View of the Joburg skyline from the roof of Bjala Square in Jeppestown.

A Rainy Instameet in Jeppestown

On Saturday I helped organize an Instameet at a building called Bjala Square in Jeppestown, one of the most historic sections of downtown Johannesburg. It was cold and pouring rain — a rare occurrence in early winter — and I wondered if we should even go through with the Instameet. I’m glad we did.

I’d been wanting to do a photo walk through Jeppestown for a while because I think it’s one of the most interesting parts of town. The neighborhood is 120 years old (ancient by Joburg standards) and has lots of historic buildings, but in recent decades Jeppestown has suffered severe neglect and decay. Most of the people who live in Jeppestown today are surviving on very little, often living in abandoned or illegally occupied buildings.

Jeppestown 1896A photo I took on Marshall Street in Jeppestown in 2012. This building is painted to look like a historic photograph shot on the same street in 1896. I had hoped to walk down this street on Saturday but the weather didn’t cooperate.

The urban decay in Jeppestown has made the area a popular painting spot for graffiti artists. Thanks in large part to the annual City of Gold Urban Art Festival, which has been concentrated in and around Jeppestown for the last two years, the graffiti murals in the area have grown progressively more spectacular.

I was also keen to schedule an Instameet at Bjala Square. Bjala is an innovative “social urban enterprize”, doing amazing community work in Jeppestown. And Bjala’s rooftop has one of the best views in town, even on a rainy day.

View of the Joburg skyline from the roof of Bjala Square in Jeppestown.The view from Bjala on Saturday afternoon, when there was a brief but merciful break in the rain. The graffiti murals are by artists called Above (left) and Falko1 (right).

I had hoped to take a walk through the neighbourhood — meet a few locals and admire the old-school clothing shops and the street art. But we decided to skip that due to the unpredictable weather. Luckily I have a couple of Jeppestown shots from a scouting walk I took a few weeks earlier.

A passerby walks past a graffiti mural in Jeppestown.I didn’t take this on Saturday, but during a previous scouting walk with fellow Instagrammers @afonography and @keenangrams. The graffiti is by Rasty and Myza.

December, a security guard for the building next door to Bjala Square in Jeppestown.December, a security guard who works near Bjala, with an Instax portrait I shot for him. The graffiti is by Falko1.

Anyway, back to Saturday’s meet. Since the rain stopped just as the Instameet was about to start, we decided to make a quick visit to the Jeppe Park Primary School on the bottom floor of Bjala Square, and then to head straight to the roof before the rain came back.

View from Bjala Square toward Hillbrow.I shot this right before the Instameet started. There was a break in the clouds along the horizon but it never fully materialized. The rain came storming back just as we finished the Instameet.

View from Bjala Square toward the CBD.Another shot of rainy Joburg from the Bjala Square roof.

We spent the rest of the Instameet wandering around the roof, gazing at 360-degree views of the misty city and checking out the rooftop gardening program.

Bjala-7303Misty city layers.

Bjala-7268I never got the name of this Instagrammer. 

Bjala-7290An experimental hydroponic garden, funded by Simanye Skyfarms, where vegetables are fertilized with goldfish poop and grow without soil. The garden is cared for by a great guy named Malibongwe, who I unfortunately forgot to photograph.

A Jeppestown street.An insta-filtered, black-and-white shot that makes this Jeppestown street resemble what it looked like 100 years ago (minus the cars and the satellite dishes). 

If you’re as enamoured with this view as I am, then you should know that the Bjala rooftop has recently been converted into an events venue called the Emkhathini. This is an epic location for a wedding — or any event, for that matter — and 30 percent of the venue’s earnings go to Bjala’s non-profit programs.

I’ve been having lukewarm feelings about Instagram lately. This iPhone app, which has brought me so much joy over the last four years, had been feeling more and more like business rather than fun. Posting photos had begun to seem like a chore. But this Instameet shifted my mindset a bit. A couple of dozen people showed up in Jeppestown amidst the worst weather conditions of the year, to take photos and hang out together and raise awareness about a good cause. I met new people, caught up with old friends, and had fun taking pictures, just like the good old days.

Fahama shoots from the Bjala roof.Instagrammer @faydza, aka Fahema, captures the disappearing city. Fahema and her entire family traveled all the way from Vereeniging for this Instameet, and brought a carload of donations for Jeppe Park Primary School. When I met Fahema on Saturday, I remembered that I had instagrammed her once before, in 2013 at a huge Instameet at FNB Stadium in Soweto.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

I had fun. (Photo courtesy of @mikeinjozi)

Here’s to more fun Instameets, preferably in the sun.

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15 Comments

  • Reply autumnashbough May 17, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Great photos, rain or no. Love the idea of the rooftop hydroponics — but how exactly do you harvest goldfish poop?!

    So Johannesburg is made up of smaller cities that combined?

    • Reply 2summers May 17, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      They have huge vats of water with fish swimming around! Then they filter the poop somehow and put in on the plants. It’s quite extraordinary! Hard to photograph though.

      Joburg is made up of many different neighborhoods (or what we would call neighborhoods in the US) called “suburbs”. Jeppestown was essentially the first Joburg suburb, meaning it was the first place that was primarily residential land where people lived and then commuted into “town” for work. Nowadays, Jeppestown is really part of downtown Joburg, as the suburbs have spread so far beyond it. It’s all very confusing.

      • Reply autumnashbough May 17, 2016 at 6:43 pm

        I love both of those explanations. 🙂

        • Reply 2summers May 17, 2016 at 6:52 pm

          Haha. I’m happy to hear that. I see that I overused exclamation points though — I guess the fish poop got me excited.

          • autumnashbough May 17, 2016 at 7:21 pm

            As someone who overuses caps ALL THE TIME, I applaud your exclamation points.

    • Reply Nick June 2, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Hi

      Bit late but if you’re interested it’s called aquaponics, is taking off quite a bit here in Jozi, allows you to grow a protein source and vegetables in a small environment, particularly suited to urban environments.

      http://www.theaquaponicsource.com/what-is-aquaponics/

      • Reply 2summers June 2, 2016 at 2:42 pm

        Thanks Nick. It’s super interesting!

  • Reply Timmee May 17, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    I’m sorry to have missed it – you know I would have been there, but I do have a valid excuse. Banana?

    • Reply 2summers May 17, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Yes, you’re definitely excused ?????♥️

  • Reply all-TIM-ate May 18, 2016 at 2:48 am

    I’ll have to come along to one of your instawalks – you guys always capture the city from interesting perspectives, i never get to see and experience that because i’m always driving through and never taking time to stop and explore.

    • Reply 2summers May 24, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Yes, please come! And please bring cake. (Just kidding.)

  • Reply Jaina May 19, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Good to hear that you didn’t let the rain get you down – looks like you all made the most of not the most ideal of situations. The photos look grand.

    • Reply 2summers May 24, 2016 at 8:07 am

      Thanks Jaina!

  • Reply merveille May 30, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    how can I participate in your walks? I will definietly bring cake if you let me know (not kidding :))

    • Reply 2summers May 30, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      Haha. Alright then! Just follow me on Instagram – I announce most of the walks that I’m involved with there. @2summers ?

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