Maya Potter & Photo compilation: Tasmi Quazi
Last weekend, the Markets of Warwick (MoW) Project won the award for the best stall at The Durban International Boat and Lifestyle Show at the Durban Marina. It was a typical tourism event— marquees, metal fences, lanyards and an overflow of parking. There was a gentle breeze and the air smelled of street food. The boats were all lined up for display in the water and on land. Boat owners were proudly showcasing the luxury features of their yachts and catamarans.
As it turns out, the Durban Boat Show is not just about boats. The show also served as a platform for commercial promotion and tourism—an opportunity for businesses, both related and unrelated to boats, to exhibit and sell their products and services. In the marquee, the commercial stalls promoted everything from fishing gadgets and marine safety equipment to camping gear and leisure destinations like golf resorts. The MoW stall stood out from all the others—distinguished and colorful. Large banners showcased vibrant photos of the various markets and long black panels displayed handmade bead jewelry.
But, how does a project like the MoW win an award at a boat show? Especially since it has nothing to do with boats! The show served as a platform not only to promote the MoW tour but also the tourism value of local African culture. The goal was to promote the Warwick Junction markets as a cultural landmark in Durban and to emphasize the importance of informal vendors in the socio-economic landscape. Also, this is the second year that the MoW Project participated in this event, read more about last year’s response here.
Precious, a MoW tour guide, says most traders are happy to see different races in the market. Traders Lindeni, Lihle and Sambo, who are tour guides themselves, were manning the stall and engaging the public. One boy cried, “Dad, I took this tour on a school fieldtrip” A high school schoolteacher was excited to bring her students on the tour since the informal economy is featured in the grade twelve geography curriculum. Little exchanges like this are noteworthy and exciting. On the tour, if someone enjoys a bite of beef at the Bovine Head Market, stamping traditional medicine at the Herb Market or buys a pair of handmade earrings from a bead trader, the trader’s work and culture are valued.
Ultimately, MoW’s participation in the Durban Boat Show was about exposure—exposing the markets to the audience and exposing the audience to the markets. This kind of mutual exposure is essential because there is general unfamiliarity with the Warwick Junction area and attitudes of crime and grime are commonplace. While the focal point of the tour is cultural, it is hard to untangle the cultural from the racial, the political, and the economic. Given the country’s apartheid history, mutual exposure through platforms like this is an important step in integration.
To read more about the MoW Project, click on the following links: