A young man sits on a mattress in a small shack, playing the guitar
Exhibit, 6 days

Everyday Life in Ekangala and Hawassa

Exploring the lives of young people living in Ethiopia and South Africa

This exhibition lets us into the lives of young adults living in South Africa (Ekangala) and Ethiopia (Hawassa). Through photographs, videos, songs, stories, poems and interviews we get a glimpse of the ‘local areas’ they live in, and learn about their everyday lives, their dreams and frustrations.  

Young adults’ local areas in their African cities are really important to them. Their neighbourhoods often determine whether they can find affordable housing, earn an income or catch a bus into town. Some are desperate to leave their local areas, others feel very attached. 

Let the exhibition tell you more about their homes, neighbourhoods and lives… 

The exhibitions

Physical installations were held in Sheffield, United Kingdom; and Ekangala and Johannesburg, in South Africa in November 2022.

Them Again Collective made this short film of the South African youth participants attending the exhibition in Enkangala.

Click the 'Download' button below for a PDF copy of the materials from the South African exhibitions.


The Sheffield exhibition included the recreation of a young Ethiopian man's bedroom which can be seen in this short video (credit: Paula Meth). The images below show the bedroom and the layout in Sheffield's Winter Gardens (source: Paula Meth).

All other material from the Sheffield exhibition is included in the online content below.

Ekangala, South Africa

Ekangala is to the north east of Johannesburg. It is a mix of different neighbourhoods near a declining industrial area called Ekandustria. Young people here have low educational trends and very limited work opportunities.  Many youth ‘hustle’ or rely on welfare grants (given to other family members). However the government have invested substantially in affordable housing options. This means through their families, youth often have shelter, but no work. Young people in Ekangala often had more space and privacy than in Hawassa.


Thabo in Ekangala, South Africa, is a musician, poet and aspiring electrician. He lives in a shack structure in the yard of his family’s house, due to tensions with his stepfather. Although he says, “nothing is happening in my life” he also notes “I love being around people, and music” and people would describe me as “a guitar man”. (Life History Interview)

Photos of Thabo were taken by Mark Lewis, in October 2022 and they show his house - a 2 room shack and his yard.

Thabo wrote a poem "Searching for my soul a home" and worked with Them Again Collective to produce a video of him reading the poem while playing the guitar. The performance is accompanied by illustrations and visuals by Them Again Collective.


Pretty, living in Ekangala, South Africa, is a wonderful singer. She lives with her father, her son, her sister and two other children in a government provided house. She also works at the same shoe factory as Moreen.

She explained that “My mom always used to say “never run away from a problem, face a problem, find a solution. Ja [yes], that’s the stuff she taught me”. (Life History Interview)

Pretty recorded her song "Kunzima" for the project, with the help of Them Again Collective.


Innocent in Ekangala, South Africa, dreamed of becoming a doctor, but was unable to study further because his parents were too poor: “if they had saved up money for me to go to school, maybe we’d be speaking a different story. Maybe now I would have done a course, and my life is better”.

He describes his local area as not suiting him “there’s no shopping mall… if you’re looking for a job, you need to leave here… for everything that you need, you need to travel”. In general, he says his “area is a good place and not that bad.” (Life History Interview)

Click the 'Download' button below for a PDF copy of Innocent’s short storybook called “Our small village Rethabiseng”. This was produced by Them Again Collective.



Winnie loves dancing, she dreams of being a businesswoman, and is currently studying towards this. She lives with her son, mother, and siblings in a small shack structure in Ekangala, South Africa. They have no electricity, so they rely on firewood. This means she can only study during the day. (Life History Interview)


Bheki lives in Ekangala, South Africa. He works as a junior technician. Despite not liking his area (there is no electricity) and there are “some people here, whereby we can’t even sleep at night” because they are “moving all around” (such as thieves), he says living here is good.

He describes his work as nearby - but explains this means he only has to wake at 3.30am to get a 4.30am bus rather than waking at 2am. (Life History Interview)


Xoli lives in Ekangala, South Africa. She plaits hair and sells various items to earn an income. She is grateful for her supportive parents. 

“I think positive. Because even though I could not go to school to study to be a social worker my parents were there for me throughout. When I needed something they always made sure I got it even when they were not working.” (Life History Interview)


Moreen works in a shoe factory 7 days a week for 12 hours a day. She earns £77.50 a month. She lives in a state provided house in Ekangala, South Africa, with six family members and shares a bedroom with her mother and her child. They plant spinach and vegetables in their garden.

