3. Take Two

Day : Monday, November 10, 2014


Today was the second day of taping the vendors and learning their stories that would be showcased on the Big Issue Website. We planned on getting the final interviews from the vendors and were able to complete that goal through the course of the day.

Cast of Characters

  • Nicky – Big Issue Social Worker
  • Andy – Big Issue Intern/Translator
  • Xolani– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month, co-researcher
  • Zuliwe– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month
  • Nosiphiuro– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month
  • Leslie– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month
  • Nolusapho– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month
  • No-Senior– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month
  • Lavista– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month, co-researcher
  • Thelma– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month
  • Themba– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month, Co-researcher
  • Zikiswa– Big Issue Vendor Of The Month
  • Fakiswa – New Vendor at Big Issue
  • Chelsea Clark-James – American volunteer with background in street papers, film, and production


The Big Issue South Africa Offices


Today we were planning on continuing person to person interviews and taping the vendors profile videos. We had four vendors coming in every two hours so that we could see all 12 of the vendors on Monday. We planned on an activity to do with the vendors while they were waiting to be interviewed. This activity was to draw our families with them and explain their houses and such. We each had a group of women draw their families with us while others were being video taped. Eleven of the twelve vendors showed up on Monday and this was a great show! The only woman who didn’t show up was called by Nikki and her explanation was that she thought she was done with the project because she had been video taped already. This was expected from some people but the amount of vendors that showed up was a fantastic amount! This day we met a woman who was just started at The Big Issue. Her name is Fikiswa, she has amazing English skills and is starting work at the Big Issue to help with her three children. We met her by chance. She happened to be having her beginning workshop while we were downstairs and while she was waiting to talk with Nikki she started talking with the team. We all fell in love with her and requested to Nikki that she be asked to join us in a larger meeting on Thursday with the rest of the vendors. We also used many of the vendors who spoke both Xhosa and English as translators, since we had our translator Andy for a small amount of time. Lavista helped translate for many of the women at the end of the day and Xolani helped with vendors at the start of the day.  Each of the members of our team interviewed and talked with different vendors in order for us to be able to talk to each of them in the time provided. This means that everyone had a widely varied experience with the day. We all ended the day in saddened but uplifting moods because of the stories we had heard and the amount that each vendor had opened up.


This week’s reflections will be both personal thoughts on the day as well as personal encounters. Many of the interviews were done privately by individual members of the group and because of this each member can relay different information on the matter.

Ari: During the day I worked with many of the vendors to get their written interviews and video interviews done. I also helped to get the vendors to draw their families and explain them. My most interesting experience was working with a woman and having her get interviewed on camera. She continuously told us about how she was all alone and caring for her kids, that she had no other family to do this with and she was trying very hard to provide for her kids. And she would emphasize over and over that she was alone, no matter what questions I asked her. Yet her husband was sitting downstairs and had been with us for the past hour talking with us about their family. So she was telling us that she was alone, but her husband had come with her to the Big Issue to meet us and see her work. I feel that the woman was using the footage to her own advantage and not actually telling the whole truth when talking with us. That was rather sad to see and hear. Later on while we were waiting for the last few vendors to finish up in the interviewing process a woman walked in. Gianna and I were waiting downstairs talking with Chelsea. We both expected to have her act like the other women we worked with, which is not really talking with us or understanding us. I said hello to her and instantly realized she was not like the other women. She opened up completely and explained to us that she was a new vendor who was being brought on by Xolani and he was to mentor her at his pitch to teach her about being a vendor. It was a great experience, Fikiswa, interacted with us like she had known us for a long time. She spoke English better than any of the other vendors and was very eloquent in her language. As a group we later decided to bring her on to the project because she would be a great asset as a woman and an English speaker. She will be able to help us a lot! I am super excited to work with her!

Gianna: Today was another long Monday for us. We were more prepared this time though, because we had gone through it last Monday. I interviewed four people today including Themba, Lavista, No-Senior, and Thelma. I started with interviewing Themba in person. Last week he interviewed on camera, so he was a little confused because he thought he was done. But after he warmed up during our interview, it became very difficult to end the interview. He told me about his numerous jobs, and how proud he is of his son who is completing grade 12 and eventually going to the “Bush” (a ceremony of becoming a man). At the end of the conversation, he asked if he could use my camera. Very quickly, he became very direct with how and where he wanted us to pose. At first, his pictures were a little blurry but they quickly became better.  He picked up photography extremely quickly. Later I video interviewed Lavista, No-Senior, and Thelma at the same time. They were all in the room together and Lavista was the translator. Thelma was shy at first, but she became stronger and more confident as time went on. Her English was very good, and I was happy that she was comfortable enough to use it. This was the first time she used English in front of me, rather than just speaking in Xhosa. I see that as an increase in comfort level with us. No-Senior was next. She has had a very difficult life, so her interview was very sad. At the end, however, she smiled and laughed a little when I asked her how she interacts with her customers. I really enjoyed seeing that side of her. Lastly, I interviewed Lavista. He did not attend the session last week, so he had not been interviewed on paper or video. We interviewed him first on video, which allowed him to open up so much more during the one-on-one video conversation. He was a little resistant at first, but after speaking to him for a while he became more open! He told us about how he loves soccer and how he follows his teams religiously. He also told me a touching story of how he joined the Big Issue and how he has grown though it. I think today went really well. I am happy about the progress we are making with connecting to the vendors.

