Sunday, February 7, 2010

Porters and Performers

Story by Anthea Buys for the Mail & Guardian:

The overwhelming noise, odours and crowds particular to downtown Johannesburg are something entirely foreign to some who live on the city’s grassier flanks.

But they are the signs of a sprawling informal economy that in many ways keeps the city on its feet from day to day. One group of entrepreneurs in this system, the “trolley-pushers”, has been especially vulnerable to this economy’s dubious relationship with the law.

Artist and urban geographer Ismail Farouk is setting out to rectify this through his new multidisciplinary urban intervention project and exhibition titled Trolley Works.

Trolley-pushers, as Farouk explains, are urban porters who use recycled supermarket trolleys to schlep heavy loads of luggage around the city for a small fee. Because their trolleys, most often rented from unforgiving “trolley lords”, are essentially stolen the police have a field day impounding them and fining or locking up their drivers. Initiated in December 2008, the Trolley Works project has sought practical ways to regulate and legalise trolley pushing in Joubert Park and its surrounds.

Since the problem for the police rests, officially at least, in the illegality of the trolleys themselves, Farouk, artist Rob Peers and their team of trolley-pushing collaborators have come up with a design for a bespoke steel porting trolley to replace the plastic supermarket numbers. Nine of these trolleys, which are owned by the porters themselves and not by the trolley lords, hit the streets in April this year. Since then they’ve been used not only for efficient cartage, but also as part of a performative urban mapping process that ties Farouk’s social conscience to the world of art.

To raise awareness about the project and about the inner city itself, Farouk and his team offer the public daily guided walking tours through the city, escorted by a flock of brightly coloured Trolley Works trolleys. Farouk says on his project blog: “We hope to expose people to the urban contradictions present in the city and are attempting to address the need to walk in the downtown area of Johannesburg. Walking in Johannesburg is strongly linked to class, race, crime, fear and paranoia.”

The tours leave from the Drill Hall and meander through the fashion district — a part of Joubert Park littered with clothing stores, each one with its own microphone-armed diva hustling potential customers through the entrance. They end up at an Abyssinian coffee shop, where your R150 tour fee gets you a cup of coffee freshly roasted over an open flame.

As an extension of the project, on Friday night at the new Goethe on Main experimental gallery space the Trolley Works team will exhibit a conceptual map of Johannesburg’s informal economy based on documentation of their walks through the city. A highlight of this event is an “Abyssinian coffee ceremony” and a one-off live trolley-pushing performance.

The Trolley Works exhibition and performance event takes place on May 29 at 7pm, at Goethe on Main, in the Arts on Main complex. See for more information

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trolley Works Exhibition!

Here is a selection of Christo Doherty's pictures from our exhibition opening on Friday night.


Cigarette Paper Diaries Rear View


Fashin MC's Erik and Andrew causing havoc


Andrew on the street soliciting people to come inside


Gilbert the Zambuch salesman.


Trolley Protest installation: Confiscated trolleys and
trolley protest video monitor and projection.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Abyssinia Coffee Tour

A guided trolley pusher tour of Joubert Park and the Fashion District:

Keith Trolley Tour

Trolley Works guided city tours celebrate the vibrancy, informality and cultural diversity present in down town Johannesburg. Tours begin in Joubert Park at the Drill Hall, an important historical landmark in our country’s history, and winds its way along the sidewalks between Noord and Park City taxi ranks. One can expect to see ‘bad buildings’, street markets and meander through dense pedestrian traffic; hear the beat of wedding songs, fashion diva’s and Africa’s rhythm; smell the aromas of Mozambican stew, braaied kebabs and fast food.

An astonishing amount of money is exchanged in this area daily through innovative informal business practices. A key feature of Joubert Park is the high density of people and traffic. Our tour highlights the challenges for a rapidly urbanizing African City. We hope to expose people to the urban contradictions present in the city and are attempting to address the need to walk in the downtown area of Johannesburg. Walking in Johannesburg is strongly linked to class, race, crime, fear and paranoia. The proposed tours attempt to address these challenges, whilst getting people thinking and contributing to a conversation related to the politics of public space in the city.

Trolley Works is a multi-disciplinary art project dedicated to the acknowledgment of the informal economic activities and cultural diversity present in our city. Come meet our team, have a laugh, walk the streets and experience the best coffee in the world.

Booking a tour

Tours run Monday to Saturday at 10h30 and again at 14h00

Tour duration: 2 hours

Price: R150 per person (Students and pensioners pay R100), contact us for special group tour prices – Prices include freshly made Ethiopian coffee.

Where: Drill Hall (Corner Twist and Plein Streets)

Call: 0725944263


Parking: Safe parking at the Drill Hall

Loitering Workshop - Drill Hall 16th May 2009

The Trolley Works Team in conjunction with the Africa Diaspora Forum are hosting a workshop dealing with the issue of 'loitering'. The team have been handing out flyers on the sidewalk, and empowering people about their rights.

Workshop Details:

When: Saturday 16th May 2009, 10:30am
Where: Drill Hall (Corner Twist and Plein Streets)
Contact: AFRICAN DIASPORA FORUM for free support (011.633.21.40)

All Welcome!!

What to do in case you are arrested for Loitering:
(Produced by the African Diaspora Forum)

1) If possible, take note of the POLICE CAR NUMBER (for instance HB07, Hillbrow car number 7), if you are not able to take note of the police officer’s name.

2) If arrested, ask for a NOTICE OF RIGHTS at the police station (it is compulsory for the police to give notice and explain why you are arrested).

3) Ask for a RECEIPT if you pay the fee to the police, or ADMISSION OF GUILT if you are not able to.

4) After your release, you can contact the AFRICAN DIASPORA FORUM for free support (011.633.21.40).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Loitering crap

If you are poor and black and happen to be on a sidewalk in downtown Joburg, there is a strong chance that you may have been arrested for loitering. In the past 2 months, the police have intensified their enforcement and have exclusively targeted poor black people, mainly street vendors and trolley pushers.

By virtue of its definition, loitering means standing around without intent. The people who are being arrested are entrepreneurial. People are being arrested for standing, walking, talking, sitting, selling, waiting...for being poor and black.

A feature of the enforcement campaign has been excessive bribery and corruption by the police officers. The price to be released on the street is R100. Recently both Hansa Monsaka and Keith Busani were arrested for loitering. Hansa was left handcuffed against a fence for most of the day as police waited to extract a bribe from him.

Police Truck Drill Hall

Much of the police activity has intensified with the onset of the BRT construction work downtown. There seems to be a coordinated effort by the city, to upgrade the road infrastructure as well as 'clean' the sidewalks of undesirable people - People who are not considered part of the vision for the regenerated city.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Advertise Here!!

bright red cartage trolley

advertise here

hansa trolley

We have just deployed our exciting new cartage trolleys. Our trolley factory is capable of producing 5 trolleys per week. Our goal is to produce 130 trolleys, and to date we have built 9 new trolleys.

We could really use your help to build more. Sponsor a trolley and get your brand seen on the streets of Joburg. At a cost of only R1200, you can sponsor the construction of a cartage trolley, and help legitimize a livelihood for a trolley pusher.

Please contact us for further advertising info. Just drop us an email, and we will get back to you asap: