Joburg gets an inner-city festival

Impressions of Joburg - The Mapungubwe Hotel Courtyard, Grafitti at Fashion Kapitol and view from The Parktonian Hotel in Braamfontein

Impressions of Joburg – The Mapungubwe Hotel Courtyard, Grafitti at Fashion Kapitol and view from The Parktonian Hotel in Braamfontein

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

City Sightseeing bus launches in Joburg

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

City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Bus launches in Johannesburg

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Zanele Muholi and those photos

#189. Chip in on the photographs that caused all the trouble with Lulu Xingwana, the Minister of Arts and Culture. If you missed this story you will need to read all about it on Times Live “Minister slams ‘porn’ exhibition”. The short version is that the Minister who was to open an exhibition that included Muholi’s work at Constitution Hill slammed the artist and her work and then walked out. A statement released after the event had the minister saying: “Our mandate is to promote social cohesion and nation building. I left the exhibition because it expressed the very opposite of this.” She called Muholi’s photographs depicting lesbian relationships “immoral, offensive and going against nation-building.”

Today I read a great interview with Muholi Continue reading

The Angel of Hillbrow

#171. Admire the angel and say that if any place needs one it’s Hillbrow.

Hillbrow's angel

Perched up high between Constitution Hill and one of Joburg’s most talked about suburbs the angel is one of a number of public artworks that have sprung up around the inner city. Part of the city of Johannesburg’s public art policy, officials have been hard at work commissioning artists to create pieces that are redefining the city as an inclusive space.

As for Hillbrow, it’s a place that conjures nostalgic, that calls up myths and legends. From the post-1994 hard drug scene that sprang up around the Sands Hotel to the playground of SA’s original party girl Brenda Fassie, Hillbrow was also home to my grandmother and a great-aunt (a lot earlier than that) who lived in the Coronia residential hotel in the late 1970’s (Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola …). Tropicana or was it Tropica sold the best schwarmas in town (It was the wrap) while Estoril had the monopoly on Italian fashion magazines. At Café Paris the men smoked and played backgammon and in the late 80’s Fontana would sell you roast chicken no matter the hour. Hillbrow was the height of cool. All bright lights and big-city like. Continue reading

Inner-city revival

#118. Celebrate what’s good about this city. And there’s lots. On Thursday night I was at Constitution Hill’s Round House  toasting Joburg’s inner-city developments. The Halala Awards were started by the Johannesburg Development Agency last year to reward the brave who have ventured where most people fear to tread – town. Not only have they ventured, they have also put money into developing oases of calm in a city, that as Ruby Matang, a Johannesburg city councillor put it, “oscillates between decline and vibrancy”. Continue reading

Joburg architecture: A life of transition

#113. Go to the Women’s Gaol at Constitution Hill for the launch of Clive Chipkin’s Johannesburg Transition, an intensely written 500-page tome detailing this city’s architecture and society since 1950.

Interestingly the Gaol, with its exhibits focused as they are on female prisoners being deprived of underwear,  seemed a fitting place for the launch of a book that is about a city that lets it all hang out. Continue reading