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africa

blowtorched cocktail at Mooteebar in Melville

Avant-garde Cocktails at Melville’s Mooteebar

My mom came to South Africa and we spent two weeks traveling around the country doing fabulous things and it was amazing and I didn’t blog the whole time she was here. I think this is the first time in eight years that I’ve gone two weeks without posting, and now I have a huge backlog and I feel totally overwhelmed and I’m finding it hard to start. So before I dive into all the mother-daughter activities here is a quick post about Mooteebar. Outside Mooteebar on a very cold evening in Melville. You might recognize the building as the former home of Café Mexicho, Melville’s now-defunct mediocre Mexican dive.  Mooteebar needs a place in this blog because: a) It’s in Melville; and b) It’s the most unique and innovative bar in Johannesburg. If you are remotely interested cocktails, no matter where you live in this city, you need to give Mooteebar a try. You will either love it or you will hate it — there are few in-betweens when it comes to opinions on this place. But Mooteebar is worth a trip either way. Cocktails at Mooteebar Inside Mooteebar. The bar also has a lovely outdoor courtyard and roof deck, but […]

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Jackal in Dinokeng

A Quick Visit to the Dinokeng Game Reserve

I recently went to the Dinokeng Game Reserve for a quick, one-night media visit. Dinokeng opened officially in 2011 — pieced together from a bunch of private farms — and is the only free-roaming Big 5 game reserve in Gauteng province. (The Big 5 are lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhino.) Sunset in Dinokeng Game Reserve. The most remarkable thing about Dinokeng — which means “place of rivers” in Tswana — is how close it is to Gauteng’s main city centers. It’s less than 90 minutes from central Joburg and less than 30 minutes (even as few as 15-20) from Pretoria. People are always asking me to suggest quick weekend getaways from Joburg; Dinokeng is one. One Night in Dinokeng Chris Pieterse, our guide for the Dinokeng media visit, owns the Chameleon Bush Lodge. My colleague Marie-Lais and I loved our night at the Chameleon and found ourselves wishing we could stay longer. Fun branding for the Chameleon Bush Lodge. Marie-Lais’ room — each has a different color scheme, mimicking the changing colors of a chameleon. Dinokeng is still new and doesn’t yet have the established feel of a park like the Kruger or even the Pilanesberg. While we had quite […]

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Andrew, owner of Sumting Fresh

June Restaurant of the Month: Sumting Fresh

I can describe Sumting Fresh in one (not so) simple word: South-African-Asian-American-fried-chicken-street-food. Sumting Fresh, on Grant Avenue in Norwood. Inside Sumting Fresh. Really though, Sumting Fresh is hard to explain. It was once a food trailer in Midrand, then became a food truck, then a full-on food party bus feeding thousands of festival-goers, then a brick-and-morter restaurant in Norwood. (Also, the food bus is still going strong today.) Sumting Fresh serves creative and sophisticated cuisine in a casual, fun, almost-fast-food environment. Sumting Fresh doesn’t fit into any particular genre. It’s just delicious. What is Sumting Fresh? The magic of Sumting Fresh can be summed up through its signature dish, Gujon Chicken. Here’s the Gujon Chicken description from the Sumting Fresh menu: “crumbed deep fried chicken strips / asian slaw / aioli / sweet chilli / parmesan / fries / watermelon”. It’s a crazy combination of ingredients served in a big, cheese-covered, deep-fried pile that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with at first. But I was enchanted by the first bite. I didn’t stop eating until I was way too full, even though I hadn’t even come close to the bottom of the dish yet. I asked co-owner/chef Andrew Leeuw — […]

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Downtown Joburg from 120 End Street

On Top of Joburg at 120 End Street

Nothing beats watching the sunset from a Joburg rooftop. Looking down at the crazy evening traffic from the roof of 120 End Street. On Sunday evening, Mark Straw from the Joburg Photowalkers organized a rooftop mission for all of the photographers who contributed their pictures to the recent #JoziWalks weekend. We drove together to 120 End Street, a 26-story residential building in the middle of the CBD, and spent the evening taking pictures there. 120 End Street (center) shot a few months ago from the roof of August House. I’ve always been curious about the view from the top of this building.  On the roof at 120 End. Another Take on the Joburg Skyline I’ve said this a million times before, but Joburg’s skyline is its best asset and I never get sick of looking at it from various angles and heights. Every rooftop provides its own unique interpretation of the city. 120 End Street has a particularly interesting view of Hillbrow and the most chaotic section of the city centre, between Ellis Park and the Noord Street taxi rank. Someone on Instagram asked me which street is in the middle of this frame. I’m pretty sure it’s De Villiers […]

