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
2005 | Exhibited in Grassland Phase II: Residents and Government Reshaping South Africa’s Informal Settlements, Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC, solo exhibition
2009 | Included in the book Beyond Beauty: The Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University, Nasher Museum of Art, Durham NC, curatorial team Karen Glynn, Patricia Leighten, Margaret Morrison, Margaret Sartor & Sarah Schroth