Much like the kid in that movie Australia (although I could never claim to be that cute; and in my defence I watched it on a plane and it convinced me of the effects of altitude on cultivating one’s taste for schmaltzy movies) I too enjoy going walkabout. Never more so than in my own city. So Wednesday was a treat. A chance to walk across the inner city with the Johannesburg Development Agency team. The occasion was the opening of nominations for the 2012 Halala Awards.
City view from Main Street - West
The Awards are in their fifth year and they recognise the people and projects that are making the sometimes neglected, and often maligned inner city the place to be. Sharon Lewis, Executive Manager for Planning and Strategy, spoke about investment being a key driver in the realization of the vision of Joburg as a world-class city. She mentioned an impact study conducted that found “for every R1-million invested in the city by the city, the public sector responded with R19-million”. These are critical partnerships.
It’s taken 11 days but I am officially ready to start 2012. It’s a Joburg thing – from December to January the city’s heartbeat slows, in preparation for the crazy pace that will follow for the next 11 months. (If we are going to end the year by throwing fridges out of high-rises some contemplative time will be necessary)
This year will be no different (talking pace here). I have been hearing some interesting plans for the city, talk of a Museum of African Design, whispers about another of African Art (housing an extensive private collection) and the one I am more familiar with, the Wits Art Museum. WAM is a 10-year work in progress that once completed will not only add another notch to Braamfontein’s visitor belt it will transform the art landscape of the city.
Saturday morning we joined a walking tour of Joburg’s inner city. “Through the lens: 125 years of Johannesburg photography” was a fascinating trip through the city’s history using collected photographs as a guide. A city walk takes on new meaning when you take its history along with you, making comparisons between its past and present on every block. It’s an interesting way to track a city’s progress or the lack of it, to get back to what the planners intended or how they got it all so wrong.
Using historical photos as a guide also creates anticipation – Was that beautiful building replaced by a parking lot or now a derelict burnt-out shell or will it have been appreciated and better yet, restored? Joburg is not fond of history. And for much of this mining camp’s life it has spent more time taking things down than shoring them up. It’s a place often lacking in nostalgia.
Market Square in 1895. farmers from as far away as Potchedsroom and Middelburg brought their crops to sell. From Johannesburg One Hundred.
Brokenhearted that it’s all over… a last fix from Design Indaba 2011. And the highlights of the last day were …
Pass the envelope please
As Mexico’s drug war has escalated so has the number of deadly weapons. Pedro Reyes wanted to do something about it. He came up with a campaign that involved creating a series of TV spots in the “shape of a soap opera” entreating the audience to bring a gun to city hall in exchange for a coupon you could trade for a microwave or other household appliances. It broke the record for the voluntary donation of arms with 1527 guns handed in. They were taken to a factory and melted down and fabricated into 1527 shovels. There was “not a big design improvement” is typical of Reyes’ understatement. Just a change in source material – “from an agent of death to an agent of life” as the shovels were handed over to schools and used to plant trees. Continue reading →
Take that walk. The oddest part of walking through Hillbrow with the Heritage Trust about a year ago must have been the huge police presence that accompanied us (I admit I felt reassured when we rounded a corner near the Fire Station and were confronted by a terrified-looking man surrounded by a small group of large men who seemed to be holding onto his hands a little too tightly.) At other times it was just oddly amusing though – as we walked to wards Louis Botha Avenue a spaza shop owner popped his head out of the kiosk and said “W-e-l-c-o-m-e t-o S-o-u-t-h A-f-r-i-c-a! W-h-e-r-e a-r-e y-o-u f-r-o-m?” Continue reading →
Get excited about this year’s Design Indaba as Cape Town’s premier event will be in Joburg next week. With the main conference sold out in CT the organisers have come up with simulcast events in both cities. I am planning to attend DI2011: A Better World Through Creativity, at the Arts Centre Theatre of the University of Johannesburg, Kingsway Campus, for the three-day programme starting Wednesday next week.
I have been to the Design Indaba Expo a few times and last attended Design Indaba on its 10th anniversary in 2007. Then I was watching a presentation on Germany’s World Cup Fan Fests and trying to imagine what World Cup 2010 would be like. Done that!