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Yemi and Ladysmith Black Mambazo at MTN Bushfire Festival in Swaziland

Swaziland’s Bushfire Festival: My Top 8 Tips

Last weekend I attended the MTN Bushfire Festival in Swaziland. It was my second time at the festival (read about my first Bushfire in 2012) and my seventh trip to Swaziland, one of my favorite countries on earth. But this was my first time doing the full Bushfire experience, i.e. camping out on the festival grounds and staying for the full three days. Crowds at Bushfire. Swazi sunsets are the best. I’m not a hardcore camper nor a hardcore partier, and this generally precludes me from enjoying big music festivals. I went to Oppi Koppi, South Africa’s largest music festival, a few years ago and while I’m glad I did it once and survived, I would never go again. There are far too many people, too much dust, too much ridiculous behavior, and — most importantly — too few clean bathrooms (i.e., none) at Oppi Koppi. Bushfire is different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a festival and camping is a pain and people are drunk and the whole thing is exhausting and I came home with a stupid cold. But Bushfire is a delightful walk in the park compared to Oppi Koppi. House on Fire, the wonderfully eclectic, funky venue where […]

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Pantsula dance group in Orange Farm

Jaw-Dropping South African Dance in Orange Farm

On Saturday and Sunday I participated in the 2018 #JoziWalks weekend. Sponsored by the Johannesburg Development Agency, #JoziWalks invites people/groups from all over Joburg to organize walking tours in their communities. (Read about last year’s #JoziWalks.) On Saturday I joined the walk through Orange Farm, led by the InTouch Youth Development group. The start of our walk through Orange Farm. Photographer Hymie (left) walks with one of the hosts from Orange Farm. Cute kids who demanded a photograph. Orange Farm onlooker. Orange Farm is a township founded in 1988. It’s an hour’s drive south of downtown Joburg — a perfect illustration of the spacial segregation of apartheid. There are very few jobs in Orange Farm so virtually everyone (I mean everyone able to find a job, which isn’t easy) living there has to make the long, costly commute to Joburg for work. I was excited for this walk as I’d never been to Orange Farm before. It was really interesting seeing a new place, and I was particularly blown away by the dancing. Dancing in Orange Farm We watched three dance groups perform: a Tswana dance group called Jascho, a Pantsula group called Killers Entertainment, and a Zulu dance group […]

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Marie-Lais and Lucky cycling through Diepsloot

Cycling Tour Through Diepsloot

Diepsloot is one of those places, like a lot of other Joburg places, where people are afraid to go. A Diepsloot street. Diepsloot, which means “deep ditch” in Afrikaans, is a huge informal settlement in the far northern outskirts of Joburg; in fact, it is so far north that it’s just as close to Pretoria as it is to Joburg. It emerged from nothing on an abandoned farm in the 1990s, as migrants poured into Joburg from rural South Africa and the rest of Africa and had nowhere else to go. Hundreds of corrugated iron shacks sprouted up, then thousands. There were no public services, no police stations or hospitals or shopping centers. Diepsloot was a wild, post-apartheid frontier — one of those places that can only exist in South Africa. Just another day in Diepsloot. Today, hundreds of thousands of people live in Diepsloot and the number continues to grow. The area has more infrastructure than it did a couple of decades ago, but it still has an anything-goes kind of feeling about it. Diepsloot has kota stands, open sewers, vibrant community centers, secret gardens, fashion designers, herds of goats, Rastafarian hair-braiding shops, colorfully painted general dealers, and salons […]

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Skyline from the Sentech Tower

Some Shots From the Top of the Sentech Tower

Last week I got an incredible opportunity to visit the Sentech Tower, a.k.a. the Brixton Tower. A picture I took a few years ago of the Sentech Tower at sunset. While not as tall as the Hillbrow Tower, which is 269 meters (883 feet) high and the tallest structure in Africa, the Sentech Tower is still massive at 237 meters (778 feet). Also, the Sentech Tower is closed to the public and virtually no one gets to go inside. So this was a lucky break. The Sentech Tower was built in 1961 to broadcast radio stations, and later TV stations. It used to have a viewing deck open to the public, but it closed in 1982 due to apartheid paranoia. Same goes for the Hillbrow Tower, which used to have a revolving restaurant at the top. Joburgers live in hope that the towers will both reopen someday. Anyway, visiting the Sentech Tower was cool. I got to see the radio broadcasting equipment on the bottom floor, then took the remarkably fast elevator to the top, and even checked out the hollow inside of the tower on one of the middle floors, with nothing inside it but an elevator shaft. Since […]

