Hermann Niebuhr’s City Chromatic, views of Johannesburg, opens at Everard Read

Artist Hermann Niebuhr’s Johannesburg is many cities. All of them familiar, but each distinctive in its difference.
At his Fordsburg studio, the more than 30 versions hang in one room, a dizzying display of colour and light. There are cityscapes, and the traces of cityscapes, geometric lines that compose Johannesburg’s most famous landmarks and that, on closer inspection, fracture and break apart. In each the sky and city are entangled, the light washing over the buildings warming the city or darkening it, making it appear in turns welcoming, and then coldly foreboding, making it appear real.
For Johannesburg is in some ways an unknowable city, a city of concealment, and of surprises, where hipsters rub shoulders with church prophets and you can find a sheep’s head as easily as you can a pair of Italian brogues. Surfaces are only to be taken for the whole at your own peril.

Continue reading

Joburg's Little Ethiopia

#131. Head downtown for a taste of North African food. More than 25 years ago I watched the Johannesburg Sun being built from the window of my orthodontist’s office in Lister Building, then the home of some of Joburg’s top medical specialists. There must be hundreds of now-adults who share this memory, straight teeth, and the image of  Dr Chertkow and Lazerson’s shared consulting rooms with those purple and orange vinyl chairs. Continue reading