Jika Joe straddles both banks of the Dorpspruit River in the center of the City of Pietermaritzburg, the capital of kwaZulu Natal. Jika Joe is just one of many informal settlements in South Africa; it’s bulk is made of mud, wood and card shacks. The roofs of Jika Joe are tarpaulin blown off passing trucks on the N3 highway, sheet metal and bits of hardboard. Squeezed in between these dwellings are walkways and common areas where people walk, talk and get together; and the children play. There is no centralised system ordering life as in the city’s surrounding suburbs, but rather many slumlords who rent out small rooms to others who need a place to stay close to their place of work in the CBD.

Fires and the City of Pietermaritzburg’s attempts to ‘make better’ has removed much of what was here. Paraffin cookers, illegal electricity connections and over crowding has been at the root of many fires in the area; and the city has replaced many of Jika Joes’ self built homes with the long rows of ‘temporary’ housing that locks these families into a faltering system of government housing far away from places of work that many South Africans just can’t afford.

There are young people in this place who have resorted to what ever means at hand in order to carve out an existence in this mix of cultures and African languages. Jika Joe while having a reputation as a dirty, lawless and dangerous place, is the home to these people – the same people who were always welcoming me as a photographer into Jika Joe’s morphing arms.

Since 1994 more people not less have looked to informal settlements to gain a toe hold in the ‘New South Africa’, the system of RDP housing has not kept up with these people’s demand for a spot in the urban areas.

The sight of these self built homes on open tracts of South African land are not going to go away anytime soon…