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Argentinean restaurant in Linden

Things I Like in Linden

Last week I was invited to try out a co-working space called Basecamp, which is in Linden. Basecamp’s pleasant interior. A co-working space is basically an office for people like me — people who don’t exactly have jobs. I’d been wanting to try one for a while, hoping that working in a quasi-office-like environment would help me to be more productive. Basecamp is in a quirky shopping centre on 4th Avenue called Linden Place. It’s a centre I visit often because my favorite camera repair shop, Sunray Photography, is also there. I definitely got more done at Basecamp than I do in my office at home — especially on the day I had a writing deadline. At home I’m constantly getting up from my desk, wandering around the house, doing dishes, listening to podcasts, petting the Melville Cat. At Basecamp I had nothing to do except…work. But in addition to reminding me what a horrible procrastinator I am and how much more productive I can be under the right circumstances, my time at Basecamp also reminded me how much I like Linden. I like Linden so much, in fact, that I’ve decided to write this blog post about some of […]

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Heather in a dress from Dr. Pachanga

Fashion Makeover with Dr. Pachanga

As I’ve said before, I consider myself to be an unfashionable person. But the longer I live in South Africa, the more fashionable I feel. I find the fashion in South Africa — and Africa in general — more fun than fashion in the United States. (No offense, American fashion designers: It’s not you, it’s me.) Dr. Pachanga is the embodiment of African fashion I like. Dr. Pachanga, the last king of Congo. Handbags à la Dr. Pachanga. Dr. Pachanga’s real name is Jean Rene Onyagunga. He was born in Kinshasa but grew up in Durban. Dr. Pachanga is a designer, an entrepreneur, a stylist, an actor, a photographer, and a social media persona. This photo describes Dr. Pachanga better than my words can. Dr. Pachanga, aka J.R., aka Doc. “I like to jump,” he told me. Fashion Spree at Dr. Pachanga I visited Dr. Pachanga’s shop in 44 Stanley last week to take photos for the Citizen. But somehow I wound up mostly on the wrong side of my camera lens, posing for photos instead of taking them. I also shopped more than I worked. I bought this. (Photo by Marie-Lais Emond) As part of the column she was writing, Marie-Lais asked […]

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Bonolo in her Melville garden

Bonolo’s Beautiful Melville Garden

Almost two months ago, I took photos of a beautiful Melville garden. The garden is only about thee blocks from my house and in plain sight along the verge (that thin strip of green between the sidewalk and the street) on 3rd Avenue. I’d never noticed it before though. For some reason I rarely drive or walk down that particular street. Marie-Lais wrote a great column about the garden in the Saturday Citizen. (Damn you, Citizen, for not publishing this column online. I’m forever frustrated that I can’t post it here.) I never got around to blogging about it myself. But then yesterday I drove past the garden again and remembered how amazing it is. The 3rd Avenue garden.  The garden’s creator is Andrew Mashilwane, who happens to live on 3rd Avenue, and was looking for something to do so he decided to make a garden. I call the garden “Bonolo’s Garden”, because Andrew’s three-year-old granddaughter Bonolo was there on the day I went and she is so freaking adorable and the photoshoot wound up being more about Bonolo than the garden itself. Bonolo and I developed a system during this photoshoot: I took a photo of her, I showed her the image […]

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Skateboarding tour in front go graffiti

Skateboarding Across Jozi

I consider myself a connoisseur of Joburg walking tours. When I found out there is a skateboarding tour of Joburg, I obviously had to try it. From left to right: Ayanda, Tiffanie, Marie-Lais, and Tshepo during our City Skate Tour, in front of a graffiti piece by Tapz. I somehow made it through more than four decades of life without riding a skateboard. How different could it be from walking? I thought. Quite different, as it turns out. Standing on a four-wheeled piece of wood, sailing downhill, is nothing like walking at all — it’s both far more exhilarating and far more terrifying. I’m really glad I did the tour but the next time I’m going to spend less time taking pictures and more time actually learning how to skateboard. Let’s just say I still have a long way to go. Skateboarding with City Skate Tours Marie-Lais and I met our guides from City Skate Tours, Ayanda Mnandu and Tshepo Tsotsotso, and fellow tourist Tiffanie at Curiocity Backpackers in Maboneng. We spent a half hour or so learning skateboarding basics on the hill in front of Curiocity. Ayanda and Tshepo are great teachers. After many tries, I felt like I was […]

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