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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