Troyeville’s never-ending bedtime story. Perfect for Valentine’s Day

Like all true love stories this one has moments of exhilaration, and of defeat. In pursuit of a romantic ideal one must be prepared as much for pure joy as for its opposite.

Along Bezuidenhout street, where it meets Viljoen in the park below Troyeville ridge is a bed. Its plush studded headboard is the stuff that Joburg migrant dreams are made of, Beares catalogues and lay-byes. Its pillows have the texture of velvet and on it lays a duvet, creased as if the bed’s occupants had just arisen from their slumber.
The bed is inviting.

On the morning I visit two birds are using the folds of the duvet as a birdbath. The park is green, the bed resting in peaceful shade.
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Joburg’s street people

I am trying to work out the hierarchy of Joburg’s street people, prompted by my ongoing fascination with who is outside my car window. This is Joburg and the cast is carnivalesque, a constant reminder that no matter your state of privilege there is no getting away from poverty. If you have a car,  there you are cocooned in your own thoughts, listening to the radio or occupied by a cellphone call and thinking it’s a private moment when a knock on the window calls attention to a man draped in cellphone chargers, or holding a large box of fruit that you don’t eat  or wielding a soapy-filled water bottle and a squeegee and hellbent on cleaning your windscreen (in the North it’s Grayston Drive offramp, in the east it’s the corner next to Eastgate Mall) milliseconds before the traffic light changes. (In my hierarchy, the window-washers occupy the lowest rung because after having had a smash-‘n’-grab (there’s even a neat phrase for it) years ago I get panicked when someone lies across my line of sight).

Taking the Banksy view

In this city begging is an art. Continue reading

Public Art in Joburg – the West Side Story Part 1

Taking a walk in Joburg’s inner-city city may just surprise you for all the right reasons… [The brilliant photos are by Wesley Poon]

Ask anyone who lives here to describe the city of Joburg and they rarely extol its beauty. Mostly they point out it’s a city without a sea and until the Nelson Mandela Bridge it was a city without any remarkable landmarks that aren’t communication towers or apartment blocks. And those are the polite remarks.

Over the past five years, it’s a little known fact that the city has installed an impressive and growing number of public artworks – at last count at more than 50 sites. In 2006 a strategy was put in place to use public art as a way of fulfilling a range of Joburg’s developing needs. It called for a public art levy, a common global practice, that would devote up to one percent of the construction budget on major city building projects to this end. This was implemented by the Johannesburg Development Agency at a time when the city has been undergoing something of a boom, and it will continue.

The unofficial public art in the city - District 9

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A Postcard a Day from Gauteng

Nothing to do but punt the app (available for all your Apple and Android devices so download it now) created for Gauteng Tourism by the uber-talented super smart, and my most favourite, T-Shirt designer Bradley Kirshenbaum of Love Jozi (and co-creator of one of the city’s other best inventions market on main). Yesterday on the auspicious date of 11/11/11 I got my chance to put my home town Benoni (also the inspiration for this blog) back on the tourist map. For everyone else who is “Straight out of Benoni” this one’s for you.

 

Benoni: City life without the city

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Waking up in Braamfontein – Hotel Lamunu and the NeighbourGoods Market

I’m calling it. All that energy and moolah invested in Braamfontein got a little closer to paying off this morning with the opening of Cape Town’s favourite Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein. But before I talk about that let’s rewind… The week stared with an invitation from Southpoint Hospitality for an overnight stay at its Hotel Lamunu in Braamfontein. The plan was to spend the night at the hotel, with drinks at the bar, dinner at Ramen, breakfast at the hotel followed by coffee at Velo in The Grove Square (on Melle Street) opposite the hotel and finally… a visit to opening day of the Neighbourgoods market (one of my favourite Cape Town haunts).


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Walking tour through 125 years of Joburg’s history

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.


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Johannesburg walking tour: Hillbrow-Berea Ridge

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

A tour of Park Station, a Joburg landmark

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

Public art in Joburg/the world comes to Sandton

Marcus Neustetter's "Erosion"

Go to Sandton Square for the Public Art around the World exhibition. On Tuesday night on a corner of Sandton – called Burghers Walk – I was last at during the height of World Cup fever I witnessed an extraordinary performance by Marcus Neustetter. Titled “Erosion” it involved thousands of brilliantly-lit neon glowsticks being thrown down a stairway in the darkness by a troupe of performers dressed in workman’s overalls who then proceeded to sweep up every last brilliant piece of light, bundling them back into trashcans to be carried off. A comment on the fragility and impermanence of the world of imagination and dreams, Continue reading