Mars is a Joburg icon. Drive around Newtown, Fordsburg, and along Barry Hertzog Ave and you’ll see his telltale signs. The 25-year-old graffiti artist has pretty much made his mark across the city. This week his exhibition From The Ground Up is on at Two By Two Gallery in Newtown. It’s definitely worth seeing. Before Instagram and inner city gentrification there was Graffiti and with it came the mingling of exhaust and paint fumes, the scraping away of rot and unearthing urine-stained sidewalk weeds for the perfect spot. There was finding the best wall and owning it, but most of all burning the rest. This is graffiti and it all started from the ground up.”
Sunday morning in Newtown. We joined the lovely Jo Buitendach from Past Experiences, the original city walking tour company for a graffiti walk. Jo’s in the process of writing her M.A. thesis focusing on the heritage value of graffiti in Newtown. Hopefully it will end up as a book. She has an anthropological take likening it to early human’s need for self-expression once realised in rock art.
I love meeting people who are shaping the city and I had been curious to meet Hannelie Coetzee for some time, having seen her “Hover” and “Ouma Miemie and Aunt Vya” on city walks…
Hannelie Coetzee’s work spills out of her studio and into the surrounding streets. The artist moved into Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct, on the city’s east side, two years ago and the streets are now her canvas.
Ouma Miemie and Aunt Vya by Hannelie Coetzee, walking on Commissioner Street
The first Joburg Winter Sculpture Fair, was held at Nirox in the Cradle of Humankind on the weekend of May 4-5. A two-day Fair organised by Artlogic, the makers of the Joburg Art Fair and Food Wine Design, it was a supreme event. Perfect winter sunshine, winemakers and chefs imported from Franschhoek and a really superb sculpture exhibition in the extraordinary landscape that is Nirox.
It takes a foreign sensibility to see Joburg’s suburban streets with new eyes. And I highly recommend it. On Friday morning we joined artists Susanne Kudielka and Kaspar Wimberley for a walk through Parkwood. Not your average walk, as we were encased in a cardboard Volkswagen Citi Golf. The two Stuttgart-based artists have been working as “artists-in-residence” at the Goethe-Institut for the past six weeks. They arrived in Joburg intending to look at the theme of security.
From beaded guard dogs to the fake ivy that doubles up as vicious spikes on suburb walls, they spent their time taking in the many ways and aesthetics in which people in this city protect their homes from outside invasion. Whether the threat is real or imagined…
So there I was travelling the highways and byways of the city in a big red open-top double decker bus, making good on Alain de Boton’s declaration that “The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.” I felt like a tourist, even without the uniform of sandals-and-socks and a giant Nikon camera, or its modern incarnation that involves pointing an iPad at some unfortunate local.
City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Bus launches in Johannesburg
Artwork by ROA, shot by Martha Cooper. My favourite mural of the I ART Joburg series. Our Saturday walk included a stop at the Mai Mai Market that inspired ROA’s endangered Rhino installation displayed at Area3.
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.
Sunday morning in Maboneng – Joburg’s hipster haven on the east side of the city. Urban regeneration comes in the form of a peanut, banana, date and soya milk smoothie. Maboneng has arrived. What could have been a fantasy is now a high-priced and much in demand reality.
And outside Uncle Merv’s shake shack our little crew is getting bigger. It could be the start of a joke… One editor, one photographer, one blogger and two tour guides meet over a smoothie to wait for Rasty…
Rasty with his work. Photo by Wesley Poon for Sunday Times
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.