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art

Sculptures and paintings in Ellis House

#Gauteng52, Week 13: Art and Design at Ellis House

Welcome to Week 13 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Ellis House, a collection of art and design studios in New Doornfontein. Marie-Lais and I pulled into the ground-floor parking lot at 23 Voorhout Street and wandered aimlessly, trying to figure out how to get into the building. “Go there,” the security guard said, pointing around a corner. The guard followed us around the corner and gestured toward a tiny door leading to a hidden staircase. I’m not sure we ever would have found it. We climbed a couple of flights, walked up and down empty hallways, struggled to find another human. After a few false starts, we caught the elevator to the fifth floor and discovered a hidden artistic wonderland. The Art Eye Gallery and Studio on the fifth floor of Ellis House. New Doornfontein, an industrial section of downtown Joburg bordering Ellis Park and Troyeville, has become a new artistic frontier, with Ellis House leading the way. I’d been hearing about this building for a while but I wasn’t prepared for the beautiful coolness I found inside. Looking over New […]

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Woven mats from Elelloang Basali

Must-Have Christmas Gifts From the Maluti Mountains

I went to Lesotho last week for a work assignment. I was in a rush on the drive there, but on the way back I took my time, winding through the Maluti Mountains and visiting some of my favorite places. The Maluti Mountains on the South African side of the Lesotho border. As a travel writer, I’m always trying to discover new things. I rarely visit the same place twice. But there are a few places that are magical and special enough to draw me back again and again. The Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre is one of those places. The Clarens Blanket Shop is another. Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre I first visited the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre in August 2010 and I’ve been back about four times since. The Centre is right on the Lesotho Main Road in Teyteyaneng, about 40 minutes north of Maseru, and it’s an easy stop for those coming in or out of Lesotho through the Peka Bridge crossing. Just look for the cheerful red building made of aluminium cans — it’s hard to miss. I get emotional every time I walk into this amazing workshop because I get transported back to a pivotal time in my life when I […]

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Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank

Keyes Art Mile: A New Jozi Hangout in Rosebank

I feel antsy when I go too long without blogging about something in Joburg. So last week during a brief hiatus between trips to Cape Town and Mozambique (more about my Mozambique trip in the next post), I headed to Rosebank and had lunch at the new Keyes Art Mile. If you’re a Jozi enthusiast, you’ve probably been hearing buzz about the Keyes Art Mile for the last few weeks and wondering what the heck it is. The name has an interesting air of mystery. Is it a mile-long mall? An outdoor market? A massive art gallery? Even after my visit, I’m not sure how to explain the Keyes Art Mile. But here is my best attempt. What is the Keyes Art Mile? The Keyes Art Mile is located at 19 Keyes Avenue at the corner of Jellicoe Avenue in Rosebank, a cosmopolitan suburb halfway between downtown Joburg and Sandton. Jozi art lovers will be familiar with this corner as it houses Circa Gallery and the Everard Read Gallery, two of the best art galleries in Joburg. (Circa featured in my Jozi Top Five Museums and Galleries post.) Next to Circa is a huge new building called the Trumpet building. Trumpet is the heart of […]

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Inside Mad Giant

Five Amazing New Places in Downtown Jozi (not in Maboneng or Braamfontein)

Downtown Jozi is on fire. There are cool shopping, dining, and art destinations popping up all over the city. The Joburg Ballet performs at Joziburg Lane, one of downtown’s newest destinations, on its opening weekend. Regeneration in Joburg’s inner city is nothing new: Exciting stuff has been happening downtown since I moved to Joburg in 2010, and long before that. What’s different about the last year or two — and especially the last six-to-eight months —  is that inner-city regeneration is no longer largely limited to the hipster hubs of Maboneng and Braamfontein. Urban renewal is everywhere and it’s becoming easier to travel between all the new restaurants, shops, and markets. Maboneng and Braamfontein are still great and there is new stuff opening in those areas all the time. But if you’re looking for fun in the city, it isn’t necessary to limit yourself to those neighborhoods. Here are five of my favorite new non-Maboneng, non-Braamfontein spots, all opened within that past several months. 1) Mad Giant/Urbanologi The Mad Giant Brewery is a huge, beautifully designed craft beer joint in the 1Fox Precinct in Ferreirasdorp. Urbanologi is a high-end, Asian-inspired tapas restaurant inside the Mad Giant premises. Outside Mad Giant. The upscale interior. Mad […]

