BLOG: Walking in the city – inquiries into the everyday

Programme Type: Teaching Programme: MPhil in Southern Urbanism

Walking is an important practice to access the ordinary life of a city. It offers a slow-paced, ground level and direct approach to urban environments. It allows one to experience the surrounding on an affectual plane. Each and every space has a smell, a feel, an intangible history, hidden meanings and is made up of innumerable visual and physical artefacts.

One of these artefacts frequently spotted in the streets of Cape Town is a transparent bottle with a red cap. It has the shape of a milk bottle and its label reads “Golden Namaqua Daisy”. It’s a dry wine with an almost amber colour similar to apple juice. It’s the only kind of alcohol container found on
the streets. There aren’t many empty beer cans or wine bottles. There is only Daisy.

For a seminar titled Urban Everyday part of the MPhil in Southern Urbanism, informal interviews were conducted with residents, people on the street and shop owners to find out more about this drink. Many had never seen this bottle or ever heard of Daisy. But those who knew said concerning things about it:

“It’s a really cheap late harvest wine that is sold to the very poor. It’s basically the worst alcohol you can imagine packaged in plastic containers like milk. I only know of its distribution in urban areas, but it’s mostly sold to homeless people by the local liquor stores. It’s not on the shelves or anything. Terrible really. One of the biggest culprits in keeping alcoholism on the streets alive. You can find it at smaller informal liquor stores.”

On the corporate website of the producer Daisy is nowhere to be found and most of Cape Town’s liquor stores aren’t selling it openly. During this inquiry only one official sales point in Cape Town was identified. There are however redistribution points in the city, where Daisy is sold illegally to people on the street for a slightly higher price than the original R24.99. One person interviewed told us about it:

“Listen, you can get it further down the road. It’s R31. But they’re not going sell it to you. They’re not going trust you, because you’re white. You see, they’re selling it only to people like me. People that sleep on the streets.”

Asked about the drink itself some interviewees talked about its apparently adverse health effects: “It has way too much acid and will ruin your stomach. People get very sick from it. People died drinking that!”

While another noted: “The very poor drink it. It’s the kind of stuff that when you drink it and you pee yourself, you don’t feel it.”

Daisy isn’t being consumed openly. The only visible reminder of its presence are the empty bottles found lying around on the streets. Its users are hiding away from the gaze of pedestrians, security guards and the police. Because alcohol carries a stigma when consumed outside of the narrow socially accepted situation and its consumption in public is furthermore illegal in South Africa. Yet an informal network of distribution has been created to meet the demand for Daisy.

Walking as a mode of inquiry can offer points of departure into the many artefacts, stories and myths about the city. Many of them are covered under the guise of the everyday, some are hidden behind complex sign systems or even in plain sight. Walking means to engage in the elementary experience of the urban and to embark on a journey of the everyday.

 

Malte Stein is a designer and student in the MPhil in Southern Urbanism at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town – a programme aimed at analysing cities critically and through creative practices. His research is situated in the South and focuses on mundane creative and aesthetic practices, inclusive cities and sensible spaces, mechanisms of hegemony and oppression and the sharing economy.