Browsing Tag

africa

Alexandra Township cycling group in front of the Alexandra Heritage Centre

Not Cycling Through Alexandra Township

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 […]

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Inside the Artivist in Braamfontein

Artivist: Braamfontein’s Must-Visit Art Bar

In Braamfontein there is a tiny, tree-lined street called Reserve Street. It’s more of an alley really, in a block created by Jorissen and De Korte Streets to the north/south and Melle and Biccard Streets to the east/west. Beams cross over the street, draped in vegetation, creating the illusion of a mini-forest in the middle of this noisy city neighborhood. On this alley/street is a place called Artivist. Happy Hour at Artivist I call Artivist an “art bar”, but it’s really a restaurant/bar/art gallery/music venue. I went early on a Thursday evening and found a nice smattering of guests, a friendly and talented bartender, tasty African snacks, and a thought-provoking exhibition by Zimbabwean artist Kudzani Chiurai. There’s a balcony above the bar with space for more art, and a secret music venue below — called the “Untitled Basement” — hosting regular jazz performances and other hip musical events. (Artivist’s owners, DJ Kenzhero and Bradley Williams, are current and former DJs.) Since the legendary Orbit Jazz Club is now closed (sob), I’m so happy there is another Braamfontein music venue to fill that void. Braamfontein is inhabited by thousands of university students, but William the bartender says Artivist is geared toward […]

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Photo of Mother Theresa at Langwan Cleaners

Langwan Cleaners and the Mother Teresa of Albert Street

In March 2017 I receive a Facebook message. “Do make a turn at my mom’s store, corner Albert and Mooi Street, called Langwan Cleaners. Will make a good story. “My mom, a single mother now 70 years old, has been running a ‘general dealer’ for the past 40 something years. Her business has evolved over the years but she is truly a kind of Mother Teresa of the area. Two years later in February 2019, in a comment to a comment on another post, I receive a gentle reminder. “Reminder to visit my mom😘. 99 Albert Street.” 99 Albert Street. I write it down. Three weeks later I return to that note in my day planner. 99 Albert Street. By this time I’ve forgotten the name of the person who sent me the message or where she sent it from. I know it’s an Indian name and begins with an S. 99 Albert Street. A laundry? Owned by a woman. Someone’s mom. I can’t remember but I know it’s time to go. In a WhatsApp message to Fiver, I write: “Any chance you’d like to go with me on a mysterious mission?” Fiver is always game for mysterious missions. A […]

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Loof Coffee in Norwood

My Favorite Jozi Coffee Shops: Loof Coffee in Norwood

This post, featuring Loof Coffee, is the seventh in an occasional series about my favorite coffee shops in Joburg.  Many ago I wrote a blog post called Norwood: Almost as Awesome as Melville. I continue to stand by my proclamation that Norwood is the second-coolest Joburg suburb. But that old post has become woefully out of date. So I recently took a walk up and down Grant Avenue with Brett McDougall, Norwood’s informal ambassador, to refresh my Norwood knowledge. We started our tour at Loof Coffee. Breakfast at Loof Coffee Loof Coffee has everything a great coffee shop should have: bright and cheerful atmosphere, friendly service, tables full of locals, dogs, delicious coffee beans roasted in Joburg, and nice food. I loved everything about it. Basically Loof is perfect. If I lived in Norwood I’d probably go there every day. What’s a Loof? I actually met Loof Coffee’s owner during my breakfast but I forgot to ask him how Loof Coffee got its name. I googled the word just now and found some interesting definitions. From Merriam-Webster: “chiefly Scottish: the palm of the hand” From Urban Dictionary: “Fool backwards. You say loof because it sounds a lot better than fool. But, it basically means the same; that […]

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Finishing process at the Workhorse Bronze Foundry