Jordon: Today, like last Monday, was long and emotional. Once again I was filming all of the video interview that we had left to film. Like every time we meet with the vendors, many of them showed up late and a number didn’t come at all. Luckily, we’ve become quite good at ditching whatever plan we came with to come up with something else on the spot in an effort to accommodate the situation we’ve been handed. The first vendor who we got to interview on camera was Stephen. Stephen is a very quiet and typically reserved man who was very certain the previous week that he didn’t want to be interviewed on camera. This week he seemed much more receptive to the idea and I’m quite glad he was. We found out that Stephen is completely homeless and has no family. This really affected me because you could just see in his face how much this tore him up to admit. Again, these interview are extremely hard for me because, as the person filming, I have to sit there and try not to distract the interviewee and these sort of situations are extremely difficult to restrain oneself from reacting to. Later in the day, we had the opportunity to interview Jacoef, an older white man covered in tattoos and full of energy. The interview itself was relatively straightforward but after talking to my partners afterward to see what they found out on his paper-based interview, I was moved. This is a man who had dealt with criminal issues early in his life, spent time on Robben Island, and now was improving his life through the sales of the Big Issue. I learn more about the vendors every day we work with them and every day they inspire me even more. One of the most exciting parts of today was when we met Fikiswa, a new vendor who seemed extremely enthusiastic about our project. After meeting her, we hope to recruit her for our vendor group in the future!

Nadjia: Today was an emotionally draining one for me. It was difficult because I performed 3 interviews back to back. Steven was first to go, but it was difficult for him because I had overheard a conversation he was having with Nikki. The Big Issue provides him with housing, but he had not been staying there because people steal his clothes; causing him to stay on the streets. Nikki was very angry with him about this, which made me nervous because I did not know the mood Steven would be in when we went to do the interview. Xolani thankfully was there to help translate for him, which made Steven feel more comfortable. The interview was very challenging because Steven mainly wanted to talk about the fact that he did not have a home and he stresses about where he will stay. Hearing this was very difficult, because I have grown close with Steven and it really hurt to see him so upset and vulnerable. He usually is laughing, even though he doesn’t have his two front teeth, and he is such a sweet guy. But during the interview he was really down. I tried my best to make the topics more positive and have him talk about his artwork and all the things that make him happy, but he turned everything back to being homeless. After his interview I was drained emotionally. I didn’t have much of a break because Nosiphiuro and Zoliwe came in next. I was excited to see Nosiphiuro because I had done her written interview the week before and we had really connected. The women wanted to be in the room together just to see what the interview process was like, and I feel like it really helped them to be more comfortable. Andy was there to help translate and he did a good job to get them out of their shells as well. Zoliwe was first and she talked about how she wanted to start her own babysitting service. She had babysat before, but then the boy grew up and he didn’t need her. But she loved the experience and would like to do that for more children as well. After Zoliwe, Nosiphiuro went and talked about her dream of buying a minivan so she can sell produce from Eastern Cape to supermarkets. When I asked her if there was anything else she would like to say, she addressed the message to those who are in situations of poverty. She said that there is always hope and The Big Issue can help! We all applauded because that was exactly the kind of message we were hoping for. After a bit of a break Jakoef came in and I worked with him to get both his written and video interview. He was not in because he had been mugged the day before. I had read his vendor of the month profile and he has had a rough life. When we started he was extremely reserved. When I tried to ask him questions he took out his profile and said everything you need is in here. That set me back a bit so I had to try and get him excited about this. The profile talked a lot about him being in jail so I wanted to focus on his family and things that made him happy. Through this I found out he loves to garden and he lives with his wife named Maria. His eyes lit up when he started talking about her and it was so sweet. He began talking about the apartheid and how it made finding schooling difficult. Through that I mentioned that our group had visited Robben Island that weekend, and he mentioned that he was imprisoned on Robben Island for 6 years. I didn’t want to go into details because he began shutting down, but it was crazy that we made that connection. I felt that we had made a better connection so when we went to do the video interview he was a bit more open. It was difficult in the beginning but by the end he seemed a lot more comfortable in front of the camera and with me. I was very nervous to work with him in the beginning because he is one of the more troubled vendors, but I was really glad I got to know who he really is.

Continue to Scene 4: Breaking it Down