Graveyard Instawalk

My grandmother, Frances Mason (aka Cooncie), loved visiting cemeteries. When I was a kid, Cooncie was always nagging me to come with her to visit our family cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. I brushed her off. To 12-year-old Heather, nothing sounded more boring than walking with Cooncie around some stupid old cemetery. I was busy with important things like playing softball, shopping at the Limited, and chasing boys.

It took a couple of decades (plus) and a move across the world for me to realize that Cooncie was right. Cemeteries are a lot more interesting than I thought they were.

Statue and birds

Pigeons fly over a monument in the Brixton Cemetery.

Last Friday I visited the Brixton Cemetery, which I’ve driven past 100 times before (it’s around the corner from Melville, on the way to Fordsburg), with a few of my Instagram friends. Some of the guys I was with thought the graveyard was creepy and didn’t enjoy taking photos there. I, on the other hand, felt like a kid in a candy store. I found it all so beautiful and fascinating, and was overcome by that frenetic feeling of running around not knowing what to take pictures of first.

I loved the cemetery so much that I actually started to wonder if there is something morbidly wrong with me.

Scary statue

Is it weird that I find this beautiful? Well, so be it.

This particular mission centered solely around iPhone photography — I didn’t bring my DSLR. I also didn’t focus at all on the history of the cemetery or the people buried there, which is undoubtedly fascinating. The cemetery is more than 100 years old. (Here’s a very brief description from a Brixton community website.) The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation periodically does tours there; I need to attend one of those and write another post.

In the meantime, here are my favorite Instagrams from last weekend.

Roy in cemetery

Fellow Instagramer @roywrench in the cemetery. I think Roy was the only person other than me who wasn’t at least partially freaked out by the idea of graveyard Instawalking.

Sad gravestone

This gravestone makes me sad. 

Cross and rainbow

Friday was a rainy day — a rare occurrence for August in Joburg. The rain brought us a fantastic graveyard rainbow.

Ornate statue

One of countless stunning monuments in the cemetery. I noticed that the inscription beneath this monument, and several others around it, was in Lebanese.

Statue feet

This is Joburg after all, and a lot of the grave markers at Brixton Cemetery have been vandalized. I was particularly struck by this statue, which is missing its head and body. Again, I found the broken and vandalized statues to be oddly beautiful.

Jewish cemetery wide

This is the Jewish section of the cemetery. It’s completely fenced off and we couldn’t find a way to get in, which is a pity because the grave markers in there looked particularly amazing.

Statue and tower

Angel statue with the Sentech TV tower (also called the Brixton Tower) in the distance.

If you want to visit the Brixton Cemetery, park at the Garden City Engen station on Bartlett Road and walk across the street to the cemetery entrance. I recommend going in a group as the place doesn’t feel 100% safe. Or keep an eye out for tours by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation.

Angel silhouette

Angel in the sky.

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24 Comments

  • Reply Jozi Rediscovered August 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    This is beautiful! What a great idea – I don’t find it morbid at all. Amazing images.

  • Reply Gail Wilson August 13, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Used to go there often with my Mom who also had a fascination for cemeteries. She always said it was a time to be quiet and reflect on the good things in life. Then I carried on this tradition with my kids until it was unsafe to go there. Miss it so.

    • Reply 2summers August 14, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Your mom sounds like a cool person 🙂

  • Reply roetsuprooted August 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Oh my gosh how beautiful! Wish I could have joined you. Please let me know when you go with a group again. Gorgeous photos Heather. Not creepy at all.

    • Reply 2summers August 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Thanks Mia, I’ll let you know about next time.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough August 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Who would have thought cemetery photos could be so stunning? I can’t even begin to say which one I love most–though the rainbow one is close to the top. NIce post, Heather!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers August 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Kathy, hope you’re well.

  • Reply Gary August 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Hey Heathers. These posts are so good and getting better all the time.

    • Reply 2summers August 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Gary. I really appreciate that. And I haven’t forgotten about you!

  • Reply Ashley August 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    LOVE this post! I love Instawalking too. The filters make the cemetery look even more eerie than I’m sure it was. It was so neat that a rainbow appeared too. Lovely photos!

    • Reply 2summers August 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks very much Ashley. I appreciate the comment.

  • Reply amelie88 August 14, 2013 at 2:58 am

    I think cemeteries are interesting as well. When I was in Vienna, I visited what I think has to be one of the largest cemeteries in the world? I was trying to find Ludwig van Beethoven’s grave, but I didn’t understand the signs in German, the cemetery’s classification of plots, and the cute little man in his hut at the cemetery entrance only spoke German. So I didn’t find it, but I was blown away by the diversity of the grave stones, the sheer size of the place, and the sense of peace I got from walking around. I think it’s more weird if you know people buried in the cemetery. I’m not really keen on walking around where my grandparents are buried because there is an emotional connection there.

    • Reply 2summers August 14, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      I’m definitely making time to visit more cemeteries from here on out. Seeing Beethoven’s grave would be cool!

  • Reply eremophila August 14, 2013 at 4:08 am

    Great pics, love the rainbow! Looks like you’ve now realised many of us also like to visit cemeteries !

  • Reply Mr Bunny Chow August 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I adore graveyards, the older and more obscure the better, If you ever get the opportunity to visit the graveyard at pilgrims rest then I highly recommend you do.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RobbersGravePilgrimsRest.JPG

    • Reply 2summers August 14, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      Thanks Mr. Bunny Chow. And thanks for the tip — I’m sure I’ll make it to Pilgrim’s Rest one of these days.

  • Reply Derek Smith August 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Nice post & pix

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/43066879@N06/6062779583/in/set-72157627490544408
    Both Braamfontein and Brixton cemeteries makes for great photography and places of contemplation. This is one of my favourite images taken whole hanging out with the dead.

  • Reply Kathy S August 15, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    These shots are all freaking amazing, Heather! Keep up the great work!

  • Reply SusanB August 17, 2013 at 2:16 am

    I’ve always found graveyards interesting and beautiful. I don’t think it’s morbid to be curious about where people are laid to rest. Each site tells a story of the person.

    • Reply 2summers August 17, 2013 at 11:33 am

      Yep, so true. I need to go back to this one and spend more time.

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