#192 Small towns are places for people too

In the transport economy industries tend to stimulate people and inspire their movement. As this mobility and access canvas awaits its painters, we heard a voices that couldn’t imagine themselves on a train again.

Small towns have soul, history and industry. Mookgopong, also known as Naboomspruit, hosts ordinary people with extraordinary insights about planning for people. It is a complex space, interviewing some and exploring the mobility mind* revives a priceless passion. From a higher vantage point this two CBD street town, with three neighbourhood roadways, hosts just over 100 000 inhabitants. Much of its growth emerges from the township in the southern end of the image.

The townspace

Walking through the townspace evokes a sense of curiosity about the capital industry philosophy; the meaning of alcohol bellowing beneath some breaths; and onlookers curious to experiment with strangers. A town with a spatial form that in many ways is transit oriented around a relatively inactive railway line. It cascades through the CBD into an affluent neighbourhood of farmers and industrial families with lush green shaded streets, and walking to work in town is a norm. The town is bench-less: nowhere for love birds to sit if they’re not buying something somewhere, or occupying a staircase, indulgently staring at their romance.

When talking with the residents in the area, our team engaged in a tactile and experiential effort to investigate the formation and development of these small towns. Instead of grappling with Polokwane, a major city in Limpopo: the towns here are growing faster than expected; villages are much worse.

However Mookgophong seems to be lagging behind in the growth spurt, although the per-capita income of the shop-owners and industrialists, farmers and business people living in the area is much higher than that of residents across the railway lines.

Across the lines.
Who would dare to go.
Under the bridge,
Over the tracks,
That separate whites from blacks.

–Tracy Chapman, Across the Lines, Tracy Chapman, 1988.

Memory could not fail some residents as they cross the bridge from their township into the town. After each interview, after each conversation, there was a general expectation that we would give them something in return. In other instances, there was a spirit of gratitude; in most cases people were pages willing to be turned– overflowing with experiences. It takes us right back to the notes about data collection which I’ve attempted to refine over the years. Engaged interviews that go beyond the tally-table telly-tubby in the room: seeing the spoken, and exploring the narrative underlying the process of interviewing.

A public recognition of the missing trains seems natural for the mature residents who long for the train to Naboomspruit’s return. It was among the key entry points into the Limpopo Province. Here the station stands with one line active from the plausible six. Not a single sound, other than people crossing the bridge and a breeze rattling vegetation which is symptomatic of a lack of maintenance. With ambitions captivating our imagination, towns wait for action and intervention: possibly a saving grace. However, in the transport economy industries tend to stimulate people and inspire their movement. As this mobility and access canvas awaits its painters, we heard a voices that couldn’t imagine themselves on a train again.

LONG-LIVE THE TRAIN– Long standing corridor tower Louis Trichardt and beyond, reminds those who have a memory of then of what commuting was like. It is unfortunate that the past sometimes does not let the present be: especially if it made more sense than the present. There are many reasons why reviving these regional corridors is essential. One of them involves stimulating places where people reside with an iron chain reaction of development, industry, tourism and place making.

We’re back on the narration of mobility and access issues. Thank you for tuning in to this piece. Huge thank you to the people of Mookgophong, our team and support. This work is part of a bigger effort to support cities and towns at a strategic level through tactile engagements. For more contact us on the contact form.

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