Faraday Station Muti Market
Over the past decade an impromptu Muti market has been developed underneath the M2 east fly-over, adjacent to Faraday station. As more people leave rural areas in search of employment in the city, traditional healers from the same communities have had to follow in order to survive by continuing their traditional practice. Faraday station is one of the major points of access to the city centre for people commuting daily by train or taxi. These commuters are usually only able to attend to their personal requirements during and in-between transit. For this reason the station precinct is a suitable location for vendors selling anything from Coca -Cola to Muti or ancestral advice.
In 1997 the Johannesburg Metropolitan Local Council in collaboration with the Cool Factory Architects, commissioned artists to design and construct consultation cubicles for traditional healers operating in the vicinity of Faraday station. This was intended as the initial phase of an ongoing project to address the poor conditions and the lack of facilities at the Muti market.
The project brief was to design and build four semi-permanent structures that could offer privacy from the outside for medical consultation. Artists were urged to consider the unique situation of formalising traditional spiritual and medical practice in an urban context. The artists were encouraged to be inventive in their approaches to building and in their strategies of collaboration with the traditional healers. Meetings were held on site amongst the architects, artists and representatives of the resident community, to establish the requirements of the Inyangas, Sangomas and Prophets. The intention, from the outset, was that the design and construction of the cubicles would be born out of collaboration between the artists and the traditional healers. Of the four consultation cubicles two were intended for use by the community of Inyangas, one for the Sangomas and one for the Prophets. One artist, or artist group, and one representative of each community were assigned the responsibility of a cubicle. Discussions between artists and representatives were largely dependent on the aid of interpreters. Language and cultural differences augmented the difficulties inherent in a project with a limited budget intended for an environment with extensive and far-reaching problems.
All of the Artists responded to the project differently, both in their formal approaches to building and in their interpretation of the needs of the traditional healers. The responses of the resident communities were extremely positive on the whole however, a number of concerns were voiced, pointing to issues relevant to architecture and public space in urban South Africa. The success of the consultation cubicle project depends on continued development in the area and its value lies in its attempt to explore possibilities for the function of art and architecture in urban public space. The success or, at least, the possibility of future projects is reliant on the participation of the private sector and decision making at provincial and governmental level.