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PROJECT DETAILS

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Mayfair, a Johannesburg suburb, is a place where the lives of hundreds of Somalis intersect; a space of opportunity for some, a place of refuge for others, and a home away from home for the Somali diaspora in the city. This is a multi-layered site where Somali migrants, as urban refugees, renegotiate their cultural practices in a foreign, metropolitan context; where spaces and customs that were left behind are recreated in the daily life of the neighbourhood. Using photography and an ethnographic approach, Metropolitan Nomads takes an intimate look at the everyday life of Somali migrants in Johannesburg, where collective stories of migration and survival interweave with the individual desires and hopes of seeking a better life outside a country shattered by decades of internal con ict. Metropolitan Nomads: A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu is a collaborative project between researcher Nereida Ripero-MuĂąiz and documentary photographer Salym Fayad, supported by the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) at Wits University.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Electric fences and high walls are a common view in Johannesburg, a city where public and private space can be violently demarcated by physical boundaries that only make more apparent the social and racial divides of the postapartheid city.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


South African Indians started moving to Mayfair, a white suburb under apartheid, in the late 1980s. Somalis also began to settle in the area in the early 1990s because of the religious connection with the Indian Muslim population.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Stories circulate amongst Somalis in East Africa about the prosperous life to be found in South Africa. However, after arriving in the country, Somali refugees nd educational opportunities are expensive and often inaccessible and the only jobs they can nd are working for other Somalis or Ethiopians, providing barely enough to survive. Many of them end up living in shared rooms in Mayfair.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Most of the belongings migrants carry from Somalia are lost along the journey. Among the few personal items that they manage to bring with them are family photographs taken in Somalia.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Somalis in South Africa are known for running spaza shops, small convenience stores in townships. Commercial activity in Mayfair is centred around Amal, a busy shopping mall at the heart of the neighbourhood, where shops are mainly run and owned by Somali women who buy some of their products from Chinese-owned malls in the city. Many of the goods are imported from Nairobi and Dubai.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Most Somalis living in Mayfair have transited or lived in the Kenyan capital, creating connections between communities in Nairobi and Johannesburg. A dozen travel agencies cater for Somali travellers, migrants and businesspeople moving back and forth between Johannesburg and East African cities.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Mayfair has changed signi cantly in recent years. Through their commercial activity, Somalis have transformed the urban landscape. They have also reproduced cultural and religious practices in the daily life of the neighbourhood. The streets around the Amal shopping centre burst with life. 8th Avenue, popularly known as Jahanama or Hell Street, has transformed very quickly over the past half-decade. In January 2012, just a couple of lodges, cybercafĂŠs and restaurants could be found in the earea. Today, these businesses have doubled in number, making 8th Avenue the liveliest street of the neighbourhood.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


The transformation of the urban space occurs through material reproductions and also through social, cultural and religious practices, routines and street life. These expressions of Somaliness transform spaces into very distinctive places, in which collective identities form transcending national borders.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Muslim Ethiopians from the Oromia region also inhabit Mayfair's streets, bringing their own cultural practices to the neighbourhood.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Somaliness and Islam are deeply interconnected and constitute the two main pillars of collective identity for Somalis.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Prayers during Eid at the park in Bird street. The Muslim community of Mayfair come together during the Islamic celebration regardless of ethnic or national dierences.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Mayfair is also known as “little Mogadishu”, not only because of the large number of Somalis living there, but also because of the way they recreate Mogadishu's street life and social spaces. At Ibrahim's café, traditional Somali artefacts are displayed on the walls, referencing cultural practices, traditional values and Somalia's pre-civil war history.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Many Somali women face pressure from the community to marry Somali men, a practice that intends to ensure the continuity of the clan, which is patrilineal. Some women are starting to contest this and other cultural practices, such as Female Genital Cutting (FGC), due to their direct access to the Qur´an, which allows them to question and transform some expressions of their Somaliness.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


The todoba is a ceremony celebrated seven days after a wedding, only attended by women, in which they dance and sing buraanburs to the newly married. In the past, buraanburs were composed for each ceremony, and included verses that referred to speci c episodes in the lives of the newly married, their families and their clans. Nowadays the same chants are repeated in every occasion praising the deeds of the married couple´s clans.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Even if new technologies play an important role in the daily life of Somalis, the custom of being photographed at a studio still takes place on special occasions, such as the Eid al-Fitr holiday. These photos are later sent to relatives back in Somalia and around the world.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS


Somali collective identity is also expressed in the virtual space of Instagram, where religious messages alternate with cultural images and motivational quotes. These provide an insight into the subjectivities of individuals belonging to the Somali diaspora and contribute to the formation of a collective identity that takes place in the virtual space of social networks.

A Journey through Joburg's Little Mogadishu, 2015

METROPOLITAN NOMADS

Metropolitan Nomads  

Mayfair, a Johannesburg suburb, is a place where the lives of hundreds of Somalis intersect; a space of opportunity for some, a place of ref...

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