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art

Wooden Newtown heads in downtown Joburg

The Newtown Heads Are Back in Action

As I float down a canal in the Netherlands, I thought I’d write a quick post about the Newtown heads. If you live in Joburg you know the heads I’m talking about — the hundreds of wooden sculptures lining Mary Fitzgerald Square and several streets in the downtown neighborhood of Newtown. Newtown heads in the center of Mary Fitzgerald Square. The heads, all 500-something of them, were originally erected in 2001. But over the years quite a few of them were stolen/vandalized/cracked or eroded due to weather. Joburg city enthusiasts mourned the heads’ demise. Here’s what all the heads looked like until recently. The head in the foreground is badly weathered and the head in the background is gone completely. The decoration on the concrete plinths is part of a separate project by artist Food Baby Soul.  In 2018, as part of the Newtown Now! festival in July, artist Americo Guambe — who spearheaded the creation of the original Newtown heads — received funding from the Joburg City government and the Johannesburg Development Agency to do a major head renovation. Nearly 100 of the heads have been replaced and/or refurbished, and they look positively glorious. The New Newtown Heads Feast your […]

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Lascaux rock art painting at Sci-Bono

The Wonders of Rock Art: Now at Sci-Bono

The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre is a science museum in Newtown, in the middle of the Joburg CBD. The museum is housed in a cavernous, 110-year-old former electrical workshop. Somehow I’ve never blogged about it before but last week I received a perfect opportunity when I was invited to the launch of Sci-Bono’s “Wonders of Rock Art: Lascaux Cave and Africa” exhibition. The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre during the opening of the Wonders of Rock Art exhibition. The Wonders of Rock Art The Wonders of Rock Art is a collaboration between Sci-Bono, Wits University, the French Embassy in South Africa, and the French Institute of South Africa. There is a lot going on in this exhibition and I can’t begin to explain it all. But in short, there is a life-sized reproduction of France’s Lascaux Cave, which has been nicknamed “the Sistine Chapel of Prehistory”. The Lascaux Cave was discovered in 1940 (by a bunch of teenagers chasing a dog) and is filled with one of the world’s most stunning displays of prehistoric rock art. A reproduction of Lascaux’s “Panel of the Black Cow”. The reproduction was painstakingly created using the same materials the original Cro-Magnon artists used 17,000 years ago. Reproducing the reproduction. […]

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people walking in 27 Boxes park

10 Places to Visit in Melville’s 27 Boxes

27 Boxes is a retail center made out of shipping containers on 4th Avenue in Melville. The beautiful new children’s play area outside 27 Boxes. I recently wrote a story about 27 Boxes for the Different, which goes into the interesting history of the center and of Faan Smit Park, the Joburg City park that used to be where 27 Boxes is now. So I won’t go into that in this post. I just want to tell you that 27 Boxes has become one of the best places to hang out in Melville. The center didn’t get off to a great start when it opened in 2015; lots of the shops sat empty and Melville residents grumbled that the whole place was an eyesore and would soon go under and close. But new management took over 27 Boxes last year and started fixing everything up. New shop tenants have moved in, and the outside of the center was completely overhauled. It looks fantastic. I go to 27 Boxes all the time and I think everyone else should too. If you want an idea of what to do there, here are 10 of my top recommendations. Ten Great Places in 27 Boxes […]

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Heather with 2Summers in Motion prints

2Summers in Motion

Many months ago, as I often do, I was talking to my friend Fiver about this blog. I was saying it was time for a new header image, and Fiver said she wanted to create something using linoprints. I said that sounded great. That’s how “2Summers in Motion” was born. 2Summers in Motion. I didn’t give Fiver any direction at all — I just asked her to make something and this is what she made. She’s talented like that. Each of the images portrays a different mode of transportation I’ve used in or around Joburg. The patterns in the background are inspired by South African shweshwe fabric. Fiver making one of the prints for the 2Summers in Motion series. You can see more pictures of Fiver working in this post about my business cards, which incorporate the same images. Once Fiver started making these prints, she realized she wanted to do a lot more with them than just make a blog header. She started printing the images on different kinds of paper, with different kinds of paint, with different patterns all around them. Her customers, including me, started buying the prints. 2Summers in Motion print. (Photos courtesy of Fiver Löcker) […]

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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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Smokey kissing beaded Smokey

From the Melville Cat: I’m a Work of Art

From the Melville Cat: Heather enjoys animal-inspired art. She has a beaded giraffe, for example, as well as a clay porcupine. But until recently she did not have any art inspired by the most important animal in her life: me. I’ve been dropping hints about this omission for years — by sleeping on Heather’s art books and refusing to admire the beaded giraffe despite multiple prompts. Apparently my hints finally worked. Last week Heather came home with this: My beaded likeness. I’ve named him Melville Cat Deux. I didn’t think much of my beaded likeness at first. After all these years of waiting, I suppose I’d lost interest in the idea. Also his front legs are a bit short. Ho hum. But then I took a closer look at Melville Cat Deux and realized his resemblance to me is quite remarkable. We have a similar posture. A man named Shepherd made Melville Cat Deux. Shepherd makes a living creating beaded animals on Melville’s 7th Street. He has sold Heather several beaded animals in the past. Shepherd with Melville Cat Deux. Shepherd has been making beaded animals in Melville for many years — longer than Heather can remember — but he […]

