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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Inner-city revival

#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

Remembering David Webster

#105. Mark May Day. Under leaden skies we drove to Troyeville to Bloemenhof Park for a view of the city’s past and its future. From the park you can see the Johannesburg Athletics Stadium and the massive upgrading of the Doornfontein area where one of South Africa’s premier Soccer World Cup 2010 stadiums – Ellis Park – is located.  Just a few blocks from there marks the spot on Eleanor Street where David Webster, anthropologist, humanitarian, and anti-apartheid activist was murdered for his beliefs. Today the park was renamed as a tribute to his life and memory.

Twenty years ago today South Africa was in the grip of a State of Emergency Continue reading