Casting Bronze in the Heart of the City

I’m stating the obvious here, but making art is hard. Writing words, shooting photographs, painting paintings, printing prints…It’s all freaking difficult. But sculpting sculptures — especially sculptures made from white-hot molten metal that turns into rock-hard bronze — at least logistically speaking, might be the trickiest of all art forms. I never thought about how bronze sculptures get made, just as I never think about how iPhones or microwaves or railroad bridges or pencils get made. They’re just amazing things created by people way smarter than me, put on this earth for my consumption. Then I visited the Workhorse Bronze Foundry and gained a whole new appreciation for the creation of this type of art. I went to Workhorse last week as part of the Long March to Freedom art walk. Several of the Long March to Freedom sculptures were made there, and it was cool to follow the path of these historic bronze figures that I’ve now visited several times in different locations. More generally though, it was cool to visit the place where so many of South Africa’s great sculptors make their art. The Workhorse Bronze Foundry The first interesting thing about the Workhorse Foundry is its location, […]

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Joburg cycling tour with Kennedy

Cycle Joburg With Kennedy

Over the past couple of months I’ve participated in two Joburg tours with Kennedy Tembo of Micro-adventure Tours. Kennedy offers all kinds of innovative, outdoorsy tours in Joburg and surrounding areas — from Gauteng all the way to the Drakensberg. I am so excited to try them all. I was planning to write about both the tours I’ve done with Kennedy in this post, but actually there is too much to say so I’m taking them one at a time. First up: Kennedy’s coffee and cycling tour through downtown Joburg. I’ve explored downtown Joburg countless times by car, on foot, on a bus, and even on a skateboard. I’ve done cycling tours in Soweto, Alexandra, and Diepsloot. But I’d never done a cycling tour though the middle of the city before, much less a cycling tour focused on coffee. Cycling Downtown Joburg I know what you might be thinking: Riding a bicycle through the frenetic Joburg central business district (what locals call the CBD) is only for cyclists with a death wish. Trust me though — it works. First of all, Kennedy is a great cycling guide. He is calm (in fact he has nerves of steel), navigates the streets […]

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O' Peri Peri restaurant in Edenvale

This Is the East: O’ Peri Peri of Edenvale

Fourth in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. The original inspiration for my “This Is the East” series was a giant tub of peri peri chicken livers ordered from O’ Peri Peri, a Portuguese restaurant in Edenvale. Back then I vowed to eat a sit-down meal at O’ Peri Peri and write a proper post about it. Now I’ve finally done that. A Brief Discussion of Peri Peri Before I proceed, I need to explain peri peri and the significance of Portuguese food in South Africa. Peri peri — which means “pepper pepper” in Swahili — is an informal term for the African Birds Eye chili. The Portuguese were introduced to this blazing hot chili pepper centuries ago, when they began colonizing East Africa. Peri Peri became a staple flavor in Portuguese cuisine and the African cuisine entwined with it. Peri peri, which is usually served as a sauce on chicken or prawns, is very prevalent in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony. (The hottest meal I have ever eaten was a piece of peri peri chicken at a beach resort near Vilankulo, Mozambique. I will never forget the searing pain that enveloped […]

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Nguni cow at Brahman Hills in KwaZulu-Natal

A Summer Weekend at Brahman Hills

Two weeks ago I spent a weekend at Brahman Hills, a beautiful lodge near the N3 highway in the Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal. I stayed at Brahman Hills once before in 2016. Read my previous post for all the details on what Brahman Hills is, what the Midlands is, and what I liked best about my stay — it’s all still true. I went back again for a few reasons: First: I loved Brahman Hills the first time and selfishly wanted to enjoy it again. Second: Last time I went to Brahman Hills with a partner, but this time I was invited as part of an all-female media trip. Traveling with girls is fun. Third: I last stayed at Brahman Hills in winter, when the landscape was dry and desolate. I loved the winter feel but wanted to go back in summer, when everything is green and sparkling. Fourth: I wanted to see more of the Midlands Meander, which has become one of my favorite tourism regions in the country. Fifth: Brahman Hills has a herd of the most beautiful cows in South Africa. New Things About Brahman Hills and the Midlands There are a few important things I either […]

