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africa

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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Shanana Malawi boat

Hi from Malawi

Malawi. I type the word and stare at it, say it over and over in my head. I google Malawi and get this from Wikipedia: The name Malawi is thought to derive from the word Maravi. The people of the Maravi Empire were iron workers. Maravi is thought to mean “Flames” and may have come from the sight of many kilns lighting up the night sky. The Shanana Malawi, docked at an island in Lake Malawi. I spent ten days in Malawi. On the ninth day, sitting in the beach bar at Fat Monkeys Lodge in Cape Maclear, eating a chicken mayo sandwich and staring out at the lake, I began mentally composing a blog post. As I was doing that, I started to cry and had to quickly wipe the tears away when a guy in the bar walked up and asked if I knew where to find an ATM. (I didn’t.) I wish I’d gone to my room right then and written the post. Now that I’m back in Joburg it seems kind of melodramatic and I’ve been stalling on blogging for three days now, because I need to write this before I can move on to anything […]

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Jozi skyline at sunset

That Jozi Skyline

I have a friend who owns a flat in Hallmark House, a recently renovated building in the center of downtown Joburg. Hallmark House is one of the best places in the city, if not the best place, to view the Jozi skyline. The view from my friend’s balcony. This friend wishes to remain anonymous, as I’m sure you’ll understand. Otherwise she’d have every photographer in the city trying to bang her door down. A couple of nights ago, the anonymous friend invited me and a few other friends to photograph the sunset from her 12th-floor balcony. I’ve taken lots of photos of the Jozi skyline before, from lots of different buildings. In fact I’ve been to Hallmark House multiple times and to this very balcony more than once. But there was something special about this particular night. I’ve certainly see more dramatic sunsets than this, with crazier clouds and more dramatic colors. But the light on this evening was perfect and so was the city. View of the city around 5:30 p.m., before the real show started. It had been cloudy all day with on-and-off thunderstorms — weather conditions that bode well for sunset. As the sun went down behind […]

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BCUC at the Orbit

A December Staycation in Braamfontein

For the longest time I have been meaning to blog about the Orbit, a jazz club in Braamfontein, and Once in Joburg, a posh hostel — aka “poshtel” — across the street from the Orbit. I’d been holding off on doing so because I wanted to experience the two places together as a downtown Jozi staycation. I finally did that last week, spending the night at Once in Joburg and enjoying an evening at the Orbit watching my favorite Jozi band, BCUC. My staycation was organized by I Am Joburg, a new collective providing curated tourism experiences in Joburg. The lobby at Once in Joburg. My friend Michelle and I checked into Once in Joburg, which is a cross between a backpackers and a hip budget hotel. I’d visited Once a couple of times before but hadn’t stayed overnight until last week. One Night at Once in Joburg I love the vibe of this place — it’s always busy and the staff are welcoming and fun, offering a range of social activities and tours for guests. Once is right in the center of Braamfontein, within a block or two of half a dozen restaurants, several bars, a fabulous bookstore and, of […]

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Olatunji Sanusi, artist at August House

#Gauteng52, Week 46: Open Studios at August House

Welcome to Week 46 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit August House, a collection of artists’ studios and residences in downtown Johannesburg. August House is a building full of artists. I went last Sunday during one of the Open Studio events the building holds a few times a year. I ran into an artist friend who has a studio there (it seems nearly every artist I know either lives in August House, has studio space in August House, and/or is affiliated with August House in some way) and he was shocked when I told him it was my first time visiting. I now realize why. August House, a 1940s-era Art Deco building on End Street. The building housed light industry before it became an artists’ residence. Although I had never heard of August House until a year or two ago, the building has been an icon of the Joburg art world since artists began living and working there in 2006. There’s been lots of intrigue surrounding the building since then, with rumors of it being sold to property developers for low-cost […]

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Fortiscue Help of African Flavour Books

#Gauteng52, Week 43: African Flavour Books

Welcome to Week 43 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit African Flavour Books, with locations in Vanderbijlpark and Braamfontein. Word of new local bookstores travels fast in Johannesburg. I started hearing about African Flavour Books, which sells primarily African literature with a hint of African-American mixed in, the moment they opened their shop in Braamfontein. I visited the new Braamfontein shop for the first time a couple of weeks ago and scored a copy of Lauren Beukes’ Moxyland for the rock-bottom sale price of R80. (That’s about $5.75 for a brand-new paperback!) The shop is bright and cheerful, with a fantastic selection of books and an adorable section for kids to sit and read. I fell in love instantly. The new African Flavour shop in Braamfontein, right across from the Once in Joburg Hotel. Books. More books. Cute kids reading books. You get the idea. The Story of African Flavour Books As I was making my purchase I fell into conversation with Fortiscue (aka Fort) Helepi, the owner, and learned that while the Braamfontein shop just opened, African Flavour itself is […]

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Inside St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Church

