Obama wins in Troyeville

#61. Head to Troyeville to celebrate an Obama victory. Troyeville, east of Joburg’s city centre has had a few bohemian flirtations. The most memorable for me was Bob’s Bar, circa the early 1990’s, a haunt for the city’s writers, filmmakers and poets, misfits and activists, the lost and the found. You would leave whose ever car you had arrived in on a dark side street, and open a door into a world of coloured lights, vinyl decor and charged conversations that got more drunken as the night wore on. Alliances would be forged, feuds declared. There was so much alcohol it was easy to drink Troyeville pretty.

For the official version, the key historical moment would probably be the fact that Mahatma Ghandi once lived there in the early 1900s, and it used to be a game to try and point out the right house because more than one homeowner in the suburb tried to lay claim to that.

And then there’s The Troyeville Hotel – once a little piece of Portugese Africa and home to the Flamingo restaurant and a great haloumi salad (prawns and calamari, I am told). It was the place to have been on Wednesday night once the votes had all been counted (BTW. still waiting for the Zimbabwe election to wrap) and victory was in the air. As the night grew darker, the crowd swelled with people who had once frequented Bob’s Bar, and those who were too young to remember it but would have if they could’ve. The lights from Ponte, a city landmark, blazed in the distance while Mikhael Subotzky back from New York where his photographs are being exhibited at MoMA roamed the place capturing it from all angles. Some kids inhaled helium out of the blue and white balloons while the city’s documentarist and praise poet Ivan Vladislavic stood sentry at the main entrance. (This is praise in the Zulu tradition where the object of praise comes in for a regular and deserved drubbing). The night was as much about Barack Obama as it was about where we would like to be. It was about a moment that we once had and had lost somewhere past 1994 where all things seemed possible. To borrow Mikhael Subotzky’s thoughts: “For me, photography has become a way of attempting to make sense of the very strange world that I see around me. I don’t ever expect to achieve that understanding, but the fact that I am trying comforts me”.

* The Troyeville Hotel is at 25 Bezuidenhout Street, Troyeville. Tel: 011 402 7709

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