Just do it!
The exhibition JUST DO IT! Creative Strategies of Survival brings focus to local small scale businesses in Johannesburg and examines the challenges that they face within the global economy. Collaboratively with five emerging South African artists the project engages with Spaza Shops* in the township of Alexandra in order to learn more about this small scale entrepreneurship. Investigating daily activities, marketing strategies, social interaction and alternative business models the artists in collaboration with shop owners, customers and the greater community developed creative outcomes for the show. Art works are presented in and around the participating Spaza Shops!
The concept for JUST DO IT! Creative Strategies of Survival was developed by Katharina Rohde and was winner of the apexart New York Franchise Program 2011 that further funded the realization of the project in early 2012. Five emerging South African artists were invited by Katharina Rohde to participate and develop different artistic approaches investigating the Spaza Shop business and highlighting its challenges and chances. All projects were realized collaboratively with Spaza Shop owners, customers, employees and families over a period of two month. The day of the exhibition opening was made possible with the support of the local community who helped cleaning the street, supported with security and prepared home-made meals for visitors. During the one month exhibition period, creative skills workshops with the local community were conducted by the participating artists.
*informal convenience stores predominantly found in South African townships.
Branding 13th Avenue
Many Spaza Shop owners have been running their businesses in the township of Alexandra for years and managed to receive some sponsorship from leading brands like Coca Cola. The one question that arises is whether this branding has increased the frequency of customers to the business in comparison to their unbranded, unnamed counterparts. Working closely with owners the aim was to create unique and personalized designs to enhance the exteriors of the shops, gaining some insight into how and why each shop owner has chosen a specific mode of display and how this relates to their business idea and circumstances.
Bansela Free Shop
Bansela (Zulu) = to express thanks in a tangible form
In the Bansela Free Shop everything is free. You bring what you can and take what you need. You are not obliged to bring something in order to take something away. You are not obliged to take something if you have brought something. You can bring and take things in any order. A direct exchange does not need to take place, although it can. You can bring a book, a song, an item of food, a drink, a piece of clothing, a flower, a plant, a candle, a dance, a prayer, a picture, beads, fabric, anything you feel you can offer.
The Hustle is investigating the busy everyday routines and strategies of Spaza Shop owners in Alexandra. Oberserving the traders in their activities and conducting interviews, chances and challenges of their businesses are documented. A series of super-sized drawings are produced reflecting the observed. The drawings were presented in the street and in and around Spaza Shops during the exhibition.
The promise of something better led into something hostile
This project investigated the Spaza Shop as a social space and its challenge to survive with new formal business moving into the township. Conducting interviews with Spaza Shop owners, users, employees and family members Buhlebezwe Siwani designed a multi-lingual sound collage witnessing the social cohesion existing around this small scale entrepreneurship and testifying the disappearance of Spaza Shops due to the emergence of formal business, such as Shopping Malls.
During the exhibition a closed-down Spaza Shop was re-activated and headphones installed for visitors to listen to the sound collage. Providing tape, chalk and markers visitors were invited to interact with the space and to create a collage of what a Spaza Shop is and could be according to ones individual interpretations and imaginations.
Impressions of the opening event
An Exhibition curated by Katharina Rohde.
Supported by apexart New York, Stiftung Sylt Quelle/jozi art:lab, SAPS Alexandra and the local community of 13th Avenue in Alexandra.
photos of the opening: apexart, Vusi Khosa
review on JHB live! Art on Alex Street
Watch on Summit TV Business and Arts South Africa