Joburg photographer Jodi Bieber, top World Press Photo award-winner

“Once you put your work out there you can’t control how people respond, but you want a response.” Tuesday night we were listening to Jodi Bieber (no relation of Justin) talk about her photography at Vega’s Johannesburg Campus. Having just won one of photojournalism’s highest honours – the World Press Photo of the Year Award – seems to have left her largely unaffected. Proud of the achievement and the global focus that it has put on the plight of women under Taliban rule in Afghanistan she spent less time on the award than she did on talking about her personal portfolio of work, all set in South Africa. Continue reading

Joburg master class with David Goldblatt and Ivan Vladislavic

#215. Explore the double negative. I spent last Saturday at the Goodman Gallery listening to Ivan Vladislavic and David Goldblatt in conversation about their limited double edition [TJ and Double Negative] with the delightful Marlene van Niekerk [author of the award-winning Triomf and Agaat] who had been coaxed from Stellenbosch to speak with the “masters of Joburg”. Both of whom, in her words, have a commitment to the “the reductive mysteries of things as they are”. Warm, full of wit and nuance, the conversation took some interesting turns Continue reading

The 2010 Flux Trend Review

#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.

Flux Trend Review Cover 2010

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/

Glass design to make your heart smelt

#176. Hum David Bowie’s “Oh you pretty things” while visiting Smelt, the glass studio in Bamboo Centre, Melville. Lots of jewel-coloured hearts and stars, baubles and lamps.

Glass lamps from Smelt

Glass lamps from Smelt

Bamboo Centre has been around so long I forgot what a Joburg gem it was until a friend told me how she had taken her Cape Town visitor there to impress her this weekend – and it worked. So here goes:

Five more good reasons to hang out at Bamboo include:
Love Books, the city’s newest independent book store where you can order wine by the glass, sit back in your chair and browse an eclectic mix of international magazines not seen in many other local stores
Tinsel, where you can spend lots of moolah (and you will) on great South African designed contemporary jewellery
Black Coffee, where the local design duo who seem to have wowed Berlin and New York sell their crafted couture
Service Station for breakfast (probably the best scrambled eggs in the city) and lunch and any meal in between
and the farmer’s market on the first Saturday of every month (for this one I am relying on good authority because getting there by 7am is not top of my weekend agenda)

So there you have it! What’s stopping you?

* For more on Smelt go here. And to find Bamboo online click here.

Free Nelson Mandela’s legacy

#173. Take a walk through Ferrreirasdorp in Johannesburg’s Central Business District. I did this on Saturday to get a feel for this city as a mining camp. According to The Joburg Book: A guide to the city’s history, people and places (edited by Nechama Brodie) Ferreirasdorp was the first mining camp to be established some time between the discovery of a new gold reef on the “vetvattersrand” in July 1886 – promises of plentiful water were to go unfulfilled – and Paul Kruger’s proclamation that opened the area up to public diggings in September of that year. This was the start of “modern Johannesburg”.

The walk was led by the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust’s Flo Bird. Short and solidly built, her gray hair efficiently tied back in a ponytail and wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words: “one city’s urban terrorist is another city’s freedom fighter” Bird is a crusader for architectural and heritage justice. Continue reading

Christopher Hope frames Joburg

#172. Return to my poor neglected blog after an extended digital fast. It’s January in the city, the skies are grey, and two nights ago I was admiring the moonlit lake at Parkview Golf Course only to be told it was the 8th hole in flood after one of those incredible “will it ever stop” rain storms.

I have just been reading about the launch of the updated edition of From Joburg to Jozi: Stories about Africa’s infamous city Continue reading

The Angel of Hillbrow

#171. Admire the angel and say that if any place needs one it’s Hillbrow.

Hillbrow's angel

Perched up high between Constitution Hill and one of Joburg’s most talked about suburbs the angel is one of a number of public artworks that have sprung up around the inner city. Part of the city of Johannesburg’s public art policy, officials have been hard at work commissioning artists to create pieces that are redefining the city as an inclusive space.

As for Hillbrow, it’s a place that conjures nostalgic, that calls up myths and legends. From the post-1994 hard drug scene that sprang up around the Sands Hotel to the playground of SA’s original party girl Brenda Fassie, Hillbrow was also home to my grandmother and a great-aunt (a lot earlier than that) who lived in the Coronia residential hotel in the late 1970’s (Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola …). Tropicana or was it Tropica sold the best schwarmas in town (It was the wrap) while Estoril had the monopoly on Italian fashion magazines. At Café Paris the men smoked and played backgammon and in the late 80’s Fontana would sell you roast chicken no matter the hour. Hillbrow was the height of cool. All bright lights and big-city like. Continue reading

Hyde Park's Red Chamber makes the Emperor wait

#166. Recommend that if you love reading and food, or recipes, or have any interest in Chinese culture, and/or Taiwan (or all of these) then you should pick up a copy of Emperor Can Wait by Joburg restaurateur Emma Chen. For the uninitiated the title refers to a chinese proverb “The Emperor can wait –while we eat”. First a disclosure – I worked [as an editor] with Chen on the initial manuscript. Now that’s out of the way … the book launched a few days ago with a wedding feast at the Red Chamber, Chen’s restaurant in Hyde Park that is celebrating 20 years of existence (In Joburg restaurant parlance, a lifetime).

That’s 20 years of the best cucumber salad in Johannesburg, possibly the world. There are people who would kill for that recipe and in this city it’s possible they already have.

Emma chen front Continue reading

Crime writer paints Joburg red

#161. Read Daddy’s Girl, the third book in the Clare Hart series written by Cape Town author Margie Orford who came all the way to Sandton City [with its ambience of “hell”] last week to launch it.

“Crime is like hair in Joburg — big and bling,” Orford said. In Joburg it takes 25 men with machine guns to rob the Spar; in Cape Town it takes one guy with a knife.”  She described Cape Town as South Africa’s intellectual centre, and Joburg as its money capital. Continue reading

Cake wrecks. First the blog, now the book

#156. Celebrate small things, like Friday. This is not a time to be serious so check out Cake Wrecks, the blog for when professional cakes go horribly wrong. Cake Wrecks is the creation of one Jen Yates who has just produced a book of the same name after finding that her gallery of “deformed, distasteful and bizarrely decorated wedding and birthday cakes” was a major web hit. Continue reading