Etikettarkiv: Tanya Zack

Interview: urban planner Tanya Zack on Johannesburg


South Africa has gone through huge changes since apartheid was abolished 1990 and free elections was held 1994. One of the places that has changed the most is Johannesburg, South Africas largest city and the region’s most vibrant commercial center.

The publisher Fourthwall Books has published a beautiful series of booklets about different places in Johannesburg, most of them dominated by immigrants from other African countries. These immigrants are often very skillful entrepreneurs and they add to the character of the neighborhoods they live in.

Mark Lewis (interview + photos) has taken the photos for the booklets, urban planner Tanya Zack has written the texts. We had the opportunity to ask Zack a few questions about the books (review).

Could you tell us a little bit about the ideas behind Wake up, this is Joburg?

– I have always lived in Johannesburg and I grew up close to the inner city, in Bertrams. My worklife has often intersected with the inner city and I have a passion for its dynamism and surprise. But from around 2008 I had the opportunity through my work – doing research and policy – to work on some of the big issue areas of the inner city – such as so-called ‘bad buildings’. I became convinced that I need to spend more time in understanding and in diagnosing what I see in the city before I can hope to respond to it as an urban planning practitioner.

– I started walking the streets of the inner city and I was overwhelmed with the excitement of it. I learnt so much, saw so much I didn’t know existed in Johannesburg and also simply encountered these incredible experiences of interacting with people or of just watching. I felt humbled by how little I knew and understood and how my training and experience as an urban planner equipped me in some ways to have a lens for interpreting what I was seeing but the privilege of just being in the space and looking was a whole new learning experience.


– Photography became a natural extension for me in the act of watching and I spent many months taking photos. This was also a vehicle of access because each photo required conversation, and permissions and so I got talking to people. It was still a personal project – looking, taking pictures, turning these into collages for the pleasure of absorbing and playing with the extraordinary images of the inner city.

– The next stage in this unplanned journey was the collection of stories. And Mark and I joined forces. I write the stories, he photographs them. We work together very closely so that the pictures tell a story and the words create images. In some cases the stories popped up because we encountered them in our wanderings. In other cases we set out specifically to understand a specific activity or person life and livelihood in the city. For instance we followed recyclers over a number of days and in some cases followed their stories over many months. Not every story is intended for publication. In fact most are just our personal encounter with our city.


– The selection of stories is not conscious as much as it is driven by ‘that feels right’ or that doesn’t feel right. The journey is intuitive. We are not trying to look at a particular category of person, space or activity but rather at something that feels lesser known, but important to us for understanding something about Joburg. They have mostly centered on less formal activities in the city and mostly in the inner city which is the dynamic heart of Johannesburg, often a first place of arrival for migrants and a place where buildings are constantly being re-purposed.

– We are not offering lessons or opinions on what should be done in Joburg. This is a creative task. If we can alert people in Joburg to something that feels a little lesser known and through that inspire a greater affection for this city of possibilities, we will have achieved a lot.


I have recently read the books, published by Fourthwall Books, by you and Mark and I have read another book that Fourtwall is involved in: UP UP: Stories of Johannesburg’s Highrises. Several themes are recurring in these books. One of those themes are change, rapid change on a grand scale. Several of your stories focus on marginality and informality. Can you tell us a little about that?

– One of the things the stories alert us to is people carving a livelihood on leftover space. All over Johannesburg leftover land and redundant buildings are appropriated temporarily or irregularly for living space, places of religious worship, gambling or for survivalist income generation. That space may be threatened or criminalized or ignored by the authorities. But these are often the only remaining places of opportunity for new entrants to the saturated informal economy of the inner city.

© Mark Lewis

– The most marginal of the activities and spaces that the story series explores is that of informal butchers who chop cow heads in a disused parking garage in the heart of the inner city. The condemned building that the story S’kop takes place in abuts highly formalized inner city structures and is within view of banking head offices and the cultural precinct of Newtown. It is in the shadow of the city railway station and is the backdrop to the city’s premier public art sculpture, the Firewalker.

– Several of the stories are located in leftover spaces or concern marginal economic activity. These activities that occur in the gaps of the planned and regulated city offer spaces of innovation and of experimentation with new ways of creating livelihoods and of city making.

