Van Riebeek and Nelson Mandela boxing take up the entire wall. Street art like this can be found on the side of buildings throughout the Precinct.

Full murals of Jan Van Riebeek and Nelson Mandela boxing take up the entire wall.  Street art like this can be found on the side of buildings throughout the Precinct.

Full murals of Jan Van Riebeek and Nelson Mandela boxing take up the entire wall. Street art like this can be found on the side of buildings throughout the Precinct.

GRIND works to add street art in otherwise desolate locations, like highways underpasses or sidewalks spaces in front of abandoned lots.

GRIND works to add street art in otherwise desolate locations, like highways underpasses or sidewalks spaces in front of abandoned lots.

GRIND works to add street art in otherwise desolate locations, like highways underpasses or sidewalks spaces in front of abandoned lots.

GRIND works to add street art in otherwise desolate locations, like highways underpasses or sidewalks spaces in front of abandoned lots.

GRIND works to add street art in otherwise desolate locations, like highways underpasses or sidewalks spaces in front of abandoned lots.

GRIND works to add street art in otherwise desolate locations, like highways underpasses or sidewalks spaces in front of abandoned lots.

Participatory street art exhibitions allow residents—old and new alike—to dynamically “draw” their Maboneng experience and shape the artistic product.

Participatory street art exhibitions allow residents—old and new alike—to dynamically “draw” their Maboneng experience and shape the artistic product.

Participatory street art exhibitions allow residents—old and new alike—to dynamically “draw” their Maboneng experience and shape the artistic product.

Participatory street art exhibitions allow residents—old and new alike—to dynamically “draw” their Maboneng experience and shape the artistic product.

That’s all for now!  I hope this post provided a bit more local color as you picture the Maboneng / Jeppestown area, and GRIND’s work in the precinct.  More soon!

A street scene in the developed portion of the Maboneng Precinct.  Both sides of the street consist of high-end apartments and ground floor fashion and retail stores.

A street scene in the newly developed portion of the Maboneng Precinct. Both sides of the street consist of high-end apartments and ground floor fashion and retail stores.

 

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2 responses to “The Daily GRIND Part II: My Day-To-Day in Johannesburg

  1. atomasso July 10, 2014 at 7:17 am

    so interesting!!! love the pictures!

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