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.
After a two month hiatus spent in my study (and a number of free WIFI-enabled coffee shops across the city including my current favourite Warm & Glad, on 357 Jan Smuts Avenue) finishing my M.A. dissertation, I have been released to feast on the city. Oh how I have missed that. On Saturday we took a walk with Bongani Mathebula from MainStreetWalks to view the murals that form part of the IARTJOBURG project, a brilliant initiative by Ricky Lee Gordon of /and people (love their work), adidas Originals and Plascon.
Here’s the story…
If you go down to Doornfontein today you are in for a big surprise. Look up along Sivewright Avenue as you travel in the direction of Yeoville and there hanging on the wall of an otherwise ordinary commercial face brick block is an elephant, a rhinoceros, a giraffe and three other wild creatures. They appear to be lying across the reinforced concrete beams, their limbs hang limply, and their eyes are closed. Asleep, or extinct, the artist has left it up to you to decide.
The photographs make you look twice. First because they are pretty, stylized shots, speaking the language of fashion photography, and then again because of their setting.
Pimville, Kliptown and Orlando in Soweto, Alexandra are not usually names that conjure the hipster lifestyle, freedom, beauty, or high fashion. Continue reading
“Once you put your work out there you can’t control how people respond, but you want a response.” Tuesday night we were listening to Jodi Bieber (no relation of Justin) talk about her photography at Vega’s Johannesburg Campus. Having just won one of photojournalism’s highest honours – the World Press Photo of the Year Award – seems to have left her largely unaffected. Proud of the achievement and the global focus that it has put on the plight of women under Taliban rule in Afghanistan she spent less time on the award than she did on talking about her personal portfolio of work, all set in South Africa. Continue reading
#207 Enjoy this moment – In true Jozi style flags fly proudly off electric fences, the sound of vuvuzelas (singly, that of a wounded bull elephant, in large groups – more like angry hornets) rings out wherever you are – from Melrose Arch to Braamfontein, Sandton to the Soweto no matter what time of day. Fashion trends hold no sway as most people are intent on showing their team colours. I have succumbed. This city is yellow and green, in love with this time, this place, and this nation. Continue reading
105 Something truly amazing took place in this country over the past few days.
A collision of worlds and I am not talking about the people who queued for the last round of World Cup tickets on Friday and ended up having to be dispersed by riot police after their appetite for the event was underestimated.
These photographs from last week’s clash between the Blue Bulls and the Crusaders at Orlando Stadium in Soweto have been doing the email rounds. They capture the day Pretoria’s rugby lovers made their way into Soweto (many of them for the first time) Continue reading
#172. Return to my poor neglected blog after an extended digital fast. It’s January in the city, the skies are grey, and two nights ago I was admiring the moonlit lake at Parkview Golf Course only to be told it was the 8th hole in flood after one of those incredible “will it ever stop” rain storms.
I have just been reading about the launch of the updated edition of From Joburg to Jozi: Stories about Africa’s infamous city Continue reading
#148. Head to Joburg’s chic-est new 5-star hotel for the announcement of the winners of the Sanlam Fashion Journalism Awards. Last week I had a chance to pop into the very exclusive-looking The Monarch Hotel on Oxford Road, a rumoured R64-million refurbishment of the old post office building. (I have an appointment to go back and get the inside story).
I was there to attend the awards — of which I was a judge, together with City Press Editor-in-Chief Ferial Haffajee, Radio 702 talkshow host Jenny Cryws-Williams and Kassie Naidoo, creative director at King James. Fashion commentator and trends analyst Dion Chang was the convenor. And the winners were…. in the fashion editing category Business Day Wanted’s Jenny Andrew for a feature called “Paper Dolls” — an exquisite spread created together with paper sculptor Hazel Buchan, an interpretation of fashion as art to mark the Joburg Art Fair — and for fashion writing, Millisuthando Bongela’s Street Smarties which was published in Elle magazine. They had some tough competition from the likes of Sharon Becker, Mary Corrigall and Leigh Robertson.
Reading Millisuthando Bongela’s piece about the “street smarties” — brown on the inside and all colours on the outside — was like unwrapping a shiny little treat. It’s a piece about a youth subculture who define themselves by the colourful gear they wear.
Their muse is vibrancy, their chronicler is photographer Lolo Veleko (who no suprises here is big in Japan and New York where they have a depth of appreciation for sartorial flourishes).
Bongela was the first to put her finger on that pulse in the popular press and to document what is a very interesting street-fashion movement not confined only to Soweto.
“In South Africa 15 years ago, a black person was identified by his language, the music he listened to or his level of political consciousness — or lack thereof. It would be wrong to say all black people dressed the same, but perhaps safe to say that if you were black, you mostly didn’t have time to worry about how you looked.”
“We have the freedom to look like this beacuse our parents struggled for us to be whoever we want to be,” Bongela quotes 22-year-old Kepi Mngomezulu.
“Dion Chang calls them ‘Joburg’s cool young things’.”
“These are people in charge of at least their sartorial destinies,” said the Village Voice. They called Veleko’s photographs of the fashion set “an antidote to the prevailing view of the ‘dark continent’ as a place of entropy and despair” ( Luckily it takes more than a Village to reflect the world we live in). Continue reading