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Taxi rank tea

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Titre : Taxi rank tea

Auteurs : Marielle Agboton

Participants : Zen Marie,  Anathy Hadebe, Laurenci Dow, Marielle Agboton, Melissa Bennett, Tatenda Magaisa

Lieu : Noordt Taxi rank (terminus des bus taxi)

date(s) : septembre 2012

Durée (processus jusqu’à présentation ou à préciser) : dispertion 20 minutes lors d’une matinée

Texte descriptif (médium, genre, concept, questionnements, critiques…) : Elaboration de groupes respectant un équilibre de sécurité (Le taxi rank Noordt est réputé dangereux pour les femmes et touristes). Répartition des participants selon le genre, la couleur de peau et la connaissance des lieux. Tentative de contact avec occupants du lieu en offrant  une boisson. Discussion autour du lieu, de son fonctionnement et de ses légendes.

Restitution écrite de la discussion entretenue avec les hawkers (vendeurs de rue).

Perspectives : Projet inclu au sein d’un travail de groupe effectué autour de la question de l’individu par rapport à son environnement. Projet qui a donné lieu à la publication Chameleons.

Axes de recherche Play/Urban : People as infrastructure, Body politics

Protocoles (collectif) d’action : Offrir un prétexte à discuter dans un lieu où l’on ne s’arrête pas en raison de son identité (genre, apparence).


Monday to Wednesday 17th to 19th September

“Do you know where to buy airtime?”
“please come and show me where to buy airtime?”
“hello baby, sweetie”
“where are you going? You can come with me.”
“you are white, you are going to make money out of my photos.’
“you are tourists ne?”
“do not wear such reavilng clothes around here, they will touch your bum and your legs.”
“sweetie, come inside my taxi.”i
“hello my sweetie, hello my sister.”
“you girls in your school uniform, I like to watch you, I like to watch you when you leave school.”
“you must smile, that’s why you don’t get pregnant, you must get your vaginas checked, this stress is a modern disease.”
“are you from Switzerland, Cameroon?”
“you are my one.”
“my African princess, tell me your wish.”
“beautiful eyes, I love your skin colour.”

“nenzani lana?” (what are you doing here?)
“ebelungu bafunani lana?” (What are white people doing here?) “these white people taking films to make money out of us.”
“Yini lena?” (what’s this?)
“muntuzi” (sweetie)
“makoti” (wife)
“umanginga shada nalosisi ngeke ngiye ekhaya ngahlala naye ngim- buke.” If I were to marry you- I wouldn’t go home, I would never go home, I would sit and look at you.)
“I want money, white people are here.”
“Ngamla, Qonqa, Twasa.” (white people.)

Hey sweetie – Tatenda Magasa


Taxi Rank tea – Récits d’expérience



Tetus – from Kenya

selling stuff for women
begin to work here 2 months ago
NO TEA, the girls who are selling tea are only there in the morning. NO CIGARETTES, he doesn’t smoke.
I can’t offer something.
He works from 8am to 5pm. Always in the same place.
Thinks it’s safe for women.
Looks nice.
No story to tell.
Should have licence to sell. Should ask to the office to be here.

No problem, no trouble. Man walking behind us

think we want to sell like him. He ‘s trying to get some permission to sell in this taxi rank, he will go to the office.
he plans to sell cigarettes and sweets. He’s young. He ever did that job in an other street, he wants to have several corners.

Other man behind Tetus
Afraid. Didn’t want to talk.
Lady ( can’t remember her name)

She eats some ice cream. She works at SPAR shop. taking a break for lunch.
She never had problem in this area.
She knows that there is shotguns sometimes.

«You look different!» Tatenda from Pakistan Me from Cameroun

She notices my french accent.
She said she’s from Congo, I asked her to speack in french with me. She refuses, of course she lied, she’s obviously from here!

Man lady’s friend

«He sells fruits.»
«No i’m a taxi driver.» «sell fruits?»
«taxi driver?»
«sell fruits in a taxi?»

Ok doesn’t matter, he’s now speaking zoulou.


Our first exploration of the taxi rank involved us taking cameras into the space and walking around with no intention of directly aiming the camera at nothing specific.
From Keleketla! Library, we walked to the security office to get an escort as they had informed us that it was not safe for us to go into the space with cameras.

We then went on to walk around the space and the cameras and our collective presence immediately ignited some tensions.
We walked to one side of the taxi rank where we met Titus who had been working in the rank for two months. To work there he had to ask permission from the security guards. He sells scarves and earrings for women. He was selling his stuff next to two people who were selling cigarettes and sweets.We talked to him about the taxi rank, which he knows very little about. When we asked him about tea he said no one else sells tea except for the women who come in the morning.

