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.

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