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Outside Mukhondeni Village Pottery

Art Emerges From Dust on the Ribola Art Route

I drove on a wide gravel road, my little car rattling as its tires pushed over the corrugated surface. Dust billowed behind me. I was headed toward a tiny Limpopo town called Mukondeni, where I would explore the Ribola Art Route, and I was making good time. I glanced at my iPhone’s GPS: The blue line was solid, assuring me I was headed in the right direction. “Turn right,” the voice commanded. The new road was narrower and softer, dirt tire ruts bordered by brown grass. I followed the GPS for a couple of kilometers, passing farms bordered by barbed-wire fences and two bemused pedestrians. The tire ruts grew fainter. The rocks in the road grew larger; thorn bushes closed in on both sides. Soon, despite that persistent blue line on my iPhone, there was no road at all. My GPS had sent me down a cattle track. I took a deep breath and turned the car around, point by point, wincing as thorns scraped metal. Rule #1 when traveling in rural South Africa: Save your smartphone battery and your sanity, and leave the GPS switched off. Follow directions from an actual human. I nearly panicked and lost it there. But after careful […]

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Cosmopolitan outside in 2014

Joburg’s Cosmopolitan Hotel: Then and Now

The Cosmopolitan Hotel, at the corner of Commissioner and Albrecht Streets, is one of Joburg’s most legendary buildings. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Cosmopolitan is big and Victorian, its columned, curly-cued cupola looming high above the street. The crumbling facade is strangely magical, like something from a Tim Burton film. The Cosmopolitan, once a prominent gentleman’s club, was in a state of disrepair for decades, its lower-level windows bricked up to prevent trespassing. (Read more about the Cosmopolitan’s history here.) But there have been rumblings of change for a few years, especially since the Maboneng Precinct started sprouting up around the Cosmopolitan. Now, the wait is over. The Cosmopolitan has been made over into a restaurant/retail/gallery space, and it’s officially open for business. I was lucky enough to take some photos inside the Cosmopolitan in May 2014, when a soon-to-be-stalled renovation had just begun and the place was a complete mess. I’ve been sitting on these photos for two years, waiting for the renovations to finish so I can show the before-and-after. While the renovations aren’t 100% finished yet, I can’t wait any longer. Outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel: 2014 and 2016 The front of the building looks more or less […]

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Plastic bottles in the iThemba Tower

iThemba Tower: A Recycled Tower of Art in Troyeville

I spent Saturday afternoon on a Jozi art binge, driving from Braamfontein to Maboneng to Troyeville looking at lots and lots of art. I saw tons of amazing stuff. (Side note: Don’t miss the Walter Battiss exhibition at Wits Art Museum — it’s spectacular.) But one particular art installation stood out — quite literally — from the rest: The iThemba Tower at Spaza Gallery in Troyeville. A wide-angle view of the iThemba Tower in the garden of the Spaza Gallery. I’m pretty sure it’s the tallest work of art in Joburg.  A close-up view of the tower, which is made of bottles. The iThemba Tower is a permanent art installation constructed around a long-abandoned cell phone tower in the garden of the Spaza Gallery. The Spaza Gallery featured in my Top Ten Quirky Places in Joburg post, and has a fascinating story that revolves around the disused cell tower. I’ve been promising to tell the full story of the Spaza Gallery and it’s founder, Andrew Lindsay, for years. I will keep that promise, and I think the day is drawing nearer. Andrew Lindsay, founder of the Spaza Gallery, beneath the tower. The entire gallery garden is decorated with bottles. Check out […]

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Kids playing at Joziburg Lane

