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culture

Jamonopolis: Entrance to Fama Deli

#Gauteng52, Week 30: The Joburg Jamonópolis

Welcome to Week 30 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 Fama Deli, Johannesburg’s Jamonópolis. When I first started the #Gauteng52 challenge, I put out a call to my readers and friends asking for recommendations on places to go. (If you’re one of the recommenders, don’t worry if I haven’t visited your place yet. I’m working slowly through the list.) One of the most intriguing recommendations came from my friend Robyn, who suggested a visit to the “Jamón Man”. The Jamón Man is a man who sells jamón (Spanish for ham). Well actually it’s not just one man; it’s a man and his wife and their staff. And it’s not just ham; the Jamón Man sells every kind of pork imaginable, cured in the traditional Spanish style. And the place is not actually called Jamonópolis de Johanesburgo, as the sign says; its official name is the Fama Deli. Other than that it’s all exactly like it sounds. Behold: La Jamonópolis de Johanesburgo. The Fama Deli is in Lorentzville, a downtrodden Joburg neighborhood not far from Maboneng. The first notable […]

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Cosmopolitan garden

A Pedicure and More at the Cosmopolitan Hotel

I was recently invited to have a pedicure at Tenfold, a new nail salon at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Maboneng. I am not a beauty blogger and writing about mani-pedis isn’t my normal thing, but I liked the idea of getting my nails done in a super-old historic building in the middle of downtown Joburg. (Also it was my birthday weekend and this seemed like a nice present for myself.) So I went, and wound up staying at the Cosmopolitan for the entire afternoon. The garden at the Cosmopolitan, which looks spectacular at the moment — amazing considering it’s winter in South Africa. Tenfold, owned by a lovely woman named Georgia Shekeshe, occupies a pretty corner spot in the Cosmopolitan garden. It was a great place to relax with a cup of tea and a foot massage on a cold winter day. It will be even nicer in summer when the doors are open. Tenfold’s green exterior. The salon’s zen interior. I can’t believe I photographed my own feet in such a vulnerable state. Tumi did a great job and the warm towels were welcome on a cold day. Group portrait at Tenfold. Georgia is in the middle with the […]

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Elizabeth and Vincent in Sophiatown

#Gauteng52, Week 29: Sophiatown The Mix

Welcome to Week 29 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 Sophiatown The Mix. The point of the #Gauteng52 challenge is for me to visit 52 places in Gauteng where I’ve never been before. However, I have been to Sophiatown many times. I’ve done walking tours of the suburb (see here and here) and listened to jazz in the Sophiatown Heritage Centre. But Sophiatown The Mix — a new multipurpose center next to the old Heritage Centre, which offers many new and exciting events and services — had escaped my awareness until two months ago. So I think this still counts as new. Sophiatown The Mix, part of the Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre nonprofit. Some background on Sophiatown: Similar to Cape Town’s District Six, Sophiatown was a multiracial, richly cultural neighborhood that was destroyed under apartheid. During the 1950s, Sophiatown’s black, colored, and Asian residents were rounded up by police and forcibly removed to townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The apartheid government razed Sophiatown to the ground — only three buildings survived — then rebuilt the suburb into an […]

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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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Green and orange beading at piece

Beading with Beauty at piece

My love for beaded jewelry began many years ago, when my sister worked in a bead shop. Susanna and I would pick out beads together and then she would make bracelets and earrings and necklaces for both of us. I don’t think it ever occurred to me to try beading myself; I’m not crafty like my sister is. But my jewelry collection kept growing. The bead love intensified when I moved to South Africa, where beadwork is everywhere. I was recently invited to a beading class at piece, a beautiful African arts and crafts shop in downtown Johannesburg. (I wrote about piece in my #Gauteng52 post on Ellis House earlier this year.) The classes are led by Beauty Maswanganyi, a master beading artisan and long-time staff member at piece. Beauty helps get a bracelet started at the beginning of the class. Beauty has a pretty good track record as far as jewelry-making goes: Past clients of hers include Oprah and Michelle Obama (!) I did not excel at beading. (Learning to bead is hard for left-handers. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) But it didn’t matter because this class was so freaking fun, and I went home with my own […]

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Bapsfontein Hotel neon sign

#Gauteng52, Week 28: Honky-Tonkin’ at the Bapsfontein Hotel

Welcome to Week 28 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 Bapsfontein Hotel. This may surprise those who know only the current, city-girl version of me. But I am no stranger to honky-tonk. I’m American and I grew up more or less in the country, listening to my dad play Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, and Johnny Cash on the car stereo as he drove me to softball practice in his pickup truck. So when I started spotting pictures on Facebook of the Bapsfontein Hotel — a country-western bar about an hour northeast of Joburg with the greatest neon sign I’ve ever seen — I knew I had to go. The Bapsfontein Hotel’s old-school neon sign. The Story of the Bapsfontein Hotel I can’t dig up much history about Bapsfontein or the Bapsfontein Hotel. Everything I know was gleaned from snatched conversations with the new owners (yelled over the noise of the music) on the day I was there. Bapsfontein is a tiny town — too far from Joburg to be a city suburb, too close to be properly […]

