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.
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.
I’m calling it. All that energy and moolah invested in Braamfontein got a little closer to paying off this morning with the opening of Cape Town’s favourite Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein. But before I talk about that let’s rewind… The week stared with an invitation from Southpoint Hospitality for an overnight stay at its Hotel Lamunu in Braamfontein. The plan was to spend the night at the hotel, with drinks at the bar, dinner at Ramen, breakfast at the hotel followed by coffee at Velo in The Grove Square (on Melle Street) opposite the hotel and finally… a visit to opening day of the Neighbourgoods market (one of my favourite Cape Town haunts).
Enjoy the idea of Joburg Fashion Week glossing up the inner city. It’s something SA Fashion Week and the Fairlady Awards did for years but to a much smaller audience. I’ve seen catwalk shows at Turbine Hall, pre-renovation, at Hillbrow’s Windybrow Theatre and even at the deconsecrated Wolmarans Street Synagogue. This time the venues are a little more luxe and include the Rand Club, the Bus Factory (OK, not that luxe) and what sounds like a spectacular finale across the Nelson Mandela Bridge with David Tlale showing 92 outfits, each marking one year of Madiba’s life. I have also heard that the best part of that show will be that everyone gets a front-row seat – and you don’t have to trip a fashion editor for it. Continue reading
Back in this rainy town with its broody leaden skies after weeks away. It’s good to be home. I had forgotten to post this pretty photo taken from Randlords (the uber chic nightclub) in Braamfontein sometime in early December. I wasn’t the one to snap it (the Randlords gig was invitation-only and I had no intention of pretending to be older than I already am just to crack the Greenside High School 25-year matric reunion.) Continue reading
194#. Read the New York Times on Braamfontein. The paper of record has called it. Braamfontein is Joburg’s version of New York’s Soho. It has urban edge, lots of design and artistic talent, and a property developer with a real eye for the city’s future. Personally I have always been fond of that neighbourhood, from student days in the early 1990s when I would spend most of my cash (and there wasn’t much of it) at the bookshop on the corner where the Braamfontein Centre now stands (looking back it was literature of the revolution – lots of Fanon, Cabral, Biko. Okay admittedly those were books that real revolutionaries would steal so this is a revealing moment) to cheap and tasty lunches at the Health Scene and a great little Italian joint whose name I don’t recall but whose veal limone I do. Continue reading
#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
#98. Look for the crazy signs. And they are everywhere. This town is plastered with election posters — On Barry Hertzog in Emmarentia a forked tongue hangs out of the mouth of a smiling Jacob Zuma. In Saxonwold his nose is bright green. I have seen him with an AIDS ribbon covering his mouth, two missing front teeth, a curly mustache and a showerhead or two. The ANC posters seemed like Greek to me until I realised they were actually written in Greek – I saw three on the top of Oxford Rd next to Temple Emmanuel, a reform synagogue. It’s understandable.
All Mediterannean nationalities look the same or at least cook similar dishes.
They should have carried an English subtitle saying: This is not a joke.
Then there was the Pan Africanist poster in the city – next to the Joburg Art Gallery that said: Cancell all student debt [sic]. I saw Bantu Holomisa wrapped around a large dustbin in Braamfontein with a message that read “Now is the time to clean South Africa” and Helen Zille’s shiny, puffed out face smiling down at me.
Cope tossed the poster idea after failing to work out which face to put on it — one leader or another — and instead wrapped up a building next to the Nelson Mandela bridge asking me to vote hope.
If these election bids are anything to go by – Right now my vote is my secret — so secret that it’s even hard for me to work out how I am going to use it.
#79. Count down to the Soccer World Cup in 2010. With only 498 days left until the Fifa Soccer World Cup, I am noticing signs of soccer life stirring. Months ago Fifa President Sepp Blatter visited and brought to everyone’s attention that there was little to suggest this country was close to putting on the greatest show on earth (or is that the Olympics?). I too was concerned but decided not to go to the press with it.
Germany apparently promoted their World Cup for a full three years which led me to wonder whether we are a nation with a short attention span or one that just likes to leave things to the last minute?
Mostly the signs of life are coming from sponsors and their ad agencies who are starting to promote what many hope will be South Africa’s greatest moment on the world stage since Nelson Mandela had his debut. Until now it’s been background stuff — just the occasional shudder in Rosebank as the Gautrain builders blast their way to Pretoria, Continue reading