We then spoke to him about where he is from and he assumed be- cause I could understand some Swahili that I was from Tanzania…and we had to stop talking because the police arrived…
We then spoke to Thandi, a woman who was on a lunch break from spar where she works. We asked her about tea and she told us that we can also get it from the women who sell it in the morning.When
we asked her where she was from, she then lied and said she was Congolese but when Marielle attempted to speak to her in French she then told us she was actually from the Eastern Cape. She said that she often had to fight off men in the taxi rank, who get very grabby.
She told us that the reason most people will refuse to talk to us is because we look different, she thought I was Ethiopian and Marielle Cameroonian.
People only stay in that area between the hours of eight am and five pm.
Both of them pointed out that women only come in to sell things or buy things and use the taxis but they don’t dwell there.
Titus mentioned that the space is run by the security guards, not the taxi drivers, But the security says the space is run by the taxi drivers. Others refused to speak to us. We also realized that the browness of our skin gave us an advantage but only to those who were also viewed as foreign.


Zen and I started off my speaking to a man at the entrance of Noord Taxi Rank, we asked him where we could buy tea and he directed
us to a number of boxes across the road. We started off by asking a hawker at the shops we were directed to, where we could buy tea and we were directed into a grocery store that looked like an equivalent of pick ‘n pay. At the counter we asked if they had tea and they said that they had none. We were then directed toward more shops on the other side of the rank. After speaking to another two people, we stopped

and asked a lady sitting down where we could find tea. She pointed toward the Butchery. Deciding that we would not find tea at a butchery we continued back in the same direction where we stopped at a kiosk. Wondering around browsing the shop for tea, a man with an orange

t- shirt and a rotten tooth told us to go to the Pick ‘n Save store which was right next to the taxi rank. Zen and I walked quickly toward the shop where a lady was mopping the floor. We asked the lady at the till for tea, which they did have. We offered her tea as well but she said no. We requested three cups of five roses, with two sugars and fresh milk. Zen offered a coldrink instead, she accepted. In return she had to tell us a story. She told us about a confrontation between a taxi driver and a police officer. When the taxi driver suggested they fought without weapons the policeman left. We got our tea after a few minutes of waiting. They were in polystyrene cups and covered in glad wrap. We took the three cups of tea and proceeded to walk back to the first man we spoke to. Zen gave him his tea and said that he didnt want it but Zen insisted. He was happy. We began speaking to his mother who has been working there for twelve years. She told us how some of her goods get stolen on a daily basis but she can not say anything because it is risky. She went on to picking up a blue suitcase containing a ven- ding machine as she called it, which looked like a telephone that sold airtime. She told us that people did not understand this concept at first but she ended up explaining it and people now buy a lot of airtime from her. She also spoke about women wearing revealing clothes and em- phasised this point by touching my legs and squeezing my bum. She said if women wear revealing clothes they should expect a reaction. We ended off the coversation by thanking her for her time. We shook hands. She told us her name, I don’t remember it. We then walked away.


Tea for Conversation

Working in pairs we walked through Noord taxi rank, offering tea in exchange for a story from people familiar with the space. Stopping to buy two loos cigarettes from a vender Anathi and I asked where we would be able to buy tea. The vender gave us directions to a near by corner store. There we met an older gentleman seated for his lunch we decided to offer him a cup of tea. Unable to speak English Anathi, continued the conversation in Zulu. He asked him to relay a personal story about the space. The man’s face was slightly scared and his eyes glazed. After thanking the man for his time Anathi explained to me that the man is homeless, he described Noord as a place of anxiety. He had described a feeling of fear being homeless and living in the city.

While Anathi concluded the conversation with the older man a young boy approached me, we decided to offer him the second cup of tea. He explained to me that he lived in a near by shelter, being incredibly young he told us older boys bully him. Despite being so you the boy had a sense of resilience. He asked us for bread we decided to buy him a sandwich; he then continued to tell his story to Anathi in Zulu. Like the older man he too emphasized the harshness of living in the city especially being homeless at such a young.

We decided to interact with more people; we were directed to a ba- kery near the petrol station next to Noord where we could buy more tea. Sitting outside the bakery were two women, not having spoken to women we decided to approach them. We discovered the two women were mother and daughter. The mother held a conversation with me English while Anathi spoke to her daughter in Zulu. She explained to me that she no longer felt safe in Johannesburg city; she kept refer- ring to the past as being safer. When I asked her too specify what she meant by the “past” she continued to explain that during the Apartheid regime things foe her were safer. People she felt had a sense of unity and hope – a mentality that she feels has disappeared in present day South Africa. She no longer trusts any one and wont travel anywhere alone, she pointed at me and told me that she doesn’t trust me and that I shouldn’t trust her.

Walking back to Keleketla we decided to give our last cup of tea to a young woman sitting under a canopy by her stall. She accepted the tea but was reluctant to talk to us, we then asked the people sitting with her if any of them would be willing to talk to us. At first being reluctant as- suming we were journalists, after assuring them that we were not from any newspaper, one of the men was willing to speak to us. He gave us a brief description of his job/ life he explained that he was a Nigerian and had been working in Noord for a while “everyday 24/7”. “We sell hairpieces” assuring me they were the best quality available because he “imports” them. This is why he explained he is able to make money even though there are many other people also selling hairpieces – his are regarded as the best.


