Obz Lifestyle Market + Urban Reclamation = Photobook

By Alex Gwaze I Researcher

Download the free Photobook: OBZ Lifestyle Market [Urban Reclamation]


Areas under a bridge are usually occupied by the youth and the dispossessed. Due to their subterranean characteristics, they quickly become centres for criminal activities – however in Cape Town, South Africa, this is not the case. Below the bustling hipster Lower Main Road in ‘Obs,’ lies an authentic land rehabilitation project called Obz Lifestyle Market or OLM. OLM is a tightly woven collage of units, stalls, cafes, kiosks and stands situated under Station Road bridge in the Cape Town southern suburb of Observatory. What makes the space different from other hipster establishments in the area, is that the market functions like one solid ‘neighbourhood’ encouraging visitors to interact with all the people, places and things by simply entering one unit/stall in the market.

The site now occupied by OLM is owned by parastatal company, Metrorail {PRASA} and was previously used as an informal dump site by local residents and businesses. Founder of OLM, ‘Dawie’ David Kiakia could not erect any permanent structures on the site, so he opted to adapt the space to cater to the counter-culture needs of the Obs community and provide a unique place for enterprising locals to interact with the residents and visitors of Lower Main’s trendy establishments.

The process of rehabilitating the land under the bridge was self funded and began in 2014. It took roughly 9 months to set up the market [2 weeks to clear the illegal dump site + 2 weeks for installation of facilities + 7 ½ months erect units and stalls, secure tenants and market the location]. Whilst gentrification is often negatively portrayed as eroding culture, OLM is an exception. Unlike other trading platforms, OLM maintains a minority / majority [black, coloured] presence in this otherwise ‘white’ economic space. The formerly downtrodden area under the bridge is now an organic site that fosters the growth and development of marginalized people. It affords locals and foreign black / coloured residents the opportunity to gain a viable economic foothold in the urban mainstream by reconnecting them with the Obs residents and the larger global visiting community. OLM currently has 12 rental units and 9 stalls: 21 potential places to occupy and 21 potential cultural intersection points.

Like a micro-macrocosm of a shopping mall [for a specific individual], OLM’s regeneration concept is designed to develop and improve not only the area under the bridge, but also ensure greater independence of the individuals in the community and beyond by providing a platform for common ownership and reclamation. The social market concept employed by Dawie Kiakia creatively works with available public space to facilitate a platform for people to reclaim, restore, and amplify urban areas to bridge the economic gap. As a result of this initiative, the rehabilitated dark spot under a flyover now blooms with colour, culture, life, people and business.

Download the full Photobook: OBZ Lifestyle Market [Urban Reclamation]

Additional info:

In South Africa, almost half of the urban population lives in the townships and informal settlements. Under apartheid, black people were forced to live in the dormitory-style townships that were built as far away as possible from economic city centers. Post-apartheid development policies led to the construction of townships filled with government housing and limited access to some social services. However, for the first time in history, the majority of black South Africans reside in urban areas. According to the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) survey, two thirds of the population now live in the cities and towns. This rural to urban migration is spurred on by the decline of the rural economy and higher employment rates in urban areas. 54 % of the world’s population occupy the towns and cities, placing a substantial challenge on available land for housing, transportation, healthcare, infrastructure, energy and employment. The social marketplace concept adopted by Kiakia proposes a new avenue for locals to return to current metropolitan spaces and highlights the need for property developers and stakeholders to engage with the community to address the issues of poverty through appropriate conservation, job creation and cultural exchange.


“The proportion of people living in urban areas increased from
52% in 1990 to 62% in 2011.” See: http://www.southafrica.info/news/urbanisation240113.htm#.V_vdAsnJj_s#ixzz4Mhyuzwiy

“The urban population of the world has grown rapidly from
746 million in 1950 to 3.9 billion in 2014. Today, 54 per cent of
the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is
expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050.” See:

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