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
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.
#181. Watch BBC footage of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison (20 years tomorrow) and the day that followed because quite incredibly I can’t seem to find SABC footage of that historic time. I was searching for SABC’s coverage of the day and the commentary from one Clarence Kuiter (I think it was him, and not sure of the spelling) that seems to have been erased from digital memory and in the absence of footage, from mine – that’s one powerful corporation. (Not surprisingly.) I recall much talk of sun and taps filled with water and lots more inane commentary as the hours dragged by (it conjured up at least 20 of the 27 years) and Clarence bravely soldiered Continue reading
#178. Think I would be remiss in not pointing out that today of all days is not a day to dwell on the Presidential member. Ten minutes ago I was listening to the speech that then President FW de Klerk gave in Parliament 20 years ago this day (being replayed on SAFM). In it he announced the unbanning of the ANC and other liberation movements and the release of Nelson Mandela – who, I would agree with Raenette Taljaard (writing for The Times), we still owe an enormous debt.
The speech is so clear, so concise, so game-changing and completely earth-shattering. It leaves one slightly breathless.
As I listened I was disappointed not to hear the reaction of those around him on that day as he spoke those words aloud. Such powerful words. Such conviction.
If you start to replay South Africa circa 1990. There were bannings, torture, imprisonment. Troops in the townships, political assassinations, States of Emergency. And I suppose that’s what really burns about Zuma’s “nookiegate” — that office so bravely fought for, once filled with leaders that held the world in awe, has now become a big and not-so-funny joke.
Find part 1 here
#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
#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
#103. Vote. And I did, and most of us did in cheerful queues around around the country, making small talk, and savouring the freedom to choose something. Election number four seems to have been mostly a relaxed affair. In 1994 I made my crosses in Yeoville, then home, and that night we threw a party that lasted into the small hours. The denizens of Rockey Street took to Minors Steet as Willie in the cowboy hat proclaimed that it was the place to be. The building swelled with people, friends, neighbours, neighbour’s friends, friend’s neighbours, barflies and failed poets, drunks and small time dope dealers, and even some very friendly and pretty hookers who kept asking me where the telephone was. It was a night worth remembering (haven’t had an open house since).
A few days later I stood with thousands of others at the Union Buildings on a beautiful day and watched with awe as Nelson Mandela took his oath and aeroplanes with wings dressed up in the colours of the South African flag roared overhead.
Five years on from that I was in what is now Polokwane, and then Pietersburg, reporting on the elections for the Sunday Times. When the votes were counted I was at the IEC and shook the new President’s hand. I had heard Thabo Mbeki speak to an audience of thousands on Wits campus soon after the ANC was unbanned and he had been impressive then. The next election was less memorable though. By then the Mbeki presidency had started to unravel. In place of humaneness, forgiveness and compassion came political expediency, hard-heartedness and a shattering of that sense of being, can i say, special, that Mandela allowed South Africans to believe in. Mbeki told us we were divided. Five years later we don’t think of ourselves as special any more.
But today, standing in that queue, I felt a sense of pride because it was not so long ago that people fought a fight worth fighting to let us stand in queues together. And while I don’t relish the idea of a Zuma presidency (too cloudy), I am ready to be happily wrong about my misgivings (a phrase uttered by a clever friend and one that is worth repeating).
So Jacob Zuma , if you can hear me, and if you do become president I ask of you that you wear your underpants on the outside of your clothes and put your country and the people who live in it above yourself as you did so many years ago, that you use your power for good, not evil, that you spend your days thinking of ways to outwit poverty and unemployment and defend the defenceless rather than trying to outfox your political opponents or please people by telling them what you think they want to hear.
Our crosses will be yours to bear.
#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
#74. Join the crowd and watch Barack Obama’s inauguration. A distinctly sedate occasion that started with goosebumps as the cavalcade made its way to the Capitol Building bearing the soon-to-be inaugurated “Commander-in-chief. Accompanied by CNN mentioning that the last event in the US to command such a massive TV audience was the final episode of M*A*S*H.
I watched it with family in Greenside, particularly significantly, my two Spanish-Speaking five-year-old nieces who live in Washington DC and were able to tell me that Yes We Can is Sí, se puede.
Much of the proceedings rested on the symbolic Continue reading