– They may well manifest the shifts that begin as quiet moments and actions outside of the purview of formalized city planning but that over time normalize and mainstream in the urban space. More important than their absorption into the regulated city however is their value in pioneering new modes of practice – often out of necessity and at times out of a serendipitous accident of history. These fringes are the things to watch and learn from to understand how the remaking of cities happen in spite of the systems that resist change.

Humfrey, Caretaker of Ansteys
Humphrey Lenong, caretaker of Ansteys © Mark Lewis

In Tea at Anstey’s, about a beautiful art deco building where you live, you write: ”Everyone mentions crime or safety here.” Could you tell us a little bit about crime and safety in Johannesburg, and about what you think would be good policies to address these challenges?

– Violence is pervasive in Johannesburg. In all our stories there are views of crime and violence, whether violent physical crime, or violence of exclusion (such as of migrants) or xenophobia. In other research that I have conducted people speak of the violence and corruption exercised by security officers in the inner city, where violence is structural and where violence is exercised by security officers – in the form of extraction of bribes and threats or theft, as is alleged in several interviews I have conducted in the inner city – then the only action that can be taken is internal structural change within the state and security forces. This means that change has to start with cleaning up of policing and of the corrupt elements within local governance structures. It is a frightening city when people fear the law enforcement officers whose role should be protection.

© Mark Lewis

Can you tell us about the trading patterns you have observed amongst migrant traders who have featured in your stories, such as in the story Inside Out?

Johannesburg, as an arrival city for migrants, is also a city where business is fostered by low end globalisation. In our story Inside Out we note that: “Arranged on the two tiers of Senga’s stall in the Rockey Street market are foods and oils unfamiliar to native Joburgers but as familiar as their own language to those who have crossed half a continent to be here. There are varieties of beans from Malawi and the DRC, palm oil from Ghana and Cameroon, spices from Nigeria, Mopani worms and dried fish from Zambia. Face creams and antiseptic lotions from the DRC, Côte d’Ivoire and France confound the description of this and other kiosks as ‘vegetable stalls’.”

– We learn that on-going research, price comparison, attention to displays, quantity and variety also mark the work of traders in the Rockey Street market in Yeoville. It’s a vibrant market hosting an Afropolitan trader population including barbers from Nigeria, dressmakers and fabric sellers from Nigeria, South Africa and the DRC, tailors and cobblers from Ghana and Nigeria, photographers from the DRC and Mozambique, and vegetable sellers from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In the story Inside Out traders talk ‘trader language’ to one another. That story also reveals the intensity of a trade that is made possible through low-end globalization. People are trading across borders and are distributing goods to many cities using cell phones and informal networks of suppliers, bankers, transporters and traders.

”Geraldine is Zambian. Her imports of beans, peanuts, cassava, dried fish, eggplant and okra are sought after in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and East London. She sources goods for regular customers and brings in what is in good supply. She is networked to the delivery trucks that serve traders like herself across South Africa. Sometimes the trucks carry only goods for cross-border traders. But if they are carrying furniture or other large items, the drivers might agree to add an extra bag or box to their load for the market traders. Geraldine also works with individual suppliers and customers who do not use trucks, but carry bags of spices, creams or vegetables on their backs. ‘If someone is coming I tell him to bring what I need, ’ she says. The trading lattice is organised by word of mouth and transactions are recorded on scraps of paper or in notebooks. It’s low-end globalisation: boxes of goods arrive from many countries and are funnelled through backyards to be sorted and to join other goods bound for stalls, shops and restaurants across South Africa.”

She now stocks from Nigeria, Cameroon, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique and Zambia.

Winnie sitting on her bed
Winnie © Mark Lewis

You speak of harsh realities in Johannesburg but also of hope. Can yo tell us about the hopefulness you found in the Tea at Anstey’s story?

– The Anstey’s building in the heart of the inner city is an extraordinary example of inclusionary living in one building. There a unique mix of income, race and class characterizes the tenant population. It has evolved as an inclusionary housing development through an accident of history. Tea at Anstey’s tells the story of this glamorous building’s deterioration and of its reclamation and partial subdivision for affordable apartments for ownership. It also tells of the plush apartments that have been converted by artists and other creative professionals.

