From walking out of the front door, driving, or catching a bus, taxi or train, to moving from one country to another. Movement is a main feature of everyday life.
Shoe Shop is a month-long project using events, photography and film to reflect the everyday movement of people – through different spaces in the city and movement through migration in Africa.
Created by Marie-Hélène Gutberlet, a German-based curator, film scholar and writer; and South African writer and curator Cara Snyman, Shoe Shop was an idea that started in 2010.
Gutberlet, of Germany’s Goethe Institute, describes how the project began: “I first came to Joburg in 2010 while working with the Goethe Institute. Walking through the city I realised how difficult it was to just walk. People told me you don’t just walk in Jozi. I told them ‘Yes I will’ and I did. As a white woman, I was all of a sudden suspiciously visible. I myself became more aware of the people who walked on the streets and where they were going.”
Snyman added, “Walking is a natural thing. Everybody does it. People move all the time. We wanted to create conversation about movement so we can look at it differently. Instead of asking ‘Where are you from?’ we ask ‘Where are you going?’. It’s about sparking intercultural exchange.”
Through the use of posters of some of the images featured in their book Shoe Shop, they are tracking the movement of their project. Visitors of the exhibition at 6 De Beer Street, Braamfontein, are encouraged to take a poster, place it in a public space and log on to the website shoeshopproject.co.za to upload a picture of where they placed the poster.
Collaborating with eight photographers and various African film directors, the focus traces walking and migration though history, Gutberlet said. “People move not always because they want to, but because they think the grass is greener on the other side. Through the use of art in public space we are trying to decriminalise movement.”
Films produced by African directors can be viewed free of charge at the Bioscope throughout the month. The films are also available at the Shoe Shop venue.
During its first week a parade from Braamfontein to the Drill Hall was organised, with music by the Alexandra Field Band and the Thath’I Cover Okestra.
Gutberlet and Snyman said the parade was about the pleasure of exercising the freedom to walk where they wanted to and crossing mental borders. About 300 people participated, with many having joined the procession along the way.
Although both women say the project is not politically aimed, they are trying to create a space in which people can talk about issues such as apartheid through encouraging movement of thoughts.
Snyman said: “Barriers and fences are put up everywhere, restricting our movement. Every day we are in a negotiation of space. These barriers are not always seen. We need to talk about them in a non-confrontational space to understand how these barriers work so we can work around them.”