1st Edition

Maye! Maye! The History and Heritage of the Kwa Mai Mai Market

By Sipho Sithole Copyright 2025
    292 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book presents an analysis of Johannesburg’s Kwa Mai Mai market, which was once known to regulars as 'a place of healing' and has experienced numerous changes of significant national transformation over time.  

    It explores how the Kwa Mai Mai community, formerly a working class of migrants, reversed roles and took control of the means of production from the dominant class. Through their heightened cultural consciousness, this marginalised migrant community reimagined new economic realities and possibilities, forever distancing themselves from their painful, repressive past. This book chronicles the significance of cultural memory and discusses how it can be used as a weapon to not only resist subjugation but also to invoke entrepreneurial and creative spirit.

    Written out of the collective observations and interpretations of his ethnographic research spanning four years – Sipho Sithole’s ‘Maye Maye’ is dedicated to marginalised communities and those who, despite operating on the fringes of the economy, have sought to create their own fortune and destiny.

    Print edition not for sale in Sub Saharan Africa.



    1. Maye! Maye!

    2. Wrapped in gold

    3. Condemned

    4. A Bantu affair

    5. Kwa Mai Mai: Not your usual hostel

    6. Meet the cultural entrepreneurs

    7. Converts and diviners at the crossroads

    8. At loggerheads

    9. Betrayed, but not defeated

    10. Formalising the informal?

    11. Conclusion





    Sipho Sithole is Cultural Anthropologist and Research Fellow at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (University of Johannesburg). He holds a PhD degree in Anthropology from the University of the Witwatersrand. His research interests are music and society, culture and heritage, marginality and belonging, migration and integration, post coloniality and re-imagining, as well as the creative economy.

    ‘This book plots, historically, the journey of the birds of passage – the migrants – and their refusal to fly away from a city that pretended they did not exist. A cultural memory transported from villages to new geographies only to be converted into trade-able cultural goods and services.’

    — Author of The Man Who Founded the ANC, Bongani Ngqulunga

    ‘Maye? Maye!: The history and heritage of the Kwa Mai Mai market is the piece of gold we have been waiting for. It is a treasure that intrigues one’s intellect with its digging into the shafts of the history of gold in South Africa. Maye! Maye! is indeed a cry for help for the abandoned Mai Mai Market, a potential left to decay without its fulfilment.’

    — Author of Don’t Upset ooMalume: A Guide to Stepping Up your Xhosa Game, Hombakazi Mercy Nqandela

    ‘Here we have a real people’s history written by a public intellectual who has dedicated years to recording and researching the story of the residents of Johannesburg’s famous Mai Mai market. What those arrivals in that tough city have really accomplished is to make something both economically and culturally significant out of practically nothing. Where there were once stables, for decades has thrived a residential production site for the best in African indigenous costumery and medicine available anywhere in South Africa. Sithole has also looked the perfidious mismanagement and discrimination the residents and craft artists of Mai Mai have had to endure. This book is not only of great sociological and cultural import, it is also an exciting, nitty-gritty read. Do yourself and the city a favour and read it.’

    — Professor, David B. Coplan, University of the Witwatersrand