Moreen’s family give her strength and joy: “When I’m with my daughter, she brings me so much happiness and she makes me feel like this world belongs to me. Even when I’m angry she lifts me up. I look at her and feel like all is well in me. She defines love, she makes me happy in every way”. (Life History Interview)

Click the 'Download' button below for a PDF copy of Moreen's short storybook  called “Take Me As I Am”. This was produced by Them Again Collective. 



Thabang works as a car washer from time to time, and dreams of becoming a social worker. His home in Ekangala, South Africa, isn’t big enough to run a business and anyway “here you risk having issues with the municipality when you start a business from home”. (Life History Interview)

He lives in a government provided house with his parents, siblings and his children.


Frank in Ekangala, South Africa, had a very difficult childhood, he says “growing up was messed up and so terrible. I don’t miss that life”. As a young man however, he is now deeply religious: “The church is a major part of my life, [it] helps me to understand how to deal with and approach life”. 

Frank lives in a self-built extension to his uncle’s house. He has a permanent job, working in a plastics factory as a trucking assistant and plans to run his own transport business in the future (Life History Interview).

Frank's video about his life was produced with Them Again Collective in June 2022.


Busi (short for Busiswe) lives in a rented room with her husband and children in Ekangala, South Africa. She is unemployed. She’s had various jobs in the past including in a food factory and a paint factory. She says “I loved getting a salary… even when we stood there the whole day… I had to do some heavy lifting… the working part was not nice, but the money one could use to do things… I could even go to the mall…”. 

She found “not working quite painful” observing that “there is different treatment between when you are working and when you are not”. Busi sees a lot of value in education saying, “I have seen many people who have been able to pursue life because they are educated”. (Life History Interview)

Click the 'Download' button below for a PDF copy Busi’s short storybook  called “Behind everything, a smile is everything”. Them Again Collective illustrated and produced this storybook with Busi.



Like others, Moshe has made use of social networks and technology to develop his skills - learning how to fix phones  from a friend and online: “ I also use a data-free app to watch videos that show me how to fix phones….I make money from that”.

Moshe is now working at the Shoprite depot in Pretoria, staying with his uncle in Atteridgeville.  “My plan is simple, I will buy a stand, build a house and rooms for rent, and generate income from that”. (Life History Interview)


Vuyi is studying criminal justice through a distance learning university called Unisa. She has also trained as a legal secretary but has not yet found in-service training. She lives with her parents and 5 siblings in Dark City, near Ekangala. She is close to her family. (Life History Interview)

Vuyi is concerned about mental health among young people, especially related to high unemployment. Click the 'Download' button below for a PDF copy of Vuyi’s short storybook called “Mental Health Awareness”. This was produced by Them Again Collective.



Tsholo lives at Zithobeni near Ekangala with her son, her parents and siblings: “It helps because I don’t pay for rent.” She contributes food from her job in a restaurant in Bronkhorstpruit. But also “we have 5 outside rooms we are renting out… and also another room for a shop. That is how we generate income at home”. (Life History Interview)

Hawassa, Ethiopia

This smaller city to the south west of Addis Ababa is famous for having the largest industrial park in Africa and a beautiful lake. Young adults living in Hawassa, Ethiopia, really struggle to find and afford housing, because of a dire shortage of houses in the city. Even if they have work, many young people have to share small rooms with friends or work colleagues. Youth in Hawassa are often highly educated but finding work is a real challenge.


(Life History Interview)


Terefu is a bajaj (informal taxi) driver in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Driving is a job “dominated by men”. She lives in Chefu, an area on the outskirts of Hawassa. Despite its poor location she “prefers to stay in Chefe… as the house is cheaper there and I afforded to rent the whole compound”.

She says “I am happy living in this house, especially the freedom that we enjoy as a family… without being worried that we might be disturbing our landlord or other tenants as we live alone in the compound… We laugh, we talk, chat, and we spend half a night if we like without being worried about the electric light, nobody [tells] us to switch it off…”

“For me the benefits outweigh the limitations… Chefe is a little bit backward, where people who migrated from rural areas live.” (Life History Interview)


Habteab in Hawassa, Ethiopia, graduated as an electrical engineer. He dreamed of being a pilot but found out he wasn’t tall enough. He’s focusing on becoming a businessman now. 

He likes living in Hawassa “the city is comfortable and allows you to have an optimal and affordable life”. 