And of the communities within communities of this sociable urban space. One tenant calls Anstey’s ”a test tube for a real community” and the writer notes the following people entering the lift one afternoon:

”Mother with baby on back.
Teenager with finger in mouth.
Two young guys carrying backpacks and sporting big earphones under hoodies.
Teenage girl followed by toddler in pink tracksuit.
Man with cello case.
Man carrying child in Spiderman suit.
Woman wearing towel around waist and carrying bucket of water.
Tall, stylish man carrying three shirts and suit bag.
Old man with broken shoes carrying bulging bag on back.
Frowning nurse in navy trouser uniform.
Laughing guys carrying crate of beer.
Young woman in chef’s top.
Woman in large sunglasses rocking to loud music from phone. (Bright lipstick!)
Stout man with limp carrying two plastic bags filled with vegetables.
Small boy yelling, ‘Yay! New shoelaces! New shoelaces! Yay! Yay!’”

– This is not the sort of mixed community that we can readily ‘design’ into urban living. But it is the sort we hope for and the sort that, as Anstey’s shows, is possible.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Intervjuer

Photos by Mark Lewis of informal butchers in Johannesburg


S’kop (Fourthwall Books) by Tanya Zack and Mark Lewis. S’kop is short for isiKop – ”the head” – in a hybrid Zulu/Afrikaans slang.

South Africa has undergone dramatic change since apartheid was abolished 1990 and free elections were held 1994. The South African society is still changing, on many different levels, and one place in particular has changed rapidly the last decades: Johannesburg.

The big insurance and banking companies began to invest heavily in the suburbs, particularly the northern suburbs, in the 80s. This triggered a flight of white and affluent people from the inner city and more and more companies moved their headquarters as well. The inner city became less attractive, parts of it was totally neglected, but Johannesburg is a typical “arrival city”, it’s not only attracting South Africans in search for opportunity, it attracts Africans seeking opportunity from the entire region. From Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia among other countries.


In only ten years, between 2001 and 2011, the province of Guateng, of which Johannesburg is capital, grew by 30%. During the apartheid years the inner city of Johannesburg was virtually all white.  Today, according to some estimates, less than 50% of the population is South African and of them only a very small minority is white.

The photographer Mark Lewis has worked a lot in Johannesburg during the last decades, and we are very grateful that we may publish a few of his amazing images of informal butchers in Johannesburg, most of them Zimbabwean immigrants. We also asked Mark a couple of questions.

Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a photographer, how did you develop your style and interest in telling stories?

– I kind of slipped into photography. I got a job painting the interior of a photographer’s studio and ended up staying on as his assistant. I then did advertising photography and moved to London in the 80s and started doing fashion photography for magazines like Blitz and The Face. I viewed my work with those magazines, in particular Blitz Magazine, as more social documentary than fashion as it really reflected the times and in that way the fashion of the day, post punk and the beginning of Thatcherite England.

– I returned to South Africa in 1994 and started doing work with an Africa Correspondent for various German publications so that work took me into the continent and that opened my eyes to a new beginning in photography and one that I felt more comfortable with. It was when I returned to live in Joburg after a very long absence that I met up with Tanya Zack and we both discovered our mutual desire to seek and tell stories of this ever changing city, and so began the Wake Up This Is Joburg series. Tanya’s knowledge of the city through her work as an Urban Planner enabled me to look at the city in a new way.  It has also increased my interest in urbanisation and the changes that are taking place in the peri-urban landscape in Joburg, South Africa and in the rest of the continent.


S’kop is the first book in the Wake Up-series. Could you please tell us a little bit about the series and why you began to focus on the Kazerne, that ceased to function as a parking garage in the late 1980s and then became a taxi rank?

– Wake Up This Is Joburg is a series of 10 booklets, it tells the stories of 10 ordinary, interesting, odd or outrageous denizens of the city of Johannesburg. It was first conceived as one book by Tanya and myself, S’kop, but Fourthwall Books suggested we do it as 10 stories which we both liked. Tanyas and my initial thoughts were about looking at movement in and through the inner city; how urban space gets continually altered and abandoned and hijacked and also how people navigate through these altered, abandoned and hijacked spaces. So seeing cow heads pushed through the city centre in Woolworths shopping trolleys fitted exactly into what I was hoping to find. The heads are collected every day from the inner city butcheries and pushed to various abandoned or left over spaces around the city where they are chopped and cooked.

