The sparklers at the heart of the Diamond Jubilee

Sophia Loren is looking at me. And she is entrancing. An extremely realistic portrait of her by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz – created by the arrangement of around 3000 thousand glittering loose diamonds photographed on a page – hangs in De Beers Headquarters on London’s Charterhouse Street.

Part of Muniz’s “Diamond Divas” series of glamorous Hollywood legends – the artwork sums up only a facet of what diamonds have come to represent.

Sofia Loren 'Diamond Diva' by Vik Muniz

The building’s very corporate facade had given no hint of its business, that it houses the world’s leading diamond supplier. Although I am not sure what I was expecting. A giant shiny rock to light my way through the rain-soaked streets? This is on my mind because exiting the tube station that morning I stopped a man in a suit to ask if he knew where “De Beers” was and he directed me to a pub. Continue reading

Public Art in Joburg – the West Side Story Part 1

Taking a walk in Joburg’s inner-city city may just surprise you for all the right reasons… [The brilliant photos are by Wesley Poon]

Ask anyone who lives here to describe the city of Joburg and they rarely extol its beauty. Mostly they point out it’s a city without a sea and until the Nelson Mandela Bridge it was a city without any remarkable landmarks that aren’t communication towers or apartment blocks. And those are the polite remarks.

Over the past five years, it’s a little known fact that the city has installed an impressive and growing number of public artworks – at last count at more than 50 sites. In 2006 a strategy was put in place to use public art as a way of fulfilling a range of Joburg’s developing needs. It called for a public art levy, a common global practice, that would devote up to one percent of the construction budget on major city building projects to this end. This was implemented by the Johannesburg Development Agency at a time when the city has been undergoing something of a boom, and it will continue.

The unofficial public art in the city - District 9

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Guerilla knitting on Jan Smuts Avenue

Peace sign on Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood

Peace sign on Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood

#211 Wonder who knitted the peace signs on Jan Smuts Avenue. They’re gorgeous. The signs appeared shortly after the World Cup ended, wrapped around the trees on both sides of Jan Smuts Avenue somewhere between the Zoo Lake and the Goethe Institute (whose new wall-less exterior and re-imagined entrance does the building justice). Appropriate exhortations in a few official languages hand-made in pretty colours.This city is all about the unexpected. Continue reading

G20 breakthrough

#95. Watch anarchy on TV. The G20 protests are in full swing with lots of grainy footage, numerous tweets as the twittersphere tells the story in short bursts of 140 characters at a time, and the sounds of breaking glass. Right now protesters (wearing headbands) are breaking into the RBS bank in London — and Sky is reporting they are now breaking out of it. I suppose they realised too late that banks aren’t quite the moneypots they once were.

The demands are broad — from fighting poverty to injustice and of course global warming. The people are tired of the fat cats. US President Barack Obama said today, according to CNN, that “world leaders meeting at the G-20 summit ‘cannot afford half-measures’ as they try to hammer out ways to address the global financial crisis.”

Affordability is the big issue. And I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy as I watched Barack Obama  arrive in England with an entourage of hundreds in tow and a few helicopters (the real one and the decoys) stashed in his plane. A little too much bling for a G20 meeting.

Maybe he should have worn a headband.

Is London ready for the 2012 Olympics

#31. Nothing to do in Joburg besides… go to London for a few days, and post my blog from the Apple store in Regent Street (which by the way is busier on an average day than Hyde Park Exclusive Book’s opening sale day — with broadband the norm rather than the exception the Apple store has replaced the “internet cafe”).  

Well the first part is not strictly true, there is plenty to do in Joburg but London was calling. We landed at Heathrow at 6.30am (early), spent 30 minutes waiting for permission to exit the plane and another 25 having our passports stamped and then one hour waiting for baggage at the carousel. To which my ever-ready-with-a-quip assistant responded: “Do you think London is ready for 2012?”. Continue reading