Slice of Life: An Ivorian artist who fixes shoes on the street dares to dream

Stéphane Tah, artist and shoemaker.

Stéphane Tah, artist and shoemaker.


People tell stories around me all the time. If you have to ask me what my story is, it’s like this: I fix shoes on the street. I was an artist at home in Côte d’Ivoire, I came to South Africa and now I’m working here.

Being an artist doesn’t pay.
The shoe thing is temporary – I want something better. I listen to people who walk by; they stop and talk to me. Everyone around here knows Stéphane Tah as he is now.

I sometimes imagine my future, but I know how it will happen.

Tomorrow, you’ll see me in a shop. Two or three shops is what I’ll own.

I’ll be asked: How did you get here? I’ll tell them: I didn’t get to owning these shops just through the money. It was by kindness and the help of people around me. I was kind to people, too, along the way.

  One day, I was sitting on the corner where I used to fix people’s shoes, and a guy from Pretoria came. He wanted a job. He didn’t find that job, and he had no money to go home. His transport cost R120 – he wanted to sell his S3 Samsung cellphone for R500 to get the money. I made R140 that morning, but I took R120 out of my pocket and gave it to him.

A few days later, a white lady parked her car just down there.

She asked: “How’s your business?” I said: “Business is fine.”

  She had a roll of money in a small plastic bag. There were a lot of people around, so I took it and quickly put it in my pocket. She left, and after a while I counted the money. R1 100. Just like that.

  Tomorrow, I will be a shop owner. It will take money, yes, but mainly a good heart. – Stéphane Tah (27), as told to Ra’eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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