#Gauteng52, Week 37: South Africa’s Only Russian Orthodox Church

Welcome to Week 37 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, in Midrand. If you’ve driven from Pretoria to Johannesburg, you’ve probably seen it: The white church with gleaming gold domes in Midrand, easily visible from the N3 Highway. Apparently lots of people show up at the gate of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, simply because they have glimpsed the church from the road and are overcome by curiosity. The Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, built in 2003. The domes are covered in very thin gold leaf. Father Daniel, the priest, says it’s less than one kilogram of gold altogether. If you read my blog, then you know I love visiting churches and places of worship of all kinds. So when I got invited to visit St. Sergius as part of an event organized by the Johannesburg Russian Tea Room Group, I eagerly accepted and invited my friends Ang and Gail. St. Sergius is the only Russian Orthodox Church in sub-Saharan Africa (the next closest one is […]

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Seamstress at Amani ya Juu

Six Arts and Crafts Hotspots in Africa

Although I generally avoid shopping, I love to buy things when I travel — especially in Africa (which is most of my traveling these days). So when Afristay asked me to write a post about traveling in Africa, I decided to take a look back at some of the best arts and crafts I’ve found in my explorations around the continent. I’ve been to 13 African countries and I’ve come back from every one of them with something amazing. But for brevity’s sake I’m limiting this list to six favorite spots in five countries. African Arts and Crafts: My Top Six Picks 1) Teyateyaneng, Lesotho Teyateyaneng (or TY for short), a small town about 30 minutes from Lesotho’s capital city of Maseru, was one of my first African craft discoveries. There are several weaving cooperatives in TY, in which groups of women work together to create Basotho-themed mohair tapestries. I love the tapestries themselves (I have three), but I also love watching the women make them. My favorite place to visit is the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre, which I blogged about here and here. Marosa, one of the weavers at Elelloang Basali. The weaving center is lined with recycled cans. Alina with […]

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Kota from Winnie's Tuckshop

#Gauteng52, Week 35: Winnie’s Tuckshop in Tembisa

Welcome to Week 35 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Winnie’s Tuckshop, a kota restaurant in Tembisa. A few weeks ago, my friends Nells and Tebogo posted pictures of the kotas they ate at Winnie’s Tuckshop in Tembisa, a large township northeast of Joburg. The moment I laid eyes on the first picture, I was making my own plan to go. I don’t think I need to say much more than Nells said above. By the way, Nells and the gang at Ofentse Mwase Films make hilarious short films about life in South Africa. Check them out here. A kota is one of those uniquely South African meals that involves bread stuffed with tons of cheap, messy, fattening food that you eat with your hands. It’s similar to a bunny chow or a Gatsby or an AK-47 or a sly wat-wat. A kota, slang for “quarter”, is made from a hollowed-out quarter-loaf of bread and filled with a variety of things. The kotas I’ve had in the past are basic, filled with chips (fries), cheese, and maybe a piece of […]

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Video Town in La Rochelle

#JoziWalks: Exploring Johannesburg’s Forgotten Frontiers

Last weekend the Johannesburg Development Agency sponsored 13 walking tours all over the city as part of an initiative called #JoziWalks. The weekend was meant to encourage Joburgers to get out of their cars and engage with urban communities in ways they might not do otherwise. Kids in the Soweto suburb of Noordgesig.  #JoziWalks was an incredible opportunity for me. I’ve been on many walking tours in Johannesburg but #JoziWalks offered tours in places I’d never been, and the tours were free. The only bad part was most of the tours happened concurrently and I had to make agonizing choices over which ones to participate in. I eventually settled on a Saturday morning tour of La Rochelle, a suburb in the south of Joburg known for its Portuguese culture, and a Sunday tour of Noordgesig, a suburb on the edge of Soweto that played a big role in the anti-apartheid struggle. #JoziWalks La Rochelle Our tour of La Rochelle was led by Judith Muindisi of Tsica Heritage Consultants and Calvin Montgomery of the Southern Suburbs Heritage Society. La Rochelle, just south of the city center, is best known for Parreirinha, Joburg’s most famous Portuguese restaurant. I myself had only been to […]

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Mauritius sunset

I’d Rather Be in Mauritius. (Duh.)

I’ve been invited to participate in a blogger campaign called #RatherBeInMauritius. The point of the campaign is to write about how much I’d currently rather be in Mauritius, where it’s warm and everything is beautiful, instead of in Joburg, where it’s cold and not everything is beautiful. Mauritius, where I’d rather be. (For the record, I did ask the people sponsoring this campaign if they couldn’t just send me to Mauritius for a few days and let me report back on why I think everyone would rather be there. My request was politely ignored. At least I tried.) Those of you who aren’t from around here might be wondering why I complain about winter in Joburg. She’s in AFRICA, you might be thinking — how bad can it be? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s true that a high temperature of 60° fahrenheit (15° celsius) and a low of 35° fahrenheit (2° celsius) sounds like a walk in the park compared to a typical winter day in, say, Washington D.C. But try doing a few straight days and nights of 35° fahrenheit without your heat on and all your windows open a crack. Then you’ll know what it’s like to survive winter […]

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