Sizwe Banzi, alive + kicking, at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre

Get to the Market Theatre in Newtown really fast for “Sizwe Banzi is Dead” [Last show is on Sunday]. Last night we saw an exhilirating performance of this South African classic first performed in 1972. I saw it first about 20 years ago when this country was a very different place and the tragedy of it all resonated so deeply [I was a total drama school groupie then and let me ‘fess up here to always  having had a penchant for the dramatic]. It’s an outstanding piece about identity, about what it means to be a man, about dignity, and about what’s in a name. Then it was also more a piece about the bleakness of being a black man under Apartheid, of having every aspect of your life circumscribed by cruel and petty laws and even more cruel and petty enforcers. Interestingly the play has not dated at all and yet the response to it now is so different. Last night in a packed Laager Theatre you could have been mistaken for thinking the piece was written as comedy – the audience laughed and laughed, Continue reading

A tour of Park Station, a Joburg landmark

Take a walk around Park Station and its surrounds with the Heritage Trust [planned for Saturday, February 19]. This is one I will be sorry to miss (I have a weekend out of town planned). The first time I ever went to Park Station it was by train from Benoni and I was about 14 years old and addicted to the hippie chic of the Market Theatre Flea Market which used to be the best way to spend time and pocket money in the [early, ouch] 1980s. Then it sprawled across the parking lot that is now Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, and was filled with all sorts of treasures and delights [admittedly looking back it was more like knick-knacks and tat]. Continue reading

Public art in Joburg/the world comes to Sandton

Marcus Neustetter's "Erosion"

Go to Sandton Square for the Public Art around the World exhibition. On Tuesday night on a corner of Sandton – called Burghers Walk – I was last at during the height of World Cup fever I witnessed an extraordinary performance by Marcus Neustetter. Titled “Erosion” it involved thousands of brilliantly-lit neon glowsticks being thrown down a stairway in the darkness by a troupe of performers dressed in workman’s overalls who then proceeded to sweep up every last brilliant piece of light, bundling them back into trashcans to be carried off. A comment on the fragility and impermanence of the world of imagination and dreams, Continue reading

“Space” opens at Museum Africa

# 201 Prove me wrong. I spent the evening at the opening of Space: Currencies in Contemporary African Art – Joburg’s big exhibition for 2010, at Museum Africa in Newtown. An exhibition with many weighty and connected sponsors, an exhibition for a world class African city. I have hesitated while writing this. I have thought of backtracking, of just being quiet. Continue reading

Africa's sad museum

#115. Wonder what happened to Museum Africa. Having missed the launch last week of l’Afrique: A tribute to Maria Stein Lessing and Leipold Spiegel – pioneering collectors of African art and artefacts who recognised and celebrated the profound influence that these had on 20th Century European artists like Picasso, Gaugin and Matisse – I took a trip to Newtown yesterday. Continue reading

Politics and SA Fashion Week

#99. Give fashion a chance. The political intrigue that has dominated the week with the Mbeki plotters being out- manouevred by the Zuma plotters and the now not-so-secret tapes made public has left me seeking refuge from big news about big men with big plots, and machinations worthy of a Shakespeare production. It is apparent that as a country we have been used as the setting for an enormous battle between political ambitions and … political ambitions, making it all but impossible to choose sides.

And so I can’t help savouring the memory of Friday night — before the latest political storm broke — at  the Turbine Hall in Newtown where two very different fashion constitutiencies were brought together by a shared love of detail, stripes, and … dressing up. Continue reading

Newtown by night

#94. Go to Newtown. Saturday night was spent in Joburg’s cultural precinct or more accurately high above it in a building that overlooks the M1 freeway and used to be a cold storage facility next to the city’s fruit market (the Market Theatre).

The building on Henry Nxumalo Street now houses the Go Go bar, a hip and retro hangout that on Saturday night was filled with nostalgia for the 1970’s. Go go girls, killer pimps, disco queens and Abba lookalikes filled the place (for a 40+1 party) and “Did the Hustle”. Continue reading

Joburg's Newtown gets an electric makeover

#29. Take a trip into Newtown to see the “new” Turbine Hall. In the mid-1990s I used to walk from the Sunday Times’ offices in the Diamond Building in Diagonal Street, to the West Street Parking Arcade. Diagonal Street was a blur of noise and colour, shweshwe fabrics and leopard print blankets, Converse high tops and dried monkey skins at the muti shop, with  traders hanging out on the street outside their stores.

By contrast the Turbine Hall, Joburg’s first power station, dating back to 1927, stood derelict Continue reading