Jeppe Street Story Project

Jeppe Street in Johannesburg is a dynamic area in the CBD with many Ethiopian and Eritrean owned shops. We conducted our interactions between Jeppe Street and Bree Street and from Eloff street to Troy Street. The majority of goods in this area are mostly imported from China, such as cheap clothing, cooking utensils and accessories. There are also some shops orientated to Ethiopian and Eritrean cultural objects, as well as many Ethiopian/Eritrean style restaurants. The shops are constructed as contingently designed spaces within the shells of re-purposed modernist buildings. This space of trade and diaspora has a strong business community and many ties to other cities and countries.

My first interest in the Jeppe Street Story Project was that it intended to find ways of developing practice-led research processes within situational and participatory encounters. A second interest in the project was that it was focused on the spatial relations which result in specific places, in this case, Jeppe Street.

This project ran over an eight month period, and entailed interviews, storytelling, competitions, music, food making, mural painting, writing, photography, visualisation and image making, mapping and theoretical reflection. We had to develop a network of collaborators in the area – a task easier said than done. Story was used as a way to work with some of the complex social and business relationships in Jeppe Street. A story in Jeppe Street is created by people and goods. It is relational and it occurs between human and non-human actors in a community of people with varied, sometimes overlapping interests.