– On entering the abandoned space which had been a parking garage and then a taxi rank and was now occupied by informal butchers wielding axes and knives and smoke billowing from fires cooking huge pots of porridge and meat, and skulls and skins piled upon blackened concrete floors, it was quite an extraordinary site, the light was wonderful and we were soon welcomed into their space and allowed to witness this process. But then the extraordinary becomes the ordinary and then you can see it for what it is, which is a startling story of entrepreneurship and survival in the city.

All photos © Mark Lewis

The Kazerne, also known as Second Kazerne Parking Garage, 66 Harrison Street, was built 1963 and demolished 2013.

Ola Wihlke

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Under Bokomslag bilder och foto

Unik serie med fotoessäer om olika platser i Johannesburg

Tony Dreams in Yellow and Blue
Foton: Mark Lewis
Text: Tanya Zack
Fourthwall Books

Tea at Anstey’s
Foton: Mark Lewis
Text: Tanya Zack
Fourthwall Books

Tony och Orlinda Martins bor i ett märkligt hus i arbetarklassförorten Turffontein i Johannesburg. Lite på håll ser huset, omgärdat av staket, ut som ett sagoslott, som byggts till lite då och då. Flera bilar, som syns från gatan, är det första men inte sista tecknet på att Tony är en riktig samlare. Han kan, visar det sig, inte slänga saker som han tror att han kan laga. Och han försöker laga det mesta. Hela andra våningen är full med alla möjliga prylar som ska lagas, medan Orlinda har råkoll på ordningen på gatuplanet.

All images © Mark Lewis


Om Tony och Orlinda och deras hus handlar Tony Dreams in Yellow and Blue, den andra fotoessän i den fantastiska serien Wake up, this is Joburg, som handlar om olika platser i Johannesburg, inte direkt turistattraktioner, och om människorna som lever och arbetar där. Det är små välgjorda och snygga häften utgivna av Fourthwall Books i små upplagor, man kanske skulle kunna kalla dem rapportböcker.

Tanya Zack, som har skrivit de nyansrika texterna är stadsplanerare och särskilt kunnig inom områden som ”policy development, research, writing, project management and facilitation of community participation.” Mark Lewis, som fotat, är en erfaren frilansfotograf med Johannesburg som bas.

Tony Martins sammanfattar de viktigaste årtalen i sitt liv: ”I was born in Madeira in 1940. I married in 1964. In 1966 we came to LM [Lourenco Marques, numer Maputo]. I worked there as a builder until 1970. In 1970 I moved to Rhodesia where I worked on the railways. After ten years independence came but we stayed there. In 1990 we came to South Africa.”

Tony6© Mark Lewis

Det sagoaktiga huset är fullt med grejor som Tony skaffat och reparerat. På andra våningen lagras sånt som ännu inte fixats: ”There are paintings, tins, buckets, a baby pram, a plastic headboard mould, radios, birdcages, a gramophone, a combat helmet, a teacup, a beach umbrella, three kitchen chairs, suitcases, plugs, a press drill, a watering can, a door, a rake, an empty casing for a movie screen, three old projectors, two typewriters, a few circuit boards, odd shoes, and a Morse code radio that announces ‘this will float’.”

Tony4© Mark Lewis

Och på garagetaket: ”Two human-sized plastic beverage bottles share the garage roof with a boat, a large windmill attached to a chemical drum, and a vintage moped driven by a Michael Jackson-lookalike manikin that Tony and his wife Orlinda have named after their son who lives in London.”

Arbetarklassförorten Turffontein har blivit allt mer mångkulturell, där finns kyrkor som representerar alla tänkbara trosinriktningar, och det är många immigranter, inte minst från andra afrikanska länder, som söker sig hit. Tony har, med byggmaterial som han säger att han hittat, byggt en mindre labyrint av rum som han hyr ut till singlar eller par. Sammanlagt bor det 34 personer i tillbyggnaderna. ”They are from all over,” berättar han, ”from Zim, Mozambique, Botswana and Durban.”

Migranter och immigranter har skapat en stor efterfrågan på billiga bostäder i Johannesburgs södra förorter. Tony är långt ifrån ensam om att hyra ut rum till dem, efterfrågan är extremt stor och det driver upp priserna. Det är inte ovanligt att folk avdelar rum med gardiner och hyr ut delar av dem i andra hand. Som så många andra sektorer i den sydafrikanska ekonomin, exempelvis taxinäringen, så är den här uthyrningsverksamheten till stora delar både blomstrande och informell.