Happy Kids and Paper Flowers at Joziburg Lane

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the middle of a grade R (the South African version of kindergarten) classroom in downtown Joburg, watching kids have fun with paper, glue, paint, and glitter. The kids were assembling and decorating big paper flowers for the nearby Joziburg Lane market at One Eloff Street. The flowers would be used to decorate Joziburg Lane for its opening festival during the last week of May. Cute kids, ready to paint. Birds-eye view of the painting underway. A happy girl with her completed flower. Pauline, a teacher who I believe is also the founder of the Grow Up and Learn School, with her flower. After the madness of the all the flower creation was dying down, I took two Instax pictures of each kid with his/her flower. One picture went home with the child and the other one went to One Eloff. A couple of weeks later, just before the Joziburg Lane Festival, I met the kids at One Eloff to photograph them decorating the Lane. There is nothing cuter than a nearly straight line of tiny children. The little girl on the left is not a student at the Grow Up and Learn School. Her parents were […]

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Pop-Up Travel: The Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Earlier this week, I saw a photo of the Nelson Mandela Capture Site on my friend Meruschka’s Instagram feed. Meruschka’s post reminded me that I visited the Nelson Mandela Capture Site nearly a year ago and had yet to blog about it. Hence, my newest Pop-Up Travel post. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site commemorates the time and place in which Nelson Mandela — on the run from the apartheid government — was captured and arrested in 1962. After his arrest in the small town of Howick, in what was then South Africa’s Natal Province, Mandela was convicted of treason and went on to spend 27 years in prison. Today this still-rural spot in KwaZulu Natal is marked with a dramatic sculpture by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli, depicting Nelson Mandela’s profile with a collection of jagged, black metal bars. (You may remember that Cianfanelli also has a beautiful Mandela sculpture in downtown Joburg called the Shadow Boxer.) An innovative bust of Mandela in Howick, KwaZulu Natal. Ray and I stopped at the Capture Site last year on our way home from an eventful trip to Durban and the Wild Coast. We were tired, but the site is literally minutes from the highway […]

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Joburg art linocutting

Making Art in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is a great city for making art. I’ve heard artists/art enthusiasts complain that Johannesburg is less art-friendly than Cape Town. But I can only speak from my own experience. From the moment I arrived in Joburg I was struck by the creativity that oozes from every corner and crack in the city: the guys making and selling bead art on the street, the avant-garde clothing that people wear, the profusion of art workshops and studios, and the explosion of exhibitions and gallery openings that flood my Facebook feed. I was never particularly interested in art before I came to Joburg; here, I got inspired. I became an art lover and an artist. My friend Fiver, who has been an artist all her life, agrees. For as long as I’ve lived in Joburg, Fiver and her husband have come and gone — dividing their time between Europe and South Africa. Every time Fiver is here, she raves about how conducive Johannesburg is to her creative process. Fiver working on her art at the Prints on Paper studio in Joburg. I’ve written about Fiver on countless occasions. She accompanies me on many of my Joburg adventures and she also designed the header image at the […]

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James and Henrike at Hillbrow Boxing Club

Remembering Henrike

Warning: This post contains graphic language. Three days ago there was a terrorist attack in Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), in a resort town called Grand Bassam not far from the capital city of Abidjan. About 16 people were killed, plus the six gunmen who were reportedly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. My friend Henrike Grohs was one of the people killed. Henrike boxing with James Ike, one of our coaches at the Hillbrow Boxing Club, in March 2013. I hadn’t spoken with Henrike in several months, which I regret. Henrike moved from Johannesburg to Abidjan in January 2014, and during that time I only saw her sporadically when she passed through town for meetings. She was here a few weeks ago and stopped in for a training session at the Hillbrow Boxing Club, which she often did when she was in Joburg. But I was away in Turkey so I missed her. Henrike was from Germany but moved from Berlin to Joburg in 2009 for a position with the Goethe-Institut Südafrika, where she was in charge of culture and development. She later moved to Abidjan to become the director of the Goethe-Institut there. It’s hard not to sound cliché at a time like this. But the first […]

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