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In the ninth book of the acclaimed series Wake Up, This is Joburg, photographer Mark Lewis and writer Tanya Zack follow professional shoppers who cross national borders in search of high quality goods in Johannesburg’s bustling inner city for their customers back home in Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi … The shoppers, mostly women, navigate the perils of Johannesburg— muggers, corrupt city offcials, unscrupulous police—to conduct their business and, in the process, contribute billions in annual revenue to a city that remains largely hostile to their presence.
They come to shop in the thousands of small spaces that fill the alleys and high modernist towers of the CBD. The shops are run by men and women who have transformed buildings originally known as Lancet Hall, Medical Arts, or Medical Chambers into thriving centres of trade with names like Abyssinia, Merkato, Joburg Mall and Nadibas. The cross-border shoppers scour these stores
for cosmetics, clothing, accessories and homeware. They take orders from clients back home, advertise on Facebook, send messages back and forth—all while pounding the streets in search of the best quality and better deals. By some accounts, the annual turnover is equivalent to that of two Sandton City shopping malls. Johannesburg. Made in China gives us some insight into how the combined efforts of these shoppers and traders, who have carved out businesses over decades of networking and trading, contribute to the growth of Johannesburg and indeed to the region as a whole. It is a story of gutsy entrepreneurship and tenacity that should make city offcials and others sit up and take notice!
Wake Up, This is Joburg is a series of ten stories about ordinary, interesting, odd or outrageous denizens of the city of Johannesburg. Some are newly arrived, some are long-time residents, but all have found a way to inhabit urban space in unusual ways, carving out a living—and a life—in an alternative economy, flying by the seat of their proverbial pants, or working the same job in the same building for decades. All are, in their own ways, survivors: of the dramatic changes that the city has seen in the last twenty years, of successive waves of xenophobia, of political upheaval here and in countries elsewhere on the continent. But some have simply not moved in decades, preferring to sit things out and watch the city transform on their doorstep, making the most of what it brings them. Wake up, This is Joburg is a series of stories about that thing you can’t quite put a finger on when you tell people why you live here.