A long overdue post on an exhibition that came and went but one that has stayed in my imagination… There is no better word than Huw Morris’ own descriptor of “murky” to describe the territory of his photographic series So, this is desire? In 11 photographs the 30-something photographer’s narrative of love set in a 1970’s South African home pulls at a small thread in the fabric of South Africa’s domestic story and as the viewer you are left with the feeling of helplessly watching something unravel.
Get to the Market Theatre in Newtown really fast for “Sizwe Banzi is Dead” [Last show is on Sunday]. Last night we saw an exhilirating performance of this South African classic first performed in 1972. I saw it first about 20 years ago when this country was a very different place and the tragedy of it all resonated so deeply [I was a total drama school groupie then and let me ‘fess up here to always having had a penchant for the dramatic]. It’s an outstanding piece about identity, about what it means to be a man, about dignity, and about what’s in a name. Then it was also more a piece about the bleakness of being a black man under Apartheid, of having every aspect of your life circumscribed by cruel and petty laws and even more cruel and petty enforcers. Interestingly the play has not dated at all and yet the response to it now is so different. Last night in a packed Laager Theatre you could have been mistaken for thinking the piece was written as comedy – the audience laughed and laughed, Continue reading
#163. Read David Smith in The Guardian on “Johannesburg’s main tourist attraction? Its shameful and violent past”. It’s an interesting piece on how the city, in the absence of any natural or architectural wonders has developed a tourist industry out of its Apartheid past.
“Go to Cape Town for the waterfront, for Table Mountain and for the wine country. Go to Johannesburg for … what, exactly?
Among tourists, the debate is usually a one-sided affair: in Cape Town, we’ll relax with sunshine and chardonnay in one of the world’s great holiday destinations; In Johannesburg, we’ll probably get mugged,” writes Smith. Continue reading
#96. Remember the Bang-Bang Club. In the late 1980s and early 90s while the people of this country’s townships were drawn into an explosive conflict and the fight against Apartheid intensified to its height, a group of press photographers risked everything to document the struggle. From Shell House to Boipatong, and the bloody war between members of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC, they shot their pictures amid gunfire and armed conflict and they came to be known as the Bang-Bang Club. Continue reading
#65. Get The Joburg Book – a guide to this city of “thieves and dreamers”. The Joburg Book, edited by Nechama Brodie of The Hunter Gatherer fame is more than a history book and more than a guide. Just released it’s a collection of writings about how this city came about ( a giant meteorite figures in the story), the nature of its contemporary life, its people and its food (it even contains a Biryani recipe for feeding 800 people) and its constant need for its own reinvention. And through it all runs a seam of gold that has shaped this place into what it is today — a magnet for fortune-seekers and adventurers, at times a refuge and at others a city under seige.
It’s still the same city that Herman Charles Bosman wrote about, saying: “They are trying to make Johannesburg respectable. They are trying to make snobs out of us, making us forget who our ancestors were. They are trying to make us lose our sense of pride in the fact that our forebears were a lot of roughnecks who knew nothing about culture and who came here to look for gold”.
#28. Take advantage of the great weather by going to a park. And this weekend I went to two – the re-made one in Melrose opposite one of Joburg’s cutest boutique hotels, the Peech, and the Hugh Wyndham Park in Dunkeld that has been taken over by the suburb’s residents who now maintain this great public space.
It’s in Joburg’s green spaces that people lose their usual inhibitions about social interactions. Continue reading