(Chapter written for Undressing Durban book)
I’m hopping about on one leg, in the middle of a busy walkway, obstructing morning commuters. Directly across from me is the herb-sellers market, above me cars funnel into the city while below colourful aprons are strewn across stairs, the ladies selling them sitting on upturned crates. “Is this the right size?” I ask Crops as I squeeze my foot into a cross-strapped rubber sandal. “Sure, sure, stretch to fit,” he answers. Crops makes and sells imbadadada (a home-made shoe or literally ‘someone who walks with an awkward gait’) from a small outlet on the edge of Warwick Triangle. Pairs are lined up outside his shop, in rows based on style and size. The imbadadada is a thick, hard-wearing sandal, with two straps along the front and one along the back, originally made by Zulu tribesmen. Johnny Clegg made these shoes popular with a wider audience in the eighties, dancing in a pair on stages across the world.
“I make these myself from the car tires,” Crops tells me. “It’s an old design. They first started making them in the 1950s. The people buy it for the traditional dance or just to wear. It is comfortable and they last a long time. I am also making these new styles now, ones with the buckle and ones with Nike.”