Last week I wrote about our #JoziWalks tour of Orlando, Soweto on Saturday 19th with His and Hers Jams. The next day, Sunday I went off to Diepsloot to meet Lucky (aka Villah) Nkali of #BlackBikeProductions and his team #BikesMustRise for a cycling tour. We met at the Wot If Trust a women and youth development organization in a building made from containers, with an extensive vista overlooking much of Diepsloot. The building also functions as a business centre for Diepsloot residents.
Where is Diepsloot?
In 1995 residents of an informal settlement near Chartwell to the north of Johannesburg were due to be relocated to a new development called Cosmo City. However Cosmo City was only developed from 2005 and so Diepsloot was established as a transit camp with an initial 1124 plots. And of course these then became permanent homes to many. Diepsloot continues to expand with more people moving in monthly so that there is now a population of over 200,000. Many residents live in shacks 3 m by 2 m made from scrap metal, wood, plastic and cardboard and many lack access to basic services such as electricity, running water, sewage and rubbish removal. Back in 2011 Anton Harber (erstwhile editor of the Mail and Guardian and more lately Professor of Journalism at Wits) spent time in Diepsloot and published the excellent book by the same name in 2011. Get hold of it if you can.
Lucky and his #BikesMustRise team
Lucky Nkali introduced us to his team and gave an introductory chat on Diepsloot. Lucky who has lived in Diepsloot all his life is a graphic designer at BlackBiteProductions. He has been involved in Arts and Culture projects in Diepsloot, is committed to developing tourism to the township, and is in the process of getting cycling tours off the ground. Helping him was Cleo Matuwane who is doing a course on mobile film making (ie making films on your cell phone) and she has a screening coming up soon. Date to be confirmed. Cleo lived with her mother in a shack until they moved into an RDP house in 2013. Sello Machaba also grew up in Diepsloot, and after school he completed a Finance Degree at UNISA and now works as a Financial accountant and has moved to Cosmo City. Peter Ngobeni is involved in teaching dance to youth – we had a little snippet as he jammed to some music blasting out of a shebeen. Oh to be able to move like that! Sbu of Boombadotmobi has started a small business to avoid illegal dumping as it’s common for suburban rubble to get dumped in Diepsloot (and presumably other informal settlements) so that the drivers avoid having to pay fees at the various dumps. He facilitates the removal of rubble from construction and property development sites using vetted truck operators. All rubble is transported to landfills and building rubble crushers. Love the entrepreneurial spirit of so many against such odds.
I did ride the Argus … but that was 20 years ago. And the balance has certainly not improved since then. Common sense prevailed when I saw the busy streets and lots of pavement activity (plus in a lot of cases no usable pavements at all): I chose to rely on my two legs on terra firma. And when we came to the parts really lacking in infrastructure I was very grateful I wasn’t pedaling anything! I fear my hashtag would have been #BikesDoFall!
People eek out a living selling basic household goods
Food of all kinds for sale on the streets
Hair and nails – the other important necessities
Schools, churches and also lots of shebeens
Dear Diepsloot, I love you but you break my heart
Sadly we did not get to see the public artwork that was funded by the Johannesburg Development Agency as part of the Diepsloot public environment upgrade in 2011 and 2012. The JDA appointed The Trinity Session to curate public art for the area around the entrance to the Muzomuhle Primary School. Arising out of a community and learner workshop, led by artist Thandiwe Ngapele, a poignant love-letter/poem was developed ending Dear Diepsloot, I love you but you break my heart . This led to a street carnival written, produced and performed by Diepsloot artists and in 2012 the models produced for the poem were turned into life sized sculptures. In all over 100 Diepsloot artists & artisans were employed in the process.
So it’s another visit to Diepsloot to see the public art.
Feedback on #BikesMustRise
#JoziWalks asked for feedback on the walks we participated in and I gave mine which they published in a Press Release on 23rd May:
Liz Delmont, a guesthouse owner from Craighall Park who joined a bike ride through Diepsloot, said ‘the best thing of all was meeting the young people involved in these walks. Amazing, motivated, dedicated, passionate, focused, and such pleasant you people. I left so impressed and so enriched’.
Lucky for bicycle tours 073 126 0923 Blackbiteprod@gmail.com
Sbu for rubble collection: 060 688 4004 ; firstname.lastname@example.org