It’s been a while in the making, and now it’s just a few days until the Joburg City Festival (an initiative of the Joburg City Tourism Association) kicks off. See my earlier posts Joburg gets an inner city festival and Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra outside the Rand Club. On the programme is music, art, walking tours, a film festival, sundowners with sumptuous views of the city, food, ballet performances, a food and craft beer pairing at Restaurant Lamunu in The Grove, Braamfontein plus the incredibly successful Critical Mass cycle through the city (it happens on the last Friday of each month and attracts thousands of people). And added to that is the Mail & Guardian’s Literary Festival from August 30 to September 1, featuring a star-cast of Nobel prize-winner Nadine Gordimer, award-winning novelists Niq Mhlongo, Imraan Coovadia plus Booker short-listed author NoViolet Bulawayo. The full lineup of the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival.
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
To launch Joburg’s inner-city festival coming up in August, the Joburg City Tourism Association threw a three-day party for 60 journalists. I was lucky enough to be on that list and to spend the weekend hanging out at some of the coolest places…. Friday night in Joburg city centre and what could have been a regular few blocks walk between Market and Loveday Streets on a chill Autumn night turned into something extraordinary. On the pavement outside the impressive Edwardian-style entrance to the Rand Club, the city’s grandest landmark, thirty four members of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra were arrayed, flash-mob style – playing classical and popular pieces. Continue reading
“What’s your top seller?” I ask Fatima Nanabhay of the African Music Store near Diagonal Street in Joburg’s city centre. “The goat bells,” she says. At R14 a piece they fly out the shop. Cow bells are also a big hit, she tells me. As I ask the question the only thing flying past us is the traffic along the city street and the guy wheeling a trolley with blankets piled high past the doorway. For the record there’s not a goat to be seen.
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
“This is Mr Matthews your train driver. Sit back and relax. The weather is sunny, the ride is sweet and everything is Ayyyyyyobbbbba (Drawn-out World Cup speak for “just great”).”
I am a fan of the Gautrain #justsaying. In fact I am a fan of any mode of transport that doesn’t involve surgical gloves, hard stares and taking your shoes off. That’s any mode of transport that doesn’t presuppose I am a mad bomber hellbent on the world’s destruction. I’m more like a one-person economic recovery plan, committed to single-handedly rescuing cities from the economic downturn by spending some hard-earned cashola.
The signs are plastered all over this part of the city. They have the look of the Roneo machine – hand-operated printing with its faded purple and blue inks that reminds me of geometry tests. Except these have no questions, just statements. “Penis enlargement”, “Lost lover back in 3 days”. Around us Joburg’s Saturday morning traffic – human and vehicular – jostles with hawker stands selling cellphone chargers, fake branded soccer merchandise and plates of potatoes. A large church group, all dressed in pristine white robes with deep blue sashes gather on the corner for a meeting. They fit in. Most thing do here. I realised that when driving through Joubert Park taxi rank one Saturday morning, trapped in gridlock, watching a man wheel a shopping trolley past my window with a bull’s head in it, it’s eye seemingly fixed on me, it’s tongue hanging out the side of it’s mouth, looking more at home than me.
I have been remiss. A bad blogger. A blog is like a Tamagotchi. It needs to be fed to be kept alive. Actually a blogger is like a Tamagotchi too, hungry. So in a world of free content where most bloggers write out of love (and occasionally ego) an invitation to dinner is a supreme event.
The invitation from mememe and Two, one of my favourite stores arrived by email – addressed to “Dear cool people of Joburg” (I was never going to resist. At my age it could be injurious). 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
We have a house rule. The best weekend getaways are less than two hours away and involve no cellphone reception (it’s the one time I thank the networks for a job not well done – that doesn’t excuse the dead spots in Joburg’s “under-resourced suburbs” like Sandhurst, Dunkeld and Parkhurst where for around two to R20-million you can get a house but not an uninterrupted phone call. Funny that.) Okay, they also involve crisp white linen, large bath towels, warm weather, a natural wonder (in this case a World Heritage Site), a smidge of shopping, delicious food and great company (these all necessary, in no particular order).
Human Right’s Day weekend in Parys checked all the boxes.
Parys lies just over a 100km south-west of the city in the Free State, where the sky lets you know how vast it is. Continue reading