A couple of weeks ago I went on a walking tour of Jeppestown with Ancient Secrets. Jeppestown is one of the oldest and most interesting neighborhoods in downtown Joburg, in my opinion (I once did a whole photography project about life in Jeppestown and Maboneng), so I was excited to go on the tour and learn some new things.

The tour was fun and I discovered a lot of interesting places in Jeppestown that I didn’t know about before. However, there were way too many people on the tour — probably about 70, even though the limit was supposed to be 50 — and I found it hard to absorb the information that Ishvara, our guide, presented to the group. In many instances the crowd around Ishvara made it hard to get close enough to hear him, and sometimes I gave up on going into the buildings we were supposed to be touring because there were too many people squeezing into a small space.

Crowd

A portion of the crowd on the Jeppestown tour.

But all was not lost. Jeppestown is an incredibly lively, diverse area. When we got frustrated with the unruly crowd, my friend Erin and I periodically wandered slightly off the beaten track, or simply hung back a bit and waited for the hoards to pass, and found interesting people to talk to and photograph.

As a result, I came away with an interesting series of Jeppestown portraits.

Nthombi

This is Nthombi, who I found working in a shop that sells clothing for sangomas (traditional healers). She wasn’t keen to be photographed at first, but I eventually weasled my way into her good graces and she changed her mind.

Barbers

Somali barbers wait for customers at their shop inside the Jozi Mall. I didn’t get their names.

Agnes

This is Agnes. She and a few other women were selling religious literature on the street, on the border of Jeppestown and Belgravia.

Arthur

Arthur is the caretaker of this marble factory, which — amazingly — was once the oldest shul (synagogue) in Johannesburg. The building behind Arthur, which now serves as a storage area for slabs of marble, was the actual shul. It was built in 1901 (I think) but hasn’t served as a shul since 1921. (Someone correct me if I have these dates wrong.)

Selling sweets

This family runs a candy shop from their front porch. Who wouldn’t buy candy from a child this cute?

I took many more photos on the tour but I think the portraits tell the best story. If you want to learn more about Jeppestown I would recommend Ishvara’s tour (I’ve done several of his walks before and always enjoyed them), but the tours seem to be gaining in popularity so be prepared to fight the crowds.

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