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culture

Wolesely hood ornament

#Gauteng52, Week 17: The James Hall Museum of Transport

Welcome to Week 17 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 James Hall Museum of Transport. I was prepared to hate the James Hall Museum of Transport. The only thing I really knew about the James Hall Museum of Transport (which most Joburgers refer to simply as “the Transport Museum”) before I went was that it’s about cars. I have zero interest in cars. Also the first room of the museum makes a bad first impression — full of badly lit, dusty exhibitions — and I kind of wanted to leave within five minutes of arriving. The James Hall Museum of Transport, which looks underwhelming from the outside. A 19th-century carriage, complete with full-size plastic horses, in the “animal-drawn vehicles” collection. This part of the museum, which is the first room after the entrance, was a bit sad.  But I was with my friend Kate on our whirlwind tour of Joburg South, and neither of us had been to the Transport Museum before. We wanted to give the place a chance. And besides, admission was free. We persisted and in the end we […]

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Victorian room Roodepoort Museum

#Gauteng52, Week 16: The Roodepoort Museum

Welcome to Week 16 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 Roodepoort Museum. I’ve held off on writing about the Roodepoort Museum for a few weeks because it’s so obscure. But the museum’s obscurity is also what makes it worth writing about. The Roodepoort Museum is, not surprisingly, a museum about Roodepoort. Roodepoort is one of those towns outside Joburg (to the northwest of the city centre) that is technically a town on its own but also a suburb of Joburg. I heard about the museum while visiting Lindfield House and Marie-Lais and I decided to give it a try. When we first pulled up I thought we may have made a mistake. The Roodepoort Museum is inside one of the blandest government buildings I’ve ever seen. The Roodepoort Civic Centre, which contains the Roodepoort Museum. The Roodepoort Theatre is next door to the museum. Things got better as soon as we went inside. We met Carolina Geldenhuys, the museum’s curator, who plunged us right into Roodepoort’s history. A miniature version of the tribute to South Africa’s gold miners that stands in downtown […]

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Henni Erasmus at Majestic Video

#Gauteng52, Week 15: The Majestic Video Store

Welcome to Week 15 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 Majestic video store in Greenside. DVDs are still a thing in South Africa. Netflix only made its way here a few months ago and lots of people (including me) don’t have it. When I feel like watching a movie, I still go to the video store. The entrance to the Majestic video store. I had never noticed the Majestic video store, although it’s less than ten minutes from my house and I’d driven and walked past it many times. Fortunately my friend Marie-Lais introduced me to the Majestic a few weeks ago, when I went there with her to take photos for the Citizen “Other Side of the City” column. The Majestic will be my go-to video store from now on. Browsing the Majestic. Henni Erasmus and the Majestic Video Store Slow South African internet and lack of Netflix aside, many of you might wonder how a brick-and-mortar video store can really survive and thrive in the year 2017. The answer, my friends, is Henni Erasmus. Henni, the self-described mother hen at […]

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Table of food at Glory

#Gauteng52, Week 14: Glory in Melville

Welcome to Week 14 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 Glory, a quirky new chicken restaurant in Melville. Glory is a restaurant I must write about. First, Glory is in Melville, my home suburb and the best place to live in Johannesburg. I haven’t included a Melville place in my #Gauteng52 series yet, which is a travesty. Second, Glory is super quirky and quirkiness is my thing. Third, Glory is new and everyone loves a new restaurant review. Fourth, Glory’s food is delicious. I’ve been hesitant to write this post because I’m not sure how to describe Glory. This restaurant is, for lack of a better description, kinda strange. It’s not like other restaurants, in ways that are good and bad and neither good nor bad. But mostly good. Glory, just off 7th Street on 3rd Avenue in Melville. It’s a little tricky to find, around the back side of the big white building on that corner. I went to Glory twice — once for lunch on a Sunday afternoon and once for dinner on a Friday night. Food at […]

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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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Post box sign in Jeppe Post Office

Inside Joburg’s Historic Jeppe Post Office

There are sections of downtown Joburg where things are so chaotic and colorful and slightly scary that I find it hard to focus on any one thing. Such is the case at the corner of Jeppe and Kruis Streets, home of the Jeppe Post Office. Look here — a clothes shop entrance lined with dozens of curvy mannequin legs in tight-fitting jeans, packed so close together there’s hardly space to walk through. Look there — the hood of a car spread with 100 pairs of colorful flip-flops. Look here — a trolley piled high with oranges selling for a rand each. Look there — a man pushing a shopping cart full of bloody cow heads. Look here — a highjacked apartment building spilling garbage from every window. Look there — a newly restored, gleaming white office block with shiny black glass windows. Spaza shops, hair salons, honking taxis, muscular police vans, and a hundred people squatting, standing, walking every which way. A quick glimpse of Jeppe and Kruis Streets. My eyes dart from one thing and one person to another and my brain considers what or who I should or shouldn’t photograph, or whether I should even take my camera out of its bag at all. […]

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The Box Shop exterior

#Gauteng52, Week 11: A New Take on Vilakazi Street

Welcome to Week 11 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 Box Shop, a shopping center and coffee shop on Vilakazi Street in Soweto. A few weeks ago I met up with my friend Andile, a.k.a. @may_i_take_apicture, to talk about a new project he’s working on called Imagine Soweto. Andile is cycling 150 kilometers around Soweto and taking 150 pictures — about four pictures for each of Soweto’s 38 townships. Andile Bhala, a.k.a. the Man With the Red Bag, in his home township of Orlando West. Andile was looking for some advice on blogging for his Imagine Soweto project. I agreed to give him some in exchange for an introduction to a new place in Soweto for my #Gauteng52 project. We wound up having coffee at the Box Shop, a relatively new development built from shipping containers on Vilakazi Street in Orlando West. The Box Shop on Vilakazi Street. Vilakazi Street is legendary as the only street in the world where two Nobel Prize winners (President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu) lived at the same time. Vilakazi is one of […]

