Contributor: Barry Christianson 

The City of Cape Town, which supports Open Streets, does not support an Open City. We, the poor, are excluded. Our homes are destroyed by the Anti-Land Invasion Unit, we are evicted from empty public land that is meant to be shared with us, we are beaten by the police that protect the rich and we are left without a roof over our heads. – Abahlali baseMarikana


I photographed the Marikana protest at Open Streets a few weeks ago.

I had a very small amount of interaction with the protesters and decided that I wanted to go to the Marikana site and “see for myself”.

I took a drive out two weeks ago and hung around chatting to the people living there, listening to what they had to say, looking and taking photographs of the 2 remaining shacks, the tent and the surroundings.

I wanted to make a portrait of the people living there.

I’ve had many conversations with people about the “politics of giving”. Why I find it easier to give someone some money when I feel like they don’t need it than when I feel someone needs it. I think that with the latter, guilt is part of the transaction and maybe that’s why it is harder to give money to a beggar than to a peer.

So following that, my objective was not to make the residents look like victims. The intention of the photos is not to evoke a sense of pity or guilt. I did not want to represent the people affected as dispossessed people often are. There was of course a sense of sadness and trepidation that the Anti-land Invasion Unit would return and illegally demolish their dwellings, but there was also a sense of pride when speaking about what their vision for Marikana was. And I hope the photographs bring at least some of that across.

You can see the outline of Table Mountain in many of the photos, Cape Town’s claim to fame. In this case it is a reminder that the City of Cape Town’s slogan “This city works or you” does not apply to all residents of Cape Town.



Mens shack


No tax on the sky. The mens shack from the rear. Even in Marikana the sky gets really blue.


About 30 to 40 women and children sleep in this tent. The men sleep in the shack except when the weather is really bad. In that case they all squeeze into the tent.


The shacks next door. The women explained that the shacks in the background fell under a specific zone. They have their own backyard dwellers. The city does not harass them.


Bed in mens shack.One of the bed in the men’s shack. This shack doesn’t provide proper shelter when the weather is bad.


Koppie. The remaining shacks and tent sit at the top of a small slope.


11 am. Most of the residents are at work. These two guys are about to get a fire going.


Hopes. She spoke about her children. Once this is all over she will have them come and stay with her.


I was standing in the men’s tent talking to the woman with the pink scarf when the other women came and joined in.


Judith. Judith(65 years old) looks nervously towards the road, unsure of whether or not they will have their tent and shack demolished(illegally) by the city’s anti land invasion unit.