My name is not “My Friend”, my friend: Photo-essay

A photo-essay navigating the identity of Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals who own shops around the Braamfontein area in Johannesburg. 

Braamfontein is home to over 20 spaza shops owned by Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals who moved to South Africa to better their lives.
Commonly referred to as “My Friend” by customers and people who interact with them on a daily basis, these business men often find themselves at crossroads where their identity is concerned.
Through the photo essay, individuals were given the chance to reclaim their identity as people with families, feelings and most importantly names too.
Although there is a sense of endearment when locals address them as “my friend” a part of their identity is left out.
Do South Africans really care who they want to be known as?

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Yasin Alalafad, 45 year old Bangladeshi national has been living in South Africa for 8 years. He owns a supermarket opposite the University of the Witwatersrand and plans to return to his 3 daughters and son in 2019.
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People’s person, Abdul Salam lives with his brothers from Bangladesh in Braamfontein. He recently opened a shop in the University of the Witwatersrand. The hard worker loves his identity and believes that being a foreigner in South Africa has not impacted his identity, all he wants to do is make friends.
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26 year old Hasan Ahmed lives with his father and brother in South Africa. Moving to South Africa has helped the family patriarch support the women in their lives back home in Bangladesh.
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Sujan Saha misses his mother the most. The hardworking son who has not returned home since 2015 moved to South Africa to support her and the rest of his family in Bangladesh.
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Family man Mushtaq Masih loves the Joburg weather for the ten years that he has made South Africa is new home. Mushtaq just wants his family to know that he loves them.
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Pakistani national Irfan Muhammad and cell phone repair ‘guru’ loves South Africa as his own home although he misses everyone and everything in his country of birth.
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23 year old Arif Ahmed helps his brother and father at their Braamfontein shop and will soon open his own shop with the hope to earn more money to send home.
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Sport fanatic Saisul Islam has been living in South Africa for 5 years loves Bangladesh as much as he loves cricket.
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Mamun Mohammad survives for his wife and daughter back in Bangladesh. He has been living in South Africa for a year and will stay here until he is able to open his own shop to send a little more home.
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“Scared” Riaz Jaheed has been residing in South Africa for 9 years, got more than a chance to better his life but also a wife. When asked what he wants South Africa to know about him, Riaz jumped up to say that he is afraid of being documented as he had bad experience in the past with his photograph and identity in South Africa. For Riaz being a foreigner is unpleasant, although he married a South African woman his identity as a foreign shop owner still remains questioned.

With a piece of colored paper and a black marker, these men were given the power to represent their identity in a way that they wanted to be represented and understood in society. The narrative moves from the day to day representations focusing on xenophobia and the negative aspects that are tied to their identities, by highlighting that these individuals are more than just “my friend” or a shop owner who is here to steal jobs from South Africans but are contributors to society at large.





2 thoughts on “My name is not “My Friend”, my friend: Photo-essay

  1. This piece is quite insightful. ☺ It’s totally absurd how many of these foreign nationals have remained complacent with us invading their spaces and not even stopping to ask for their names. Forgetful of how each person has a story and a background, and calling them “my friend” reduces them to just another figure in the wind.

    Wonderful piece ✊

    Liked by 1 person

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