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Grassland Phase II | 2004

All photographs were made during a Lewis Hine Documentary Fellowship from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Worldwide, nearly one billion people – one in every six human beings – live in slums or informal settlements. In most African cities, from 40 percent to 70 percent of the population lives in these illegal or substandard conditions. In South Africa roughly 26 percent of the total population – one in four people – lives in slums or informal settlements.

In 1994, the post-apartheid South African government faced a critical housing shortage of approximately 3–4 million homes. By 2004, the government, in collaboration with a wide range of nonprofits and other civil society organizations, had constructed 1,614,512 houses and provided 2,686,907 land and housing subsidies.

The photographs in this series were created over the five months I spent in 2004 with residents in a government-subsidized “site and services” settlement called Grassland Phase II, located on the fringe of an expanding township in South Africa’s judicial capital, Bloemfontein.

Grassland Phase II was developed in an effort to address the land and housing needs of people living in a rapidly growing informal settlement. The local municipality, in collaboration with residents, bought and divided formerly white-owned farmland along the city’s outskirts into 2,883 plots approximately 30 square feet each. The plots are commonly referred to as “sites.” Each site has access to communal water pumps and electricity at a subsidized fee, and residents are promised ownership of their site’s title deed after having lived there for three consecutive years. In 2003, several thousand households moved from the informal settlement onto the newly allocated Grassland Phase II sites.

South Africa’s post-apartheid housing and land policies are recognized internationally as both timely and effective in their delivery of housing and land subsidies to residents of slums and informal settlements. Yet, despite progress, the country’s housing deficit remains around 2 million. In addition, recent conversations with residents of Grassland Phase II make it clear that policies that concentrate on improving housing and physical environmental conditions alone overlook the broader context of poverty, which includes access to employment and income, shelter, food, health care, education, and basic urban services.

- Kate Joyce 2004

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While several residents are able to upgrade their living structures with mud and cement brick, the majority of Grassland Phase II residents continue living in shacks.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Despite a shack's exterior appearance, it is not uncommon to find modern appliances filling its interior spaces. Although, in many homes, these appliances prove too expensive to plug in.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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A funeral service at St. Johannes Lutheran Church

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Heat, dust and other weather elements pass through holes in the corrugated iron sheets and burlap walls

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Elizabeth on her front porch a few weeks before her husband passes away.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Lesedi la Bophelo Cultural Group teaching children dance and theater. Preparing for a performance.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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After Nicho's sister passed away he moved onto her plot. Working in his vegetable and flower garden on day off from work.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Late afternoon

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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In their grandmother's front yard where she sells home made beer to residents.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Fresh laundry

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Funeral preparations

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Matokelo at Lesedi la Bophelo Creche

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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A young child in neighbor's arms

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Four years ago the owner of a tuck shop (dry goods store) fled his homeland of Bangladesh, leaving his wife and two children. "Do you want to see them," he asks, pulling a negative out of his wallet, holding it up to the light.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Ntabitseng giving her daughter a bath

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Dikeledi, 16, was orphaned a year ago and now lives with her grandparents.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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During funeral preparations for her grandfather, four sheep are sacrified the night of the vigil.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Monaheng

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Margaret, 7-months pregnant, in her shop where she sells fruits and vegetables, snacks, paraffin and other staple goods.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Lesedi la Bophelo Creche

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Repairing roof

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Nine-year old kicking bottle dangling on a string in the wind and dust. He is visiting his mother during school vacation, but will return to his grandparent's home in a town several hundred kilometers away at the end of his two-week stay.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Mpewane Adelineh Mananzi, matron of Lesedi la Bophelo (Light of Life) Creche, provides early childhood education for children in Grassland Phase II.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004

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Ntabitseng braiding her boyfriend's hair.

Grassland Phase II
Bloemfontein, South Africa
2004