Weekend life in Joburg's parks

#28. Take advantage of the great weather by going to a park. And this weekend I went to two – the re-made one in Melrose opposite one of Joburg’s cutest boutique hotels, the Peech, and the Hugh Wyndham Park in Dunkeld that has been taken over by the suburb’s residents who now maintain this great public space.

It’s in Joburg’s green spaces that people lose their usual inhibitions about social interactions. Everyone pays attention to a cute dog or a cute kid and the class and racial divides that sometimes govern even the simplest interactions seem to melt away. Suspicion and fear give way to polite greetings and brief exchanges.

The traces of Apartheid thinking, of separateness, and of being cut off from one another still reside in much of the design of the city with its high walls, boomed areas and “bunker-style” shopping malls”.  Call me old-fashioned but I see taking back Joburg’s public space as an act of resistance.

And so I have become enamoured with Heartlines’ campaign to build a new social movement that will connect people and inspire them to do things for good.  The next campaign action is set down for September 6, and involves signing up to rescue an outdoor public space, much like London’s guerilla gardeners. (To register, click on the “for good” link).

Living in this city is like being the child of highly dysfunctional parents who fail at the most basic task of looking after you. While paying rates and taxes is not optional, it’s easy to feel disgruntled by the low levels of service which have resulted in citizens banding together to provide their own security or maintain public space. On the other hand it’s a great way to build a sense of community and of shared purpose.

As for the parks, I would recommend the Hugh Wyndham Park for its great selection of climbing and playground equipment for small and big children and its open space for dog-walking (avoid the marshy middle unless you are wearing galoshes). The Melrose park  works well for public gatherings or events, dog-chasing, flying remote control planes, and for small children with a death wish and a scooter — the path around the park is quite steep.

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