Lockdown Journal: Day 19 (Pretoria Gold)

by | Apr 14, 2020 | COVID-19, Johannesburg, Pretoria | 14 comments

If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

It’s Lockdown Day 19 in South Africa. It’s raining. I feel unmotivated and kind of depressed. Also I spent the last few hours trying and failing to bake bread. (Check my Instagram story for the bread-making failure play-by-play.)

So I’m going to show you some pretty pictures I took last month before the world changed.

Javett African Gold
Lockdown photo Day 19: African Gold.

One month and four days ago — although it feels like five years ago — my friend Fiver and I spent the day exploring Pretoria. Pretoria sometimes gets a bad rap for being a sleepy town without enough to do, but I disagree with this characterization. My visits to Pretoria are always pleasant and fun. I’ve actually been meaning to spend more time there (it’s less than an hour north of Joburg) and blog about it more. I think I’ll make that one of my first orders of business whenever we’re allowed to go outside again.

Fiver and I did several interesting things that day, but the highlight was our visit to the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria. The Javett Art Centre opened last year and it is a truly spectacular museum, with a stunning collection of modernist South African art.

Fiver and I wandered wide-eyed around the whole place, gushing about everything we saw, but the best part was the African Gold exhibition. This section of the museum houses an exquisite display of gold sculptures, jewelry, implements, and other accessories from all over Africa, including the famous Mapungubwe rhino.

I felt so much joy looking at and photographing these beautiful African art pieces. Fiver did too, and decided she would return with her sketchbook later in the month and spend more time. Little did we know that one week later Fiver and her husband would be on a plane to Amsterdam, fleeing the country so they wouldn’t be forced to overstay their visas once the travel ban started.

Anyway I was planning a full-length post about the Javett Art Centre, but now doesn’t feel like the right time and I don’t want to sit on these beautiful African Gold photos any longer. So here are some of my favorites.

The pieces are displayed in glass cases, in a dark room with black walls and dramatic lighting, which is what causes all these crazy reflections.

African gold
Javett Art Centre African Gold
African gold
Javett Art Centre African Gold
Javett Art Centre African Gold with Fiver
Fiver’s reflection is in this one. I miss you Fiver!

Incidentally, if you’re keen to learn more about the history, culture, and architecture of Pretoria during lockdown, I recommend following the Louwkuls. Adriaan and Nadja Louw are Pretoria locals (get it?) and run a great blog about the city. Yesterday Adriaan — who is an architect — hosted a virtual tour of prominent Pretoria buildings on Facebook Live, and it was extremely informative and enjoyable to watch. They might do another virtual tour soon.

South Africa’s COVID-19 Case Numbers

Several people have asked me about the current COVID-19 situation in South Africa. As of today, South Africa has had 2,415 confirmed COVID-19 cases (an increase of 143 from yesterday) and 27 deaths. Last night there was a public briefing with Dr. Zweli Mkhize, the S.A. Minister of Health, and Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chair of the COVID-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, in which they discussed these numbers and what they mean. This Daily Maverick article summarizes the highlights of the briefing.

In short, the South African case numbers are remarkable in that their trajectory is very different from that of any other country currently dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. Unlike the United States and many European countries, South Africa has so far avoided an exponential explosion of cases; our curve has actually flattened. Most experts seem to agree the strict lockdown has something to do with that.

The big question now is what do we do going forward, as South Africa can’t stay locked down forever. I guess we’ll see.


I’ve been meaning to do this forever, but I really want to thank everyone who is supporting me on Patreon. I originally set up this tool to help fund my #10SouthAfricanTowns campaign, which is now on hold for obvious reasons. I expected a lot of people to withdraw their support, or at the very least I didn’t expect any new signups, once the lockdown started.

To my great joy, I have lost very few Patreon members and a lot of new people have signed up! Here are all of the new people who have contributed since my last shout-out:

Dagmar Haken
Ryan Brown
Margaret Fauchier
Erin Archer
Tenney Mason
Debbie Devoe
Heidi Clever

This funding really helps me to continue blogging at a time when freelance travel writing has become an even more impossible career than it was before. Also it means a lot to me that so many of you enjoy my work enough to support me in this way. Thank you, thank you.

Just as a reminder, you can donate as little as $1 per month to my Patreon and receive my monthly newsletter and a weekly voice memo with lockdown updates and travel stories.

Today’s Worthy Cause

Today I’m featuring #10MillionMasks. The whole world knows this already: We need more face masks. We need more people wearing masks, making masks, and donating money to make and distribute masks.

Heather in her mask
I know I’ve posted this picture before. But I like it so I’m posting again.

#10MillionMasks, an organization founded and run by several South African businesses, provides information on how to do all of these things. There’s even a pattern and step-by-step instructions for how to make your own mask. Check it out: www.10millionmasks.africa.

I’m off to eat my ugly home-baked bread now. Good night.


  1. Catrina

    That African Gold exhibition is truly amazing. One day, it should be a central showpiece in a new edition of an Indiana Jones movie so that a large audience sees it.

    • 2summers

      That would be amazing!

  2. Lani

    Our case numbers look similar to S.Af but I don’t think for the same reasons. Although, I do feel like since we are in the middle of the Thai New Year that cases will spike about 2 weeks after this one. I just don’t think folks are listening and taking things too seriously, but everyone’s wearing masks.

    Beautiful gold photos, the black is the perfect backdrop for showcasing those pieces. The alligator is my favorite.

    • 2summers

      I also love the alligator! East Asia definitely has in advantage in the mask-wearing department. It definitely takes some getting used to – I feel like I can’t breathe in mine.

      • Lani

        I’ve been wearing a mask for so long now, I think I’ve gotten used to it. Masks in Asia really are more of an everyday thing. They use them to cover zits, or when they feel ‘ugly’ and of course for the common cold.

        • 2summers

          Hahahaaaaa. I’m all for covering zits. That would’ve been great during my teenage years (and also now).

          • Lani

            Yeah, sometimes I ask my students why they are wearing a mask because I want to know if they aren’t feeling well, and that’s when I learn that it’s a vanity thing. 😛

  3. David Bristow

    Sorry for being a naturalist nerd, but the alligator would be a (Nile) crocodile. In the north of the country, along the Limpopo River, the crocodile (ngwenya) is a clan name and very powerful totem. Crocodile muti (traditional medicine) is among the most powerful, just below that of human parts. Crimes involving muti collecting are still recorded from some rural areas as traditional medicine is still widely supported. Muti markets are overlooked by the authorities, even those selling “parts” of endangered species such as leopards, lions, vultures and pangolins.

  4. Enrique

    Thank you for the tip about the Lowkuls. And for the great photos of the Mapungubwe gold. My wife and I had the chance to visit the Javett Art Centre a couple of months ago and it is a truly amazing place. Stay safe and well.

    • 2summers

      Thanks Enrique, you too 🙂

  5. Margaret Urban

    I love the lion in the first photo; could be out of a favourite book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ 🙂

    • 2summers

      Wow, you’re exactly right! That’s an uncanny resemblance.


Leave a Reply