Jeppe is a bustling neighbourhood. The streets are filled with music, goods, and people from all walks of life and from all over Africa.
For the past few weeks I have been doing research in Jeppe Street, an area in Johannesburg’s inner city. It it pretty fast paced and when you are there, you are treated like a tourist in your own city – it doesn’t help that I had three cameras with me and was snapping away.
This area sits right near a huge taxi rank, the Johannesburg art gallery, the drill hall and many large buildings. The population of the people seem to be mainly Ethiopian and many stores and menus are written in Amharic making it nearly impossible to understand, mainly you just point at something you like that someone else is eating and hope for the best.
Otherwise important words I have learnt are Tadias (hello), Buna (coffee), and Injera. Injera is not for everyone, however, I personally like it. It is local Ethiopian food consisting of a giant pancake looking thing that has the feel and texture of a wet face cloth and then some sauces and toppings varying on whether you get chicken, beef or veg. You eat with your hands so it can be a bit messy but it’s worth the experience if nothing else.
Another thing to notice in this area of the city is the noise and thus I am busy putting together a soundscape for my research. If it is not taxi hooters, people talking, walking and shouting it’s the competitive music coming from each shop and stall that draws you in to see what it holds inside.
It is a bit embarrassing to say that even though I have lived in Johannesburg all my life I had never been to this area until recently and was pleasantly surprised at how cheap everything is. A cup of ridiculously good coffee is all of R6 and an item of clothing costing up to R400 in a northern suburb shopping mall you will find for under R50 in one of the stores on the streets here thus making it a great place for any Christmas or Thanksgiving shopping. Of course there is a lot of illegal trading that goes on and as soon as you start asking too many questions (as research students do) they start to get a bit hesitant and suspicious, but this does not go for everyone. I have had so many people in the area help me out by singing me a song or ringing an ice cream bell all to add to the soundscape.
Of course if I am ever having a particularly bad day and need some cheering up, I am guaranteed at least one marriage proposal each time I go into the area, I do dash their dreams of taking them with me to European countries when it becomes fairly obvious that I live all but 20 minutes away from them – alas they are friendly either way.
Although I do not advise you to go into the area alone, I do advise you to go (I always go visiting the area with at least one friend of mine) and as long as you keep your wits about you and prepare for the large amount of people and loud noises, you will have a great experience and get to see a different part and culture of the city of Johannesburg.