Talent-Scouting in Pretoria

by | Aug 5, 2011 | Johannesburg Day Trips, Museums and Buildings, Pretoria | 18 comments

Pretoria, which sits just north of Joburg, is smaller and tamer than its neighbor to the south. Some Joburgers consider Pretoria to be a boring backwater, while many Pretorians see Joburg as a crowded, wild place that’s best avoided. (I grew up near Baltimore, Washington D.C.’s northern neighbor. A similar rivalry exists between those two cities.)

Pretoria City Hall, one of many historic buildings in Pretoria.

Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. Well, sort of. The country actually has three capitals: Pretoria, where the president is; Cape Town, where the Parliament is; and Bloemfontein, where the courts are. Sort of. South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, actually sits in Joburg. But Joburg isn’t one of the capitals. Go figure.

Pretoria is sometimes compared to Washington D.C., but I’ll leave that discussion to my friend Bob Yule at Historic District. Bob, a D.C. history buff, is planning a post about Pretoria and D.C. I’ll let you know when he posts it. In the meantime, let me tell you about some fun things I’ve done in Pretoria lately.

Last Friday Joe and I went to Church Square, the historic heart of Pretoria and site of some stunning old buildings.

The Ou Raadsaal, or Old Council Chamber, on Pretoria’s Church Square.

Another view of the Ou Raadsaal.

The Standard Bank Building, just off the square.

We chose a good afternoon to visit Church Square. “Month-end Friday” is payday, when everyone is out spending money and feeling cheerful. The square was packed.

This statue of Paul Kruger, political and military hero of the former Afrikaans Transvaal Republic, sits at the center of Church Square and provides a striking juxtaposition of old and new South Africa.

 An energetic and articulate street preacher entertains the crowd in Church Square.

We had no particular agenda, other than to soak up the sun and take some photos. I noticed a man feeding pigeons in front of the Palace of Justice, another spectacular building that was the site of Nelson Mandela’s trial and sentencing in 1964.

A sweet man named Philemon feeds the pigeons, with the Palace of Justice in the background.

As Joe and I photographed Philemon and the pigeons, we noticed a couple of kids hanging around — a cute toddler girl and a young boy. I took some pics of the kids and showed them on the back of my camera. The little girl smiled and laughed. The boy, whose name was n’Jabulo, got serious.

N’Jabulo didn’t care much about seeing his face on my camera screen; he wanted to take pictures. At first I held the camera and showed him how to click the shutter, without relinquishing my grip (similar to what I did in Diepsloot). n’Jabulo wasn’t satisfied with that. He wanted to control the camera, and I quickly determined he was a natural.

I put the strap around n’Jabulo’s neck, showed him the auto-focus button and the review screen, and let him go to town.

Here’s a sampling of n’Jabulo’s photos.

Cute toddler girl, whose name I never got. (Photo courtesy of n’Jabulo.)

Perfectly focused pigeons. (Photo courtesy of n’Jabulo.)

N’Jabulo tried out one of Joe‘s techniques here — shooting with the camera resting on the ground. (Photo courtesy of n’Jabulo.)

N’Jabulo is six years old.

Eventually it was time for us to go. It pained me to leave n’Jabulo, knowing there was probably no way to share this blog post with him. He didn’t seem to be with an adult. I told him I was going to write a story about his photos and asked if anyone in his family uses a computer. He nodded. I showed him my business card and he instructed me to slip it into the side pocket of his backpack.

I pointed to the URL. “Ask your mother or grandmother to check this website,” I said. He smiled and waved goodbye.

Self-portrait of n’Jabulo and me.

Dear family of n’Jabulo: If you happen to read this, please call me. Your son’s got talent.

Stay tuned for another Pretoria post in the near future.


  1. Kathryn McCullough

    Ah, the man with the pigeons is amazing! And sweet N’Jabulo really does take a great picture. Hope you all have a good weekend!

    • 2summers

      Thanks Kathy, you too 🙂

    • 2summers

      Ah, cool! Now I understand what you meant by hostile takeover.

