A magnet for the young and creative, Soweto's hippest market, the Locrate, attracts hundreds of visitors each month for its local take on fashion, food, live music and culture. We chatted to 28-year-old founder Kgosi Rampa, a business analyst who grew up in the Soweto neighbourhood of Mzimhlophe, Orlando West, to find out what made him want to ditch a suit and tie and focus on upping the cool quotient of brand Soweto.
My inspiration for starting the market ...We have a number of friends from Soweto who work in the creative sector and we went to other markets and thought wouldn't it be cool for us to have our own space in Soweto. We wanted to showcase our creativity, lifestyle and also educate people about ourselves. The growth and acceptance by not only Sowetans but also people not from Soweto has been a great surprise to us. Locrate has grown to something all local creatives can call their own, that place where people can buy with pride and find a safe haven to share ideas.
Locrate is short for local creative, ranging from art, fashion and design, food to photography, etc. Locrate is a FOOD. DESIGN. EXPERIENCE market. The food is a mix from cultures local and abroad. We offer the best local design in fashion and also art. The experience is real and it differentiates us from the rest as we want you to also experience Soweto while you visit, through the music, performances, and new initiatives like #SowetoDoesntRead that provoke conversation (this campaign launched the Soweto book club). It's an opportunity for you to learn about us (Sowetans) not from the internet or media but from the horse’s mouth.
I grew up in Mzimhlophe in Orlando West, a suburb of Soweto. As kids we spent time outdoors playing with whatever means we had, making slingshots, using stones to play cars, making kites and other “indigenous games” (that’s what they call them these days). The place itself is a beautiful place and has the best people, but like any other township life can be rough here. Soweto back in those days was way more of a community where kids never went hungry if there was food next door.
Our idea was to attract mainly local creative people who have a craft they wish to share and also anyone looking to start a company and who has not been able to find a platform that’s accessible, and one that cares.
If you come to the market on any Sunday you'll encounter … a real mix of people. In the morning around 10.30 – 12.00 we see all the tourists coming in and out. From 12.00 – 2pm we see all the friends from far and wide looking to enjoy a day in Soweto and from 2pm onwards you see all the locals flock in their numbers. It’s like clockwork, we really should capture this as it happens.
If you are visiting Soweto don't leave without a visit to Fixin Diaries in Pimville, the first bike customization and social ride host in Soweto (and you wanna see Soweto through their eyes), Lebo’s backpackers in Orlando West for an educational tour of Soweto with a twist (by bike or tuk tuk) this is the place to be and while you are at it you get to have lunch with the founder Lebo Malepa, one of the first entrepreneurs I’ve known. Then there’s NtoZinhle jewellery store in Orlando West, a remarkable local store that started from a shack and now attracts hundreds of customers every time they announce a sale. It’s situated on 7323 Phiri St, Orlando West. Only three years old and they have almost 40k followers on Instagram at @ntozinhle_accessorize. You also should’t miss out on a visit to Thesis concept store in Mofolo for their signature bucket hats and T-shirts.
Take a bike ride with the the Fixin Diaries crew, stop over in Mofolo to enjoy a plate of liver (you’ll find the place on the corner of Machaba and Kinini Streets. It’s a miracle how many people they attract - they have all the characteristics of a disaster but they are the best in Soweto), and last, don't miss out on tasting Soweto Gold Mama’s Ginger beer at Ubuntu Kraal.
My favourite place to hang out in Soweto is at his and hers jam session in Mzimhlophe on the last Sunday of every month. (10210 Poka Street, Mzimhlophe and catch them on Instagram at @hisandhersjams).
Some of the people who stand out for putting Soweto on the map are Lebo Malepa from Lebo’s backpackers because he always pushes the brand, and is constantly creating employment for local people and legitimately cares for Soweto, above just being an entrepreneurial genius. He even has Soweto tattooed on his arm. Wandile Zondo from Thesis has not only created one of the biggest brands in Soweto, but also lives the brand and the life, while Wandile Nzimande from Soweto TV was part of a crew, that included guys in the music industry, that started the pride in kasi (neighbourhood) culture at a time when we needed to break away from just inheriting American popular culture. We stopped buying the FUBU and started buying local brands Loxion Kulca and Magents. Bobo from Boys of Soweto (a Joburg-based fashion collective) has not been distracted by the trends but sets his own course, an attribute I wish I had, but I’ll get there, and many more. There is a huge string of Soweto success stories that stand out and that inspire me every day.