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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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Retro Rabbit antique shop in Pretoria

#Gauteng52, Week 26: Pretoria’s Quirky Antique Route 6

Welcome to Week 26 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 Antique Route 6 in Pretoria. South Africa has a tumultuous past and a tumultuous present. The only thing that’s consistent here is change. South Africans tend to be constantly on the move, coming and going, accumulating and leaving behind trails of possessions that must be bought and sold, and bought and sold again. This state of flux leads to many interesting cultural phenomena, one of which is an abundance of antique shops. Antique shops are everywhere in South Africa but in certain places they concentrate together in clumps. Johannesburg’s Long Street is one example. Pretoria’s Antique Route 6 is another. The Retro Rabbit Antique Shop in Pretoria North. Antique Route 6 is a bunch of antique shops in Pretoria North, not far from the Hatfield Gautrain station, clustered mainly around Pierneef Street and Soutpansberg Road. The route has its own online map, at www.antiqueroute6pretoria.co.za. I have no idea why this route is called Antique Route 6. Are there another five antique routes somewhere? If anyone knows the answer I’d love […]

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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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Mark1 Mandela street art piece

Street Art and Cape Town’s District Six

Last month I spent a couple of days in Cape Town on either end of my weeklong stay in Stellenbosch. I was reminded yet again of what a lovely city Cape Town is. At some point I really need to stay for longer than three days at a time. I’m a Joburg girl, now and forever. But I must confess Cape Town is really freaking beautiful. I managed to do quite a few cool things during my short time in Cape Town, the best of which was a street art tour in District Six and surrounding areas with Juma’s Tours. The History of District Six The history of District Six is tragic and makes no sense, except in the non-sensical context of apartheid South Africa. Similar to Sophiatown in Joburg, District Six was a culturally vibrant area — located close to the center of Cape Town — populated by mostly non-white South Africans of various races. Following the Group Areas Act (enacted in various forms in 1950, 1957, and 1966), which legally mandated South Africa’s racial groups to live separately, the apartheid government forcibly removed District Six’s 60,000 residents to the Cape Flats and other townships during the 1970s. Of all the enraging aspects of apartheid, there […]

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Cooking chicken at Food Junxion

#Gauteng52, Week 23: Food Junxion

Welcome to Week 23 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 Food Junxion, a take-away restaurant in downtown Johannesburg. While visiting Master Mansions last week, I noticed a delicious smell emanating from a street-level restaurant in the building next door. There was a man in the window of the restaurant, cooking chicken over a coal-fired grill, painting the chicken bright red using a thick brush. The restaurant’s name was Food Junxion. On a whim, Gail and I decided to eat lunch there. Grilling bright red chicken. I’m sure Food Junxion has a great story, but I don’t know it. It didn’t occur to me until later that I might want to blog about Food Junxion — at the time my mind was swimming with romantic stories of hat factories and secret Hindu temples. So I didn’t ask any questions or take a ton of photos during our meal. But here’s what I can tell you: 1) Food Junxion is cheap: R30 ($2.30) for a platter of chicken, roti (Indian bread), chips (fries), and salad (a small pile of iceberg lettuce). Next time I’ll skip the salad and substitute […]

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Outside Master Mansions

A Magical Visit to Master Mansions

A couple of weeks ago I attended the book launch for Master Mansions. Master Mansions is the eighth in a ten-book series called “Wake Up, This is Joburg”: written by Tanya Zack, photographed by Mark Lewis, and published by Fourthwall Books. My precious copy of Master Mansions. Just a side note about the “Wake Up This is Joburg” books: If you attend the launch of one of the books, then buy the book and impatiently rip it out of the plastic right away, please do not do so while eating canapés. You’ll risk putting greasy fingerprints on the delicate, un-laminated cover of the book. (I photoshopped my fingerprint out of the picture above.) The “Wake Up This is Joburg” series is fantastic. I learned about it late, after the first five books had already sold out, so I only have numbers six, seven, and eight. (Nine and ten haven’t been released yet.) The narrative in these books — which are more like fancy pamphlets, covered with thick, matte paper and bound with staples — is exceptional and the photography is inspiring. The short stories are required reading for anyone who appreciates Joburg’s beautiful oddity. At the book launch my friend Gail approached Harshad Bhikha Master, one […]

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