I recently found myself not cycling on a cycle ride through Alexandra Township.
I was supposed to cycle, but there weren’t enough bikes and it was blazing hot and when someone suggested I ride in the Jeep that was escorting the riders and take photos through the open top, I gladly accepted.
The bike ride was hosted by Art Affair, a tiny art gallery and studio in Alex’s East Bank that also serves as an events venue/community gathering place. Artist and cycling enthusiast Mxolisi Mbonjwa owns the gallery and organized the ride together with Bicycle Stokvel.
I’ve visited and blogged about Alex many times. (You can browse all of my Alex posts here.) I don’t want to belabor this point. But if you live in Joburg and have never been to Alex, please go.
Alex is a five-minute drive from Sandton but many Joburgers are afraid to even drive past it due to Alex’s reputation for poverty and crime.
In fact, Alex is quite easy and safe to visit as long as you go with someone who knows their way around. And it’s one of the most important parts of Joburg historically, being the first township in Joburg and the first place Nelson Mandela lived when he moved to the city in 1941.
Also, Alex is fun. With the exception of me and my friends Crystal and Dom, who are new to Joburg and were visiting Alex for the first time, and a group of hard-core cyclists from the East Rand, I think the majority of the people on this bike ride were from Alex. They were super nice and welcoming and just plain fun to hang out with. We all had a great time being tourists in our own city together.
End of lecture. Here are some photos from the ride.
Following the Cyclists Through Alex
Our Jeep brought up the rear of the cycle ride so I have lots of photos of people’s, er…bums. But I like the pictures anyway.
Sight-seeing in Alexandra Township
This ride was mostly cycling for cycling’s sake. But we did make a couple of stops at interesting sites along the way.
Kings Cinema is the oldest movie theatre in Alex and a notable community gathering place — it was bombed by apartheid forces in 1984. I visited Kings Cinema once before a few years ago and was happy to see it’s had a new paint job since then.
Alexandra Heritage Centre
This was the most exciting discovery of the ride. The Alexandra Heritage Centre, which was built about a decade ago but remained closed for many years due to various political/logistical/financial difficulties, is finally open and it is spectacular.
We only had about 10 or 15 minutes to walk through the centre, but from what I saw the exhibits are fantastic. It’s my kind of museum — great design, great light, and engaging, interactive displays without too much heavy text to read. I will be back.
There is almost no information online about the Alexandra Heritage Centre but it’s at 4694 Hofmeyr Street, on what is called “Heritage Corner”. The centre is one street over from the historic Mandela house at 46 7th Avenue.
At the end of the ride there was a party set up in the yard surrounding Art Affair, with DJs and good food and beer. Crystal and Dom and I left after an hour or two but I suspect the party ran well into the night. It was a great way to spend a Saturday.
Follow Art Affair on Facebook for announcements about future events. Or contact one of these companies — all locally run — to book a tour in Alex.