CityLife Arts

Joburg weekend markets welcome Spring season irrespective of Covid

Traders welcome the much –awaited opening of markets

By Edward Tsumele

I found a group of people congregating around their stall. Curious, I moved closer and saw what it was that attracted the curious lot. It was bottles with a label Kali, legibly printed on each bottle that attracted this crowd. They must have been eager to tickle their taste buds with chillis. I could not be left behind and therefore I tasted too, and I can tell you right now, this is indeed good stuff, especially If like me, you like to eat something hot from time to time.

“In March I had a job as a sales consultant for a security company, but come April, a month later, I no longer had a job. I was retrenched and this is when the idea of starting something to survive on came about. But it turned out that this business of manufacturing, packaging and selling home-made chillis, marketing mainly on social media platforms such as Face Book, instagram and Twitter, is more than just for surviving.

Founder of Heat By kali Chilli Thabo Mashile manning his stall at 27 Boxes in Melville on Saturday.

“It is a solid business that I and my mates, Alex Monare and ‘Professor’ Ogopotse Maputla are running. So far the business is doing well, and the response has been huge, especially from individuals and restaurants in the north of Johannesburg that we supply,” Thabo Mashile the founder of Heat By Kali, a new brand of hot chillis tells me.

(left to right) Alex Monate and Thabo Mashile serving customers at 27 Boxes saturday Market.

I found him with his mates manning a stall at 27 Boxes in Melville this past weekend, September 5. They were doing brisk business with their brand of chillis that they make at home and package it to sell around Joburg north.  Mashile explained that kali is a Swahili word which means severe, and is perfect for their hot chillis.

Ogopotse ‘Prof.’ Maputla, Thabo Mashile and Alex monare manning their stall at 27 Boxes Saturday Market in Melville.

Mashile and his friends at the weekend joined several other stall owners who answered to a call to book trading space for small businesses at this newly opened Saturday Market.

The Saturday Market at 27 Boxes is run by an experienced team of market entrepreneurs, who proved their credibility for successfully running markets by starting and running the once popular Sunday Market at Arts on Main in Maboneng for years. Now they have moved to Melville, to run a Saturday Market, and this past weekend’s trade was the first since the lockdown.

“This is the first time that we have taken this product to a weekend market, and so far we are happy with the response we are getting. It must be the way that we blend our spices with herbs that people like,” Mashile tells me proudly.

Weekend markets trader Nqobile Nxumalo. Picture By Edward Tsumele

However, Nqobile Nxumalo, a veteran of the weekend markets who before lockdown sold vintage 70s and 80s retro fashion won by ‘rebellious women of that time” at a number of Joburg markets, such as Market on Main on Sundays in Maboneng, and at Neighbourgoods Market in Braaamfontein on Saturdays, is happy that the popular weekend markets under level 2 have now opened.

“When the lockdown was announced, all markets closed, and that affected a lot of people who earned their livelihoods through selling at these markets, and these are mostly white women who want to achieve financial independence by selling at these markets. In fact until lockdown, they were doing pretty well, managing to save and buy cars and properties through selling at these markets.

“But when lockdown struck, the opportunity to earn a living suddenly vanished, exposing them to debt and risking losing their homes, both rented and bonded.  Some of them even formed a group to hire lawyers to fight for them against eviction and losing their cars and homes, ”Nxumalo says.

Nxumalo told me that she was lucky in that she has another profession that she could fall back on, that of a stylist plying her trade on television as a stylist. She has worked for quite a number of TV shows, such as being a stylist for popular soapies, such as SABC1’s Uzalo at its beginning. Uzalo which screens on SABC1 Monday to Friday, is currently the country’s most popular TV show, having long surpassed the audience numbers of the once most popular show for years on TV, Generations.

“I am excited that the markets are now opening, allowing us to trade while we take reasonable precautions to avoid infecting each with the coronavirus,” she tells me. She was not worried that there were not many visitors to the inaugural 27 Boxes Market as she believes that as soon word spreads that the market has opened, more visitors will eventually come.

A man playing with his dog at the Victoria Yards Market in Bertrams on Sunday. Picture By Edward Tsumele

This is not the only market that traded this weekend. On Sunday, I made my way to Victoria Yards in Bertrams, East of Johannesburg. This is a place best known for its collection of artists’ studios, where a number of well known names in contemporary art, such as Blessing Ngobeni, this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist award winner, and Ayanda Mabulu, whose depiction of contemporary South African socio-political issues through his paintings, often causes public controversy, have studios, and so did the late hugely talented Ugandan born, but until his death in 2018, South African based, Benoni Lutaaya, among others.

But at Victoria Yards, come Sunday of the last month, such as this past Sunday, the place attracts hordes of shoppers and visitors, some with their dogs who scour the stalls selling various beautiful things, from clothes, books Vinyls, CDs and food alongside art.

This past Sunday was no different. The place attracted a huge number of shoppers and collectors who scoured the area, carefully scanning beautiful things that were being traded on various stalls. It felt like it was pre-Covid 19.

However one could also sense that it was Covid times as before one got into the yards, you had your temperature taken by security guards at the entrance, who also insisted that you sanitise before proceeding.

This was a singular reminder that danger in the name of the coronavirus still lurks in the air. Otherwise the atmosphere of exuberance among visitors I saw there, it felt like pre-Covid 19 as with liberal abandon, they hopped from one stall to another, excited that they are eventually out and about during this Spring Season, irrespective of the threat from Covid -19.

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