What starts off in fairly regular interview mode – me seated in a comfortable armchair facing Richard Welch, my notebook at the ready, soon shifts shape. It’s as if the four walls beneath the double-volume ceiling of Kalahari Books contain within them some mysterious force that makes a joke of time and exerts competing gravitational pull. Surrounded by thousands (around 70 000 in all, Welch estimates) of books spanning more than a century we flit from shelf to shelf like magpies. We move from titles by JG Ballard to George Bernard Shaw picking the books out, then discarding them for the next attraction. There is poetry and playwriting, Greek epics and tomes on trains, collectables and curiosities and fiction, heaps and heaps of fiction. Continue reading
Artist Ryan Arenson dreams in one colour – baby yellow, but produces work in many. For the past two years he has been immersed in creating a six-year-old boy called Baby Yellow, an alter ego conceived on an iPad who since has taken on an unexpectedly rich digital life, drawing, writing books, playing in a band, creating music and enacting all manner of fantasies while he blurs the line between childhood exploration and adult subject matter. Baby Yellow lives in Arenson’s Johannesburg apartment. He inhabits the space as if he owns it… Continue reading
It’s a map of Africa but not as you would usually know it. From a distance it resembles the texture of oyster mushrooms, their delicate fluted forms cast into whorls of soft colour. Up close you can make out the words that have combined to create the map, and the pages of books that have been delicately folded and glued together to create it.
This artwork “Africa Reinvented” has earned Keri Muller her title as the “book artist” or as Google’s search terms locate her, “Cape Town’s origami expert”. Continue reading
Anthea Pokroy collects gingers. When I hear that I imagine her standing up at a support meeting, guiltily surveying the room, and then confessing. I also am mildly reassured. Though not a collector, I am a ginger, and find myself drawn to other redheads, unusually interested in characters like Homeland’s Damian Lewis, Desperate Housewives “Bree Van de Kamp”, News International’s Rebekah Brooks and now in Pokroy.
It appears that once you start, there is no holding back. In just over two years Pokroy collected more than 500 gingers, photographing each one of them. Her solo exhibition “I collect gingers” opened in January, a series of portraits presented in 10 “hair groups” – a spectrum from strawberry blond to dark auburn cross-referenced against skin and eye colour. The groups constitute a racial classification invented by the artist, with sub-classifications. “It’s human nature to create hierarchies, but I haven’t suggested who is the low – I wanted the viewer to impose that,” says Pokroy. Continue reading
After a two month hiatus spent in my study (and a number of free WIFI-enabled coffee shops across the city including my current favourite Warm & Glad, on 357 Jan Smuts Avenue) finishing my M.A. dissertation, I have been released to feast on the city. Oh how I have missed that. On Saturday we took a walk with Bongani Mathebula from MainStreetWalks to view the murals that form part of the IARTJOBURG project, a brilliant initiative by Ricky Lee Gordon of /and people (love their work), adidas Originals and Plascon.
Here’s the story…
If you go down to Doornfontein today you are in for a big surprise. Look up along Sivewright Avenue as you travel in the direction of Yeoville and there hanging on the wall of an otherwise ordinary commercial face brick block is an elephant, a rhinoceros, a giraffe and three other wild creatures. They appear to be lying across the reinforced concrete beams, their limbs hang limply, and their eyes are closed. Asleep, or extinct, the artist has left it up to you to decide.
Nothing to do but protest. Sad news is that one of Joburg’s most beloved bookshops is set to close early next year. Boekehuis in Auckland Park is a haven for writers and for people who love hearing from them run by the amazingly interested and interesting Corina Van der Spoel (I worked closely with her on the Sunday Times Book awards a few years ago – she was one of our judges. And I also hosted a discussion with Peter Harris on his incredible historical thriller In a Different Time: The inside story of the Delmas Four one Saturday afternoon there). It’s a gathering place for readings, poetry, debate, discussion and the exchange of ideas that has been nurtured by Corina. It’s also an independently-run bookshop that I have never managed to leave without a brown packet filled with some extraordinary title that no mega bookstore would stock (or be able to find) or even be interested in ordering. And while its heart is local, its soul is truly global.
But I am still to blame. Continue reading
While Julius Malema was not celebrating a victory after the contentious hate speech ruling delivered yesterday we were at the Troyeville Hotel dinner and book club listening to Fiona Forde, the author of his biography, in conversation with City Press Editor Ferial Haffajee.
The event was apparently sold out in just over an hour. The room was wall to wall with journalists in whose professional lives Julius Malema occupies a special place. The man is news. He strides across the public stage as if he owns it, and has a way of making even reasonable statements sound outrageous, flanked as they usually are by the spectacle of a tenderpreneur calling for the nationalization of everyone else’s wealth.
This is a long overdue review of one of those essential companions for making this city your friend. Chic Jozi [by my friend Nikki Temkin] was first published in 2009 and has now been updated. It opens with the disclaimer: “Joburg is notorious for being a fickle and fast-changing city. Stores open and close all the time, change location and name …” Too true and the reason why impulse buying is key to survival here, as one minute that covetable item is in that window and the next day that building has been demolished to make way for another mall. Continue reading
I often find myself thinking “only in Joburg”. The phrase crossed my mind the other night, doubled back and took up residence and I have been trying to dislodge it ever since. It was prompted by the launch of Killing Kebble, Eye Witness News reporter Mandy Wiener’s explosive book about Brett Kebble’s murder and the vicious seam of corruption and lawlessness that it exposed in this little mining town. Jackie Selebi, Clinton Nassif, Glen Agliotti, Brett Kebble. The names are dirty, the plot far too murky and in parts just too thick to comprehend fully. Continue reading
An innocent tweet about eating great dim sum in Joburg got me a little more attention than I was seeking. So it’s time to reveal all, well almost. Saturday morning the sky over the city was grey and foreboding and having recently returned from a weekend away in Parys I was still hungry for adventure. Be warned my idea of adventure usually involves discovering good food and exploring Joburg’s inner city. Continue reading