Nelson Mandela stands tall in Johannesburg

Marco Cianfanelli's Shadow Boxing sculpture of Nelson Mandela (2013)

Marco Cianfanelli’s Shadow Boxing sculpture of Nelson Mandela (2013)

In a week in which the country and the world has held its breath while Nelson Mandela fights a lung infection in a Pretoria hospital, he stands tall and powerful on an inner city block. Nelson Mandela as a public figure is returned to Johannesburg, and specifically to the places he inhabited in the 1950s. Marco Cianfanelli’s newly unveiled sculpture of Mandela, “Shadowing Boxing” towers above Fox Street, Ferreirasdorp. Placed between Chancellor House and the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court this must have been a path that a young Mandela walked many times. Continue reading

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

Why coffee is the key to urban renewal

#158. Go for a city walk. With the John Moffat Building at Wits University celebrating 50 years of being, today was declared a “Grand Day of [architectural] Celebrations”. So we joined the small crowd at the University for an urban walking tour taking in 40 of Joburg’s best historic buildings.
The route started at Brickfields, the social housing development that has transformed Newtown, bringing in high-volume residential accommodation that can sustain all the amenities that make city life worth living – coffee shops, a book shop, art galleries and restaurants. From there we crossed to the Market Theatre (once the Indian fruit market but that was in the the 1930s) to stand in Mary Fitzgerald Square and take in the view of Museum Africa on one side and one of the city’s hostel compounds for its mineworkers (now the Worker’s Museum) that was built in the late 1800s. Then this place was a crazy tented camp town that probably (to my mind anyway) looked and felt a lot like Deadwood Continue reading