I am a huge fan of this event that brings together an incredible array of creative minds to share their experiences and inspiring works. It’s the South African equivalent of TED, just a whole lot more stylish. In 2007 my favourite presenters included Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (just the name of that centre would have been enough) who spoke about small-scale project centres that enabled people from severely un-advantaged communities to take part in creating technology and not just consuming it. It was brought together under the idea of “personalising fabrication” – that if you give ordinary people access to modern means of invention – a lab – you get extraordinary things. Continue reading →
Take a walk around Park Station and its surrounds with the Heritage Trust [planned for Saturday, February 19]. This is one I will be sorry to miss (I have a weekend out of town planned). The first time I ever went to Park Station it was by train from Benoni and I was about 14 years old and addicted to the hippie chic of the Market Theatre Flea Market which used to be the best way to spend time and pocket money in the [early, ouch] 1980s. Then it sprawled across the parking lot that is now Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, and was filled with all sorts of treasures and delights [admittedly looking back it was more like knick-knacks and tat]. Continue reading →
Enjoy the idea of Joburg Fashion Week glossing up the inner city. It’s something SA Fashion Week and the Fairlady Awards did for years but to a much smaller audience. I’ve seen catwalk shows at Turbine Hall, pre-renovation, at Hillbrow’s Windybrow Theatre and even at the deconsecrated Wolmarans Street Synagogue. This time the venues are a little more luxe and include the Rand Club, the Bus Factory (OK, not that luxe) and what sounds like a spectacular finale across the Nelson Mandela Bridge with David Tlale showing 92 outfits, each marking one year of Madiba’s life. I have also heard that the best part of that show will be that everyone gets a front-row seat – and you don’t have to trip a fashion editor for it. Continue reading →
194#. Read the New York Times on Braamfontein. The paper of record has called it. Braamfontein is Joburg’s version of New York’s Soho. It has urban edge, lots of design and artistic talent, and a property developer with a real eye for the city’s future. Personally I have always been fond of that neighbourhood, from student days in the early 1990s when I would spend most of my cash (and there wasn’t much of it) at the bookshop on the corner where the Braamfontein Centre now stands (looking back it was literature of the revolution – lots of Fanon, Cabral, Biko. Okay admittedly those were books that real revolutionaries would steal so this is a revealing moment) to cheap and tasty lunches at the Health Scene and a great little Italian joint whose name I don’t recall but whose veal limone I do. Continue reading →
#183. Plan ahead. The annual Flux Trend Review is a collection of essays brought together by Dion Chang, to put words to the “state we are in”. This year’s edition (the third) is from an eclectic mix of viewpoints on mostly everything under the formerly cloud-laden sky, from our relationship with technology and the social web to our overwhelming desire to slow things down, from the anticipated real impact of the soccer world cup to the world become undone by the global recession.There are big questions asked and answers given on everything from our health to the labels we covet.
There’s talk of the power of word of mouse and lots about what’s shaking up the old media business (Irwin Manoim) and even an essay on how the rainbow nation hasn’t ended with a pot of gold by Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya. I liked the cute piece on soccer players eclipsing rock stars as the new celebrities and the idea that as the world reels from massive retrenchments and job losses there is a trend towards reassessing our working lives and re-crafting them to be less of a wage slave cliche.
So that’s the state we are in and you have to humour a trend consultancy that labels itself Flux. At this point I should disclose that I had a small hand in the book (as a copy-editor on the project). But it’s not for this reason that I am planning on attending the Conference this week (it’s my consolation for not making it to Cape Town’s Design Indaba). It’s an opportunity to have the bones thrown on what the future just might look like.
It all happens on Thursday (February 25) at the University of Johannesburg theatre in Auckland Park and the lineup includes City Press Editor Ferial Haffajee on the state of our nation (If all I know about Ms Haffajee is true then the nation would have got a better deal had they had saved their TV time for her instead of tuning into the more”official” S O N last week) and the “Green Bishop” Geoff Davies on the state of the planet. There is also Mokena Makeka, creative director and MD of Makeka Designs on the topic of “Urban Spaces for Modern Tribes” (he’s also in style bible Visi this month) and Sylvester Chauke, Marketing Manager of one of SA’s cheekiest brands, Nandos SA. There’s something on wellness in the 21st century and lots about living a digital life.
There’s even a bit of poetic license as corporate poet Lebo Mashile rounds off the proceedings. Definitely something to do in Joburg this week. For more or to book a ticket go to http://www.fluxtrends.co.za/