  2. cashancountry

    Heather, there’s a book in the making here, you’re a pro! Ditto re Die Ou Raadsaal, it’s an incredible building a real tour du force of design and craftsmanship, interesting story to it as well. The building supervisors/security people are friendly and helpful and welcome visits to the actual Saal. Nedbank building to the right of it is also a gem, and so on around the square, check the foundation stones and you will see Pres Kruger’s name on many of them , perhaps that’s why he stares down so sternly on the unruly public! Ha ha.

    • 2summers

      Oh, did I get that wrong? I was thinking that the building next to the Ou Raasdaal was the Standard Bank building. We’ll definitely have to go inside the buildings next time. We were having too much fun outside last week though 🙂

  3. Tilly Bud

    I thought Joburg was considered the financial capital?

    • 2summers

      It is considered the financial capital unofficially, in the same way that New York City is the financial capital of the U.S. Neither city is considered an official capital though. See excerpt from Wiki:

      “South Africa has three capital cities: Cape Town, as the seat of Parliament, is the legislative capital; Pretoria, as the seat of the President and Cabinet, is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein, as the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal, is the judicial capital.”

  4. laurenbarkume

    Wow, what a great story! I hope his family does find the blog and contact you 🙂

    • 2summers

      I hope so too. I’m woefully late posting this — hopefully they didn’t check earlier in the week and get discouraged when nothing was there. The kids really was amazing. I couldn’t believe how he instinctively seemed to know what to do with the camera.

  5. Jaco

    You should have stopped to have coffee (or a beer) at Cafe Riche, on the Square. Next time, if you want a tourguide, I can show you the old Capitol Theatre, that is now sadly a parking lot. The theatre was abandoned after the State Theatre opened, and it is haunting. Quite over the top, and very cheap construction. I think it opened in the 1930’s, but they used plaster moulds and faux gold leaf to create an opulent feel to the place. Today it is filled with cars, but the foyer has been restored a bit (very Detroit). There is also a restored little Gothic building on the one corner (Tudor Chambers, I think). It was in a severe state of neglect, but luckily someone saved it a couple of years ago. The Pretoria CBD has many gems hidden in the concrete nationalist 1970’s jungle. Sadly, many many buildings were pulled down during the 1960s and 70s to make way for a modernist capital. The previous regime had little regard for classical architecture. And a lot of heritage was lost.

    • 2summers

      Funny, we actually DID have coffee at Cafe Riche! I just didn’t put it into the post because I didn’t get great pictures in there. We enjoyed the smoky, historic feel of the place but thought the coffee was overpriced and not very good. I definitely want to do more exploring in Pretoria. I’ve got another post coming up soon on the Voortrekker Monument.

  6. Jaco

    Cafe Riche is one of those strange places. It is most definitely a tourist trap, but then it is something else as well. They have these philosophy readings some nights of the week, and French conversations every now and again. However, a lot might have changed. I don’t know if they have new owners. The coffee was always quite horrid and overpriced. But for some reason I like it, because it feels like this is the only corner of Pretoria that actually survived the machinations of Apartheid. The Square is out of place with the Pretoria CBD – it retained its historic charm. Other special places in the CBD include the old synagogue (rumours that it is to be restored), a couple of churches and of couse the Capitol Theatre.

    • 2summers

      Yes, it definitely seemed like an interesting place. There was a strange mix of people in there on the day we went. I enjoyed it though.

  7. jackie hulme

    great blog Heather – enjoyed it very much especially the little lad and the pidgeon feeder –

  8. inidna

    I followed the link from your Freshly Pressed entry and came to this one – I’m glad I did! I love old buildings and the pictures of these ones that you’ve posted are no different! Plus, that little kid is so cute and he’s definitely got talent! Def reckon he takes a better snap than I do 😛 Did his family ever contact you by any chance? That would have been amazing!

    • 2summers

      No I never heard from them, I’m sad to say. I still think about n’Jabulo though, and wonder how I could find him again 🙂


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