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Eli in Rhodes Park

#Gauteng52, Week 42: Kensington’s Rhodes Park

Welcome to Week 42 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 Rhodes Park in Kensington. Kensington is one of Joburg’s most interesting neighborhoods and I don’t get over there enough. I have this idea that it’s on the opposite side of the world from Melville, even though it’s less than a 20-minute drive without traffic. My friend Gail lives in Kensington and she’s always posting pretty photos from her walks in Rhodes Park. So when I heard Gail was organizing an art exhibition at the park called “The Land That Never Forgets”, I made a point of taking myself across town to check it out. Looking out over the lake (or dam, as South Africans call it) in Rhodes Park. Exactly two years ago there was a terrible crime at Rhodes Park. Since the tragedy Gail and a group of her friends have been holding weekly cleanups and other events to help uplift Rhodes Park, and it seems like they’ve made tremendous progress in making it a safe, welcoming place for the community. This exhibition — consisting entirely of land art — […]

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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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Pink house in Melville

#Gauteng52, Week 34: The Pink Church With a Blue Door

Welcome to Week 34 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 Blue Door Print Studio, inside Melville’s mysterious Pink Church. On the southeastern edge of Melville — technically it’s in Richmond but I consider it Melville — is a mysterious Pink Church with white trim. For a long time it was abandoned, then it briefly became an antique shop although the shop rarely looked open. Some people say the Pink Church is haunted. I’ve driven past the Pink Church about 500 times and was always curious. I never went in. The Pink Church at 24 Chatou Road, Richmond. (But really it’s Melville.) Last month I saw an article in the Northcliff Melville Times titled “Building Transformed into Print Haven”. The article said the Pink Church has become the Blue Door Print Studio. I learned that the building was built in 1904, and it was indeed a Methodist church back in the day. Later on it was a synagogue, which somehow makes the Pink Church even more fascinating. Two days later, I finally went to the Pink Church. The front of the Pink […]

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Mama Anna with her beaded Ndebele kudu head

The Ndebele Artists of Mpumalanga: Coming Soon to Joburg

We drove down a dusty KwaMahlanga street, bordered by beige and brown houses. I saw dogs, chickens, and goats, all in various earth tones. Orange and lemon trees, laden with late-winter fruit, provided periodic bursts of yellow and orange. We pulled in front of an earth-colored house, guarded by an earth-colored dog. A color explosion awaited inside. Mama Anna Skhosana stood in the middle of the living room, draped in a jewel-toned blue, yellow, and red Ndebele blanket. Her shaved head was adorned with overlapping bands and a thick beaded collar hung around her neck. Mama Anna’s artwork — a large wooden kudu head covered in intricate beadwork — sat nearly finished on the coffee table. After a few minutes of enthusiastic greetings between Mama Anna, her daughter Minky, and my hosts Nomvula and Mahlapane, Mama Anna sat down to continue beading. Mama Anna works on a beaded kudu head. Every inch of the kudu is beaded. Mama Anna doesn’t use any glue to attach the beads (at least not that I saw) — only thread. We returned to Mama Anna’s house the next day and three kudu heads sat lined up on the sofa, ready for delivery to the […]

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Beaded casspir at the Turbine Art Fair

The Casspir Project at the 2017 Turbine Art Fair

Yesterday I went to the Turbine Art Fair in downtown Joburg and saw the Casspir Project: a massive armoured vehicle covered in more than a ton of colorful glass beads. Kennedy Mwashusha, one of the artists who worked on the Casspir Project, with the exhibit at Turbine Hall in downtown Joburg. I had seen pictures of the Casspir Project in advance but nothing could have prepared me for the real thing. It’s an awe-inspiring work. Every inch of the Casspir, including the lights and all the little pipes and various doo-dads, is covered in beads. I shot this photo while the vehicle was running (yep, it still runs) and the bead-coated hazard lights were blinking. View from the side. Note the beaded AK-47s sticking out of the windows. Tail lights. The creator, Ralph Ziman, is also known as Afrika47. Casspir wheel. The Casspir, invented by the South African government in 1980, is a well known symbol of oppression. Although initially created to detonate mines in the South African Border War, Casspirs were also deployed into townships to quell anti-apartheid protests. The Casspir Project began nearly a year ago and included a team of more than 60 bead artists. While I was […]

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Face sculptures at Anton Smit Sculpture Park

#Gauteng52, Week 27: Anton Smit Sculpture Park

Welcome to Week 27 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 the Anton Smit Sculpture Park in Bronkhorstspruit. I drove slowly up the R25, careful not to miss the turn that would take us to the Anton Smit Sculpture Park. I crested a rise and realized I needn’t have worried. The turn is hard to miss. The road toward the Anton Smit Sculpture Park in Bronkhorstspruit. Anton Smit is a well known South African sculptor. I’ve seen his work all over the country, most recently at the Delaire Graff Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. But Smit’s largest collection is at his home in Bronkhorstspruit, about 90 minutes northeast of Joburg, where he has a sculpture park and a quirky restaurant/café. Giant faces, turned toward the setting sun, welcome us to the sculpture park. I’m struggling to find words to describe the Anton Smit Sculpture Park. Whimsical comes to mind, but I think surreal is better. There’s something about this mystical yet well-branded grassy hilltop, located inside a luxury housing development that doesn’t belong in the middle of South African nowhere, dotted with […]

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