65% of the inhabitants in Yeoville are foreign African nationals > Congo > Nigeria > Angola > Botswana > Comoros > DRC > Ethiopia > Ghana > Ivory Coast > Liberia > Malawi > Mali > Togo > Zambia > Zimbabwe You’ll find ‘little Congo’, ‘little Nigeria’; ‘little Ethiopia’’. Walking down the street you can see the difference in facial structure, physique and dress.
From the Congo to the Ivory Coast, through Joburg via Yeoville, then to Cape Town and a restaurant called Primi Piatti.
But although it’s colourful and diverse there is a much harder reality
“ The ability of these residents to gain and retain access to the most basic conditions of urban life is … undermined by corrupt and poorly managed immigration policy. Refugees and asylum seekers are denied access to basic health services, housing and education; faced with arbitrary arrests, detentions, extortion, xenophobic attacks and more. They are isolated and excluded from mainstream South African society and their dominant engagement is with each other and with home in far away places.” Terry Kurgan
“ Yeoville is a space of dislocation, insecurity, uncertainty, transience, neglect, crime, contest, exploitation and the transgression of boundaries. And, amongst old Yeoville residents, it is a space of romance, nostalgia and memories of another city altogether. Yeoville is a manifestation of the city making its new identity, finding itself anew, and setting down fresh roots. Again.” Terry Kurgan
It’s an art work: An exhibition, A book and A community web project. It’s a cultural investigation and intervention.
Key players: Terry Kurgan: public realm art projects John Spiropoulos: urban redevelopment and management University of the Witwatersrand Department of Forced Migration Studies Funding from the Ford Foundation.
“ The project aims to investigate, record and make visible the experience of the people who are living there, and to consider the implication of these reflections for the decisions of policymakers, city planners and designers. It will contribute to a bottom-up policy making process, one whose content will, through the intermediation of the project, draw on the everyday lived experience of urban residents themselves. It is hoped that the knowledge thus gained will help promote urban strategies whose central concerns are the human rights and wellbeing of all city residents.” Terry Kurgan
For the past 3 years I have been researching internet cafés in Johannesburg, exploring concepts of communal computing and shared spaces of use. I was introduced to the project because Yeoville is one of three internet café hubs we identified in Johannesburg. Yeoville has over 20 cafe’s in a 5-7 block radius.
So the concept for the web-based community intervention became obvious from the way people were living: > Negotiate with internet café owners to make the Hotel-Yeoville website the default home page on all their terminals. > This would deliver a community website for an actual community in a specific geographic location.
For this phase of the project we used five researchers for 3 research exercises. Researchers included: John, myself and Sephiwe (South Africa), Gini (from Cameroon) and Michael (from Nigeria).
We used a web based questionnaire on a temporary Hotel Yeoville website. It was the default home page on terminals of 6 of the internet cafés in the area. Total responses: 31
We covered 6 cafes, interviewed all their owners (or managers) and we interviewed 66 users in these café.
Research overview: the user Foreign African nationals, 20 – 40 years old, who’ve been here for between 1 and 5 years. In most cases the intention or desire is to stay. English and French are the primary languages spoken. Primary reasons for come to SA: study, work, business, asylum seeking & quality of life (in that order). Of those interviewed, only 9% are actually studying at present. Most are educated (with some form of degree) but 63% of those interviewed are out of work. Most are not working in the fields they studied in or desire to. The savvy begin new businesses, other often become hawkers, chefs, waiters, etc. Plans for the future: education, creating businesses or getting better jobs, creating families, fulfilling a social role, travel and to achieve a better quality of life. Personal dreams, hopes, desires: centred around owning businesses and further study. Other dreams centred around investing in their own countries (also in despotic leaders being removed). Others wanted peace, and to be able to live in South Africa without the fear of discrimination and xenophobia. Many hoped and dreamed to find jobs in their chosen profession. Others had philanthropic concerns, such as assisting those that were poverty stricken and those with HIV /AIDS.
Research overview: the café 40% have been used the Internet for 1 - 5 years. 45% for 5 - 10 years. Most have learnt to use the Internet at Internet Cafes. They use email, phone and sms. 71% use cafe's more than once a day. People are using the ancillary services within the cafe's too. 40% of people are using more than one cafe, 60% seem to have a close relationship with the cafe (considering that most use it more than once a day). Using these cafes is closely related to proximity to where they live, meeting friends, going to shops or they work nearby. 30% of cafe users have a PC at home and an Internet connection and 22% have access at a place of study or work but they're using cafes anyway. The main reason given is cost of connecting at home and being away from the office or place of study.
Research overview: use Top uses of the Internet (in highest to lowest order): email, keeping in touch with friends / family, looking for jobs, instant messaging, research / study, running a business, seeking information from Government websites, chat rooms, reading blogs, recreation / entertainment, shopping (25%) banking (15%). The biggest benefit to this community appears to be the fact that communication is cheap, accessible and fast on the internet. It keeps people connected, and makes the world smaller for them. Some people felt that it helped them to meet new people. Others felt that it was an important source of information, breaking barriers and enabling people to learn and grow.
Accommodation finding; job seeking; advertising personal services; naturalisation / legal help / rights; communication with friends & family
Support groups; community news
Buying & selling; communication with Yeoville municipality
"Would the following info be useful"
1. Naturalisation / legal / rights
2. Medical / child support
3. Crime alerts
4. Educational resources
5. Local entertainment
6. Arts & culture related
1. Notice boards
2. Conversation forums
3. messaging (IM, chat, Skype)
4. Classifieds / adverts
"Interacting with the local community" 1. Messaging others (email, other) 2. Personal profiles, sharing experiences, reading / viewing others 3. Sharing personal interests / creative activities (e.g. art works, photos, music) 4. Support groups Other noteworthy ideas / suggestions: - Map of Yeoville - Crime statistics - HIV awareness - Religious & sporting programmes - Seeking funding for studies - Study related information such as permits, where to study - Clubs, games for kids - Help for abandoned kids - Teaching reading for kids under the age of 10 - Recognise the existence of the gay community - Ways to learn about new technology - Unite Africa through the site - Help with finding clubs (such as a soccer club) - Help with feeling safe in Yeoville - Women's rights and support - Teachings on other African cultures and languages - Expose corruption
Thanks to Terry Kurgan and Mark Lewis for their permission of use of photography. Thanks to Terry Kurgan for the various extracts from documents and presentations she has made which I’ve used here. end