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Sanza's jollof rice

Friday Night at the Yeoville Dinner Club

Sanza Sandile isn’t an average chef. Which makes sense, because Yeoville isn’t an average suburb. Looking down on Rockey Street from the Yeoville Dinner Club. Actually I’m not even sure Sanza calls himself a chef — if you ask him he’ll probably say he’s a cook or a journalist or a philosopher or an entertainer. He’s all of those things and more. But above all, as I see it, this man is a chef. Sanza’s story is best told by Sanza himself and trust me, he will tell it to you. His food is as much about story-telling as it is about cooking. I’ll run through things briefly: Sanza came of age as apartheid ended and South African democracy began. He went to university, became a radio journalist, but all the while he cooked. He spent most of his adulthood in Yeoville, which was a gathering place for South Africa’s black intelligentsia in the 1990s and early 2000s. Over the past two decades Yeoville has become an African melting pot, with immigrants flooding in from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places. Many of Sanza’s peers left Yeoville and relocated to wealthier suburbs like Melville, which Sanza calls Smellville. Sanza […]

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Elephant orphan with caretaker at DSWT, Karen

Baby Elephants, Hungry Giraffes, and Other Cool Stuff in Karen

Karen is a suburb of Nairobi named for Danish farmer Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Meryl Streep), author of Out of Africa. The area was developed on the site of Blixen’s early 20th-century farm, where Out of Africa was filmed. I spent two days of my weeklong trip to Nairobi exploring Karen, which is anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour (or more) from downtown Nairobi, depending on traffic. It’s an alluring place — quiet, heavily forested, scattered with colonial estates and shady tea gardens. I decided to write a separate post about Karen because it’s so different and far-removed from central Nairobi. Karen is also filled with great tourist attractions. Karen’s 6 Best Tourist Attractions Here are the six coolest things I did in Karen. 1) The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust If you like animals and have time to do one thing in Karen, visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT). Baby elephants! DSWT is legendary in the animal conservation community — the first organization to raise orphaned elephant calves and integrate them back into the wild. Daphne Sheldrick, founder of the trust, developed a special a formula that substitutes for elephant breast milk and pioneered a process in which elephant calves are raised […]

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Colorful guy

#Gauteng52, Week 9: Kavady at the Melrose Temple

Welcome to Week 9 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 Melrose Temple, a 150-year-old Tamil temple in Joburg’s northern suburbs, during its holiest festival of the year. I’ve put off writing this post for a couple of weeks because I wasn’t sure where to start. First, the basics: The Melrose Temple, also known as the Johannesburg Melrose Shree Siva Subramaniar Temple, was founded around 1870 in what is now the Joburg suburb of Melrose. The original temple was built by ethnic Tamils who came from India to South Africa’s Natal colony as indentured laborers. When their indentured servitude ended, the Tamils migrated north and found work at a commercial laundry along the Jukskei River. (This was 20 years before the founding of Johannesburg.) The Tamils began to practice their faith on the land surrounding the laundry, and eventually the laundry’s owner gave them the land to build their temple. The temple remains in the same spot today. The Melrose Temple as it looks today — it’s been rebuilt a couple of times since 1870. I need to go back again sometime when […]

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Girls at the top of Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi

10 Insider Tips for Nairobi

I spent seven days in Nairobi. I didn’t go to the Maasai Mara, or Mombasa, or Mount Kilimanjaro or any of the other places that tourists usually fly or drive to after passing briefly through Kenya’s capital city. I suppose living in Johannesburg, which tourists also tend to quickly pass through on their way to somewhere else, has given me an appreciation for African cities. I made Nairobi my sole destination and spent a full week getting to know it. The Nairobi skyline at dusk, viewed from the top of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) downtown. I booked a flight on frequent flier miles and a cheap apartment on Airbnb. Other than that I did zero preparation before my trip, and relied solely on recommendations from my friends once I arrived in Nairobi. My good friend Michelle lives there, along with some colleagues and Instagram buddies. They all made suggestions and took me to some of their favorite places. The result was an extremely enjoyable week. Here are ten cool things that I did in Nairobi, virtually none of which I would have done without the recommendations of my local friends. (Note that I’m going to write a separate post about Karen […]

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Lungi holds raspberries at Field Berry Farm

#Gauteng52, Week 8: Picking Raspberries in Joburg South

Welcome to Week 8 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 Field Berry Farm, a raspberry farm in Joburg’s far south. This will be a quick #Gauteng52 post as I only visited this place briefly. But I need to tell you about Field Berry Farm before raspberry-picking season is over. Raspberries from Field Berry Farm. By the way, did you know that the word “raspberry” has a p in it? I didn’t, until I started writing this post and noticed the autocorrect when I typed “rasberry”. A Quick Visit to Field Berry Farm I stopped by Field Berry Farm a couple of weeks ago with my friend Kate, who grew up in the south of Joburg and was giving me a tour of the area. Joburg’s southern suburbs are vast, incorporating densely populated urban areas, bucolic farmland, and everything in between. (I’ll have more Joburg South posts coming soon.) We followed Kate’s GPS along a winding country road and found ourselves in a gravel parking area, with a small warehouse to the right and a large field covered by shade netting to the left. A […]

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