Jaby, stayed in Joburg for over 20 years, he’s homeless.
-Complained about the people from Nigeria rob people and they end up taking the blame. he claimed to know all the taxi ranks and where the taxis go, he sais thats his job.
-Mistaken us for tourist’s and wanted help with food and money.
– Also talked about how dangerous Joburg is and how cold it gets espe- cially for him since he was homeless.

-Came from Durban, had no money and parents passed away. He has stayed in Joburg for over 5 years. His only 18 this year.
-He says life is difficult for him especially since he is young and the other hobbos take advantge of that , especially when he gets money. They take it away from him. He lives in a shalter.
-Also mistaken us for tourist.

Mother and daughter
-mother- She says Joburg is different from what it used to be before the end of Apartheid. She says life was different than because it was safe. Everyone who was in Joburg had a purpose, you couldn’t come to Joburg just to wonder around like today.
Also shops where cheaper and sold different things, unlikes now where every shop sells the same thing. She says she’s been in Joburg yes- terday and today doing shopping and she still has not found anything. Also she says people now are not to be trusted because Joburg has a lot of people who don’t belong here. People from other countries. She says apartheid life was better.
-daughter- Said taxi rank is safer because no one will start problems with you. And no one will rob you, but around the rank that is where it s most dangerous. Because there is different kind of people and also it s congested. She complained about the overcrowding and the undeam space around the rank.

James, nigerian
In Joburg 24 hours and works by selling hair piece and his job is going well and he can’t complain he said.


We went as a group to the taxi rank, going first to the security office. The security seemed reluctant for us to be walking around taking photos in the rank. We said that we were not taking pictures but only wanted to speak to people. He agreed but wanted to walk with us. We then split into three groups. I was with mellissa. The rule was to go and ask a hawker to give us directions as to where we could buy tea, go buy the tea and go back to the hawker giving them the tea. We would then ask them if they could tell us a story about the taxi rank.

We met a hawker who was wearing a white shirt and check shorts.
He had straightened hair that he wore tied up. We asked him where
we could buy tea and he directed us to the boxer supermarket. As we approached the boxer supermarket we were not sure if he meant that we could buy tea inside the shop or outside. Seeing nothing outside we went in. they had no tea. As we walked on to find a tea seller, mellissa and I found that we didn’t agree on the the hawkers gender. Mellissa thought that the hawker was a she, I thought that she was a he. I qua- lified this by saying that maybe he just a pretty he, which was why she thought that he was a she. We asked three more hawkers where we could buy tea but none of them knew. A street hairdresser directed us to a supermarket on the south east corner of the taxi rank. This shop said that they were sold out of tea. We continued to walk east on the southern perimeter of the rank and stopped at a chisa nyama to ask them if they had tea. They thought that we wanted to buy tea bags, we said that we wanted prepared tea that we could drink. The man at the chisa nyama said that we should try ‘pick and save’ which was diago- nally opposite his shop. We got to this shop, which was a take away chip shop type place. Finally, we were able to buy tea! We ordered three teas with fresh milk (not powder) and sugar. I asked the woman behind the counter if she wanted a tea, she said no, but said said she would have a cold drink.
I bought her a coke, and asked her if she could tell us a story about the taxi rank. At first she was reluctant but then told us a story about a taxi driver who was fighting with a policeman. The taxi driver challenged the policeman to take his gun off, and fight him with his fists. He said that in a fair fight he would beat him up. The policeman did not comply.

We took the teas back to the first hawker. As we walked mellissa and
I continued to discuss the hawkers gender. She was insistent that the hawker was a woman. We decided to make a ten rand bet on the mat- ter. When we got back to the hawkers stall, we found that he (she) had left. As we waited, I realized that we had done a full circle of the taxi rank, arriving where we had started. The hawker returned shortly and I presented him with his tea. He said that he didn’t want tea, but I insis- ted and laughingly he accepted, probably thinking that we were quite strange. An older woman with a backpack on greeted us and we gree- ted her back. We talked to her. She told us that the hawker we first met was her son. Yes! I won ten rand! We asked if she could tell us a story, she laughed. Mellissa asked her questions about being a hawker, what they sold, if her son worked with her etc. She said that she has worked as a hawker at noord taxi rank for 12 years. She was selling fruit, sweets, loose cigarettes and air time. She had a case which housed a machine that automatically uploaded air time to cell phones. No scrat- ching or punching in of codes necessary. She said that it made things much easier, but that people took a while to get used to it, however now most people understood how it worked and appreciated its conve- nience. She went on to tell us that her son had dropped out of school, but only worked sometimes with her. He spent most of his time in the township. She didn’t say which one. She told us that people often stole things from her. They would take fruit or sweets and just run away. She said that she could do nothing to stop this, it just happened almost every day. She said that you needed to be calm and not fight.

Mellissa asked her again to tell us a story, and she related an incident about two years ago, where women wearing mini skirts were assaulted. Taxi drivers beat them and tore their clothes off. She said that things used to be bad but that now things were better. We thanked them and asked them their names before we left. Unfortunately I forgot their names.


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