By SIBUSISO MKWANAZI
Craft beer: check. Easy to carry food: check. Undergound music: check.
On your first visit, the Locrate Market looks, smells and sounds like your average market. But as you start to look carefully, you realise that it’s much like an enthralling book or film that demands you to revisit it a few times to be able to take it all in, just in case you missed an important part.
Chances are that you may start off with initial disappointment, asking yourself what the big fuss is all about on this open piece of land near Vilakazi Street.
If you are from the north of Jozi, you may tell yourself that Rosebank’s Rooftop Market also offers jewellery. If you hail from the west, you may wonder how much better Locrate could possibly be than Roodepoort’s hugely successful Hillfox Market. It is only when you start accepting that you are not at Braamfontein’s Neighbourgoods Market – or any other similar institution – that you start to immerse yourself in what is on offer.
Locrate is one of the few markets that offers its patrons activities to take part in, and that is what is going to help make it yet another idea to find success in Soweto. Visitors can arrive in the morning or afternoon and after savouring some spykos, hire a bicycle to tour the surrounding Orlando West area. There is something visceral about being on two wheels and experiencing an area that is usually toured in air-conditioned buses and underutilised SUVs.
The ability to take the ordinary one step further stands the market in good stead. For example, its counterparts are more than willing to sell you art, but here, one stall owner hands you an easel, a set of paint brushes and a gives you a chance to create your own masterpiece. Or not. In the spirit of ubuntu, just a stall or two away are the St Martin de Porres High School Art Studio students, ready to give you pointers on what strokes to try, and if all else fails, to suggest that you label your creation “abstract” art.
Design is another category where the market is on point when it comes to nudging creative boundaries, leaving you with that irksome question: why didn’t I think of that? Stall owners steer clear of run-of-the-mill offerings such as clay pottery and corrugated iron windmills, and instead demonstrate that good design requires a stretch of the imagination.
One artist uses ordinary household items as inspiration to create dazzling jewellery such as earrings in the form of clothes hangers, laundry pegs and zippers. If you hang around and engage in a conversation with the owner, she will convince you that design is so much more than what you have allowed yourself to accept.
It is this open-mindedness that makes you realise that there is more to this enterprise than the African print brand Babatunde, vintage pieces from Vinti Queen, jewellery from Ntozinhle, Vuyo’s Wors Rolls, Pluto’s Paellas, Balkan Burgers and crates used as makeshift chairs. The growing sense of community is another reason why you should make the trek from the north, east or west to be part of this market.
The Locrate Food Academy is an initiative whereby anyone can donate any resources to assist a food vendor to start a business and eventually to participate in the market. After all, townships are littered with mammas who have been cooking devilishly delicious meals for decades and such a platform affords them the chance to meet up with other entrepreneurs who can advise them on issues such as marketing, pricing and where to source the freshest ingredients at a better price.
One of the most endearing aspects about the Locrate market – besides the guys who are willing to negotiate their price to wash your car – are the thoughts that rush into your mind as you take time to be in the moment.
Refreshingly, no one at the Locrate Market utters tired phrases such as “Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world to be home to two Nobel Peace Prize laureates.” Those who congregate here don’t care about such issues, just as nobody cares about the history behind the building that is now occupied by the Neighbourgoods Market every Saturday.
What Locrate does care about is ensuring that curious customers are paired up with like-minded entrepreneurs who are willing to involve you in their lives in the most personal way – something no other market currently offers.
Locrate Market: www.locratemarket.co.za / Corner Kudu and Moema Streets, Orlando West, Soweto / First Sunday of every month (10am till late) / firstname.lastname@example.org.