Making a living from old shoes: Tanzanian street vendors as urban experts

Photo: Link Reuben 2013

Photo: Link Reuben 2013

 

While many people in Europe think their donated clothes and shoes are given to the needy in the «Third World», trade in used clothes and shoes really is a worldwide business. Besides commercial collectors, sorting plants and intermediary traders thousands of street vendors in Africa live on re-selling used clothes and shoes.

The exhibition gives ethnographic insights into the lifeworld of a group of street vendors in the Tanzanian metropolis of Dar es Salaam who live on selling used shoes. They fled from the poverty of their home villages to seek better life in Dar es Salaam. As street vendors they became experts of the city: Their success depends on their ability to transform a fleeting encounter in the streets into an opportunity to sell. Making a living from old shoes presents results of 15 months of fieldwork that was accompanied by the Tanzanian photographer Link Reuben. The computer simulation Sole City invites visitors to the role of a street vendor and to experience the challenges they face themselves.

Sole City is a cooperation project of the Ethnographic Museum, the Tanzanian photographer Link Reuben and the Austrian artist group gold extra. The production of Sole City was financed by the Ernst Göhner Stiftung and the  Agora programme of the Swiss National Science Foundation.