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Pasta from Cremalat

This Is the East: Cremalat

Third in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. Cremalat, like many great food places in the East Rand (a.k.a Ekurhuleni), is hidden behind the gates of a bland industrial complex, in a location that’s hard to describe. The place itself is hard to describe as well. In this case the complex is the Greehills Industrial Estate, in a suburb called Elandsfontein, which is kind of close to Bedfordview but also close to Germiston. Cremalat is kind of a shop and kind of a distributor and kind of a restaurant. It’s hard to visit Cremalat if you have a nine-to-five job and don’t live in the East Rand, because it’s only open during office hours and for a few hours on Saturday. Despite all these challenges, Cremalat is worth making time for. Because pasta. And because cheese. Cremalat started out as two Italian-South-Africans — a husband and a wife — selling Italian cheese in a little stall at the Bryanston Organic Market. Eventually they expanded the business and opened a shop in Kensington. Then they expanded again and opened the current store in Greenhill Industrial Estate. Eventually the owners added a small restaurant, […]

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Madiba statue at Long March to Freedom in Maropeng

Join the Long March to Freedom Art Walk

UPDATE: The Long March to Freedom Art Walk is fully booked. Hopefully we can organize another one soon. Last January I visited the Long March to Freedom National Heritage Monument in Fountains Valley, Pretoria. I was enchanted by this glorious phalanx of 100 bronze South African freedom fighters, all marching in the same direction. But the Long March to Freedom was hidden in Fountains Valley. No one would ever come upon it without actively looking. A year later, the monument has moved to a much better location at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind. Maropeng is one of Gauteng province’s top tourist attractions, and the Long March to Freedom is prominently placed right at the entrance. Now thousands of people will get to see the monument every month, which is exactly the attention it deserves. I took a trip out to Maropeng a couple of weeks ago. Not all the sculptures had been moved yet, but there were enough. The army of heroes marched across the open grassland, on this site where humankind was born, in their quest for freedom. The Long March to Freedom Art Walk Maropeng is about an hour north of central Joburg and I encourage everyone […]

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Cathedral of Christ the King

5 Beautiful, Secret Places in Downtown Joburg

I was on a walking tour today, talking to someone about Joburg. It suddenly occurred to me there are so many insanely beautiful places in downtown Joburg that Joburgers either: a) don’t know about because the places are really hidden; or b) are afraid to visit, or would never consider visiting because they think the place is too dangerous or too trashed or just not worth the trouble. I talk about some of these places until I’m blue in the face, but I still get the same responses: a) blank looks; or b) questions like, “But is it really safe to go there?” So I thought I’d write an article like this, with a really click-baity title, to get your attention. Here are my five favorite beautiful, secret places in downtown Joburg. If you like beautiful, secret things (and who doesn’t?) you should visit them all. 1) Cathedral of Christ the King Yes, it’s in Hillbrow and Hillbrow can be a little daunting. But the Cathedral of Christ the King has a parking lot with 24-hour security and it’s really not very hard to drive to. Inside, the cathedral is pristine and it’s without a doubt the most beautiful church […]

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Inside the Buddhist Centre in Fietas

Meditating at the Buddhist Centre in Fietas

I’ve been in the U.S. for the past three weeks dealing with very frustrating South African visa problems. I’ve been ridiculously stressed. Then yesterday, in the middle of my most recent meltdown, I remembered my recent visit to the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre and instantly felt calmer. The Lam Rim Buddhist Centre is in Fietas (also known as Vrededorp) — a historically non-white suburb in Joburg that experienced forced removals and virtual destruction during apartheid. The building used to be an Afrikaans Dutch Reformed church. It’s not a place where one would expect to find an octagonal-shaped shrine to Buddha painted in every color of the rainbow. But there it is. This is a rough neighborhood and the centre backs up to an informal settlement. But it’s so peaceful there, inside and out. The garden is simple but pretty and there’s a little koppie, or hill, behind the building where the residents of the centre go to have tea. Marie-Lais and I visited on a Thursday evening and met Shayna, who lives at the centre, and Neil, who leads meditation classes there each Thursday at 7:00 p.m. I mostly took photos but tried to meditate a little between shots. I’d like […]

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