Habteab is lucky to have a private room in his family home and feels very happy to be living there. (Life History Interview)


Medhanit initially didn’t do well at school, so her dream of becoming a nurse had to be abandoned. She is now studying Business Management in Hawassa, Ethiopia. She has tried running several small businesses, but these have proven unsuccessful.
She blames her government for increasing unemployment in Ethiopia. She describes how she set up a fast-food cafeteria selling “coffee, tea, macchiato, and vegetable soap. It was good and we had a lot of customers. One day… government officials came and closed the cafeteria - with everything in it.” They tried to reopen but the cost of losing their items and their customers left them bankrupt. (Life History Interview)

Medhanit’s video tells her story about marriage and being financially dependent on her husband.


These images are of Ebenezer’s room and his parents’ compound in Hawassa, Ethiopia which they rent out to tenants.

Ebenezer’s parents decided he should move to Hawassa when he was a teenager. He speaks fondly of his home place (Yabello): “your hometown where your childhood memories live is irreplaceable and incomparable no matter how long you have been living in other places”. He explains “moving to Hawassa was very hard”.

He works as a teacher but says his income is very “low and meagre. It is unthinkable to live in other big cities with this amount of income.” (Life History Interview)

Ebenezer’s short video (produced by Spot-design in 2022) is about his lack of choice over his course of study.


Zufan from Hawassa, Ethiopia, dreamed of being an author but her “dad stopped me from pursuing” this. She studied psychology and then completed a three-month course in tailoring and design. She now runs a successful computer training school and also makes shoes and handbags in her spare time.

Once she is able to purchase the machines that she needs, her aim is to expand her “current side business (handwork) into a small-scale industry”. 

She says: “I have a good work spirit and a good entrepreneurship potential and I enjoy work” (Life History Interview)

Zufan’s video tells her story of building up her training business. It was produced by Spot-design in 2022.


Eden is an unemployed civil engineering graduate in Hawassa, Ethiopia. She chooses to live near her mum after her dad died unexpectedly. If it wasn’t for this, she’d like to move to Addis Ababa to find a job.

She says “I live with my husband in a rented house of two rooms… the house is beautiful… When I want to bake enjera, I can do that without feeling worried, using the ‘mitad’ [stove] of the landlord…” 

“My feelings [about] my house are always positive. A big house with a lot of space, with a lot of love”.

She can’t earn an income at her home as she doesn’t feel free to use her landlord’s compound for money making activities. (Life History Interview)


Gedeon grew up in Hawassa, with parents who are educated and employed. He has a university qualification, but it was very hard for him to find work. He says, “I was very sick and tired of [the] relentless nagging” asking “Did you find a job”. He’s working now and says, “it gives me huge relief”. 

He rents and shares a small single room with his sister and doesn’t like the lack of privacy of living communally in a compound: “you cannot scream or cry out loud while you are angry and sad, and even you cannot be alone with yourself.” (Life History Interview)

Gedeon’s video, produced by Spot-design in 2022, describes his search for work.


Workineh lives in Hawassa, Ethiopia. He shares his 3x4 “very narrow” room with a friend and comments that they even have to cook in that space.

“There are many tenants in the compound… the house is not comfortable in many ways; but we chose it because the rent is good. It is affordable in our income range”.

He says “water is worrisome; because we can’t use water as we want to. The landlord’s monitor our water use out of fear of rising costs of water bills.” (Life History Interview)

Workineh’s video is about his struggles to find work.


Bezawit is a makeup artist who runs her own cosmetics shop in Hawassa, Ethiopia. She lives in a 4x4 room in a compound with 15 other rooms and a “big house and my mother lives in it alone”. They used to rent the other rooms to tenants but now they rent it out to a pharmaceutical company as a warehouse.

She likes her neighbourhood, it is ‘secure’, in ‘close proximity to the main market of the city’ and quiet.

She attends church seven days a week and never starts work before going to church. She says, ‘Religion always comes before all other aspects of life.” (Life History Interview)


This material is part of a research project titled Youth Futures: The work/housing nexus in Ethiopia & South Africa, funded by the British Academy. It is a collaboration between The University of Sheffield, University of the Witwatersrand, Hawassa University and Cardiff University.


  • Dr Paula Meth (project lead), Urban Studies & Planning
  • Dr Tafesse Matewos, Hawassa University
  • Dr Eshetayehu Kinfu, Hawassa University
  • Professor Sarah Charlton, University of Witwatersrand
  • Dr Margot Rubin, Cardiff University
  • Professor Tom Goodfellow, University of Sheffield
  • Lesego Tshuwa, University of Witwatersrand

The Exhibition

  • Photography in South Africa by Mark Lewis, and by Them Again Collective
  • Video, drawings and art work, music recording and production in South Africa by Them Again Collective
  • Photography in Ethiopia by Liben Gollo
  • Videos in Hawassa, Ethiopia were transformed and edited by Spot-design