Tony Dreams in Yellow and Blue ger spännande inblickar i livet i en förort i Sydafrika efter apartheid. Tony berättar, nästan lite stolt och trotsigt, att hans tillhörigheter får vara ifred; annars är brottsligheten ett ständigt återkommande ämne i det nya Sydafrika. Det här är en fantastisk liten bok, men jag skulle gärna ha sett att texten vore lite längre.


Den sjätte volymen i serien Wake up, this is Joburg heter Tea at Anstey’s och handlar om Ansteys, en art deco-byggnad inne i Johannesburg som tidigare var ett av stadens mest exklusiva varuhus och som var känt för sin tesalong. Det är också en historisk byggnad. Här bodde exempelvis den politiskt aktive skådespelaren Cecil Williams. Nelson Mandela var utklädd till Williams chaufför när han blev tillfångatagen 1962.

Tanya Zack, som alltså skrivit texten, bor själv i en lägenhet på 12:e våningen i Ansteys. Hennes lägenhet är på sätt och vis också historisk. Skriver hon inledningsvis apropå boken: ”This is my homage to Paula Barry, South Africa’s first sex change patient, who lived in this 12th-floor apartment in the late seventies.”

Med sina 20 våningar var Ansteys Afrikas högsta byggnad på 30-talet och i decennier var det ett shoppingparadis för dem som hade råd. Men det förändrades på 70-talet. Varuhuset ersattes av mindre affärer, skräddare och kontor. Zack berättar att Ansteys var unikt också på andra sätt: ”This would be one of the first buildings in which black people could own inner city flats. ‘No one wanted to live here,’ was as true as, ‘People were desperate to move to the inner city.'”

Ansteys1© Mark Lewis

Tanya Zack pratar med åtskilliga av sina grannar, av skilda etniciteter, och pratar med dem om hur det är att bo i Ansteys. Två saker återkommer om och om igen i den här berättelsen – stolthet över att bo i Ansteys, ett vackert och välfungerande hus i innerstaden, och frågan om säkerheten. Säkerheten är god i huset, men området bedömer de flesta som osäkert. Många berättar om rån och överfall i området, också på dagtid.

Skriver Zack: ”Everyone mentions crime or safety here. Margaret Mahlangy […] says, ‘We came here for safety nearly 15 years ago. We moved out of a township where there was too much crime. Now our three kids who grew up here say, ‘Let’s go stay in a township.’ And we say, ‘No!’ We now they are safe here.'” Men Sisi Mahlangu, som också bor i huset, håller inte med: ”Don’t ever get comfortable in Joburg!”

Humfrey, Caretaker of AnsteysHumphrey Lenong är Ansteys vaktmästare © Mark Lewis

Lägenhetsmarknaden i Sydafrika, som genomgått dramatiska förändringar på kort tid, verkar kunna svänga både snabbt och kraftigt. Somliga som haft turen att tajma marknaden – det talas om en bilkapare som köpte flera lägenheter – har kunnat göra riktigt stora vinster. När priserna var som lägst var de nästan osannolikt låga: ”In the early 2000s, as the building became indebted to the muncipality, people picked up units for R5000-R10.000. Records show that in this period a few sold for as low as R100!” På 2010-talet kunde en lägenhet kosta R450.000. Dagskursen för en rand är ungefär femtio öre.

Winnie sitting on her bedWinnie © Mark Lewis

Det verkar som om det bor ovanligt mycket kulturarbetare i Ansteys: konstnärer, journalister, musiker, fotografer, designers, arkitekter etc. Men mest anmärkningsvärd är blandningen av människor, olika etniciteter, åldrar och yrkesgrupper. Och om man undantar säkerheten verkar de allra flesta vara oerhört nöjda med att bo i Ansteys i Johannesburgs innerstad. Många framhåller att det är nära till allt, och att sammanhållningen är sällsynt god.

Ansteys hotades av rivning 1989, men blev utsett till nationellt monument 1994.

Många av häftena i Wake up, this is Joburg är slutsålda, de har tryckts i 150-300 exemplar, men om jag förstår saken rätt ska de tryckas upp i nya upplagor

Ola Wihlke

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Under Bokomslag bilder och foto, Recensioner