From the center of Johannesburg, it takes a minibus taxi about an hour to get to Diepsloot, a poor, densely populated settlement beyond the fringes of the city's wealthy suburbs. Trips in the privately managed minibuses—often the only affordable transportation—usually begin and end inauspiciously on a dusty field or at a dark shed surrounded by hundreds of other vehicles. But now travelers to Diepsloot arrive at a very different kind of place: a refurbished taxi station (or rank) that combines bold graphics and an engagement with the small-scale entrepreneurs who bring vitality to South Africa's urban streets.
In the less than 20 years since its establishment, first as an informal settlement and then as a dumping site for evicted squatters, Diepsloot has grown in an ad hoc way with camplike construction and self-built housing. It now has a population of roughly 200,000 people, including immigrants from other African countries, rural job seekers, and low-paid employees who work in Johannesburg's rich northern suburbs, says Anton Harber in his 2011 book Diepsloot: A Place at the Side of the Road. Despite its newness and its distance from the city center, the settlement has developed an intricate urban fabric, largely through residents' often-ingenious appropriation of the spaces between its simple buildings.