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culture

Krishna deities at Lenasia temple

#Gauteng52, Week 33: The Hare Krishnas of Lenasia

Welcome to Week 33 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 ISKCON Lenasia, home to Gauteng’s Hare Krishnas. When I was about 14, my family took a trip to San Francisco. I remember virtually nothing about the trip expect for one afternoon in Carmel, a town outside San Francisco, when a group of Hare Krishnas paraded down the street chanting their mantra: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The Hare Krishnas wore robes and thongs and had interesting makeup and hair styles. It was the craziest and most wondrous thing my teenage eyes had ever seen. I didn’t give the Hare Krishna movement much thought until nearly 30 years later, when my boyfriend’s brother Hal told me about a Hare Krishna temple in Lenasia, the historically Indian township in Joburg’s far south. Hal found himself in Lenasia late last year and stumbled upon ISKCON Lenasia. (ISKCON stands for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.) He and his friends enjoyed a free vegetarian meal at the temple. ISKCON Lenasia, which I believe is the […]

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Solly's fish and chips with seasoning

#Gauteng52, Week 32: Joburg’s Best Fish and Chips

Welcome to Week 32 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 Solly’s Corner, a takeaway shop serving fish and chips and other fast-food delicacies in Fordsburg. A few months ago I stumbled upon an article in Roads & Kingdoms called 18 Things to Know Before You Go to Johannesburg. It was an odd collection of tips, in my critical opinion. But the article’s 18th tip caught my attention: “Get stuffed” at Solly’s Corner. The article described Solly’s Corner as Joburg’s “epitome of comfort food”, yet I’d never heard of it. I started to ask around. Apparently Solly’s is famous for fish and chips. Solly’s Corner is in Fordsburg, Joburg’s historically Indian neighborhood and one of my favorite cheap-eats dining destinations. It’s strange that I never stumbled upon Solly’s before. I usually go to Fordburg for curry or samoosas, and I suppose it’s never occurred to me to seek out fish and chips. The entrance to Solly’s Corner. Solly’s Corner, true to its name, is at the corner of Lilian Ngoyi Street (formerly Bree Street) and Central Road. There isn’t a big sign […]

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Inside the Prison Museum in Pretoria

#Gauteng52, Week 31: Pretoria’s Prison Museum

Welcome to Week 31 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 Correctional Services Museum, or Prison Museum for short, in Pretoria. In another #Gauteng52 episode of “I Almost Didn’t Write About This Because It’s So Freaking Weird,” I bring you the Prison Museum. The entrance hall of the Prison Museum. When my friend Ted told me he was going to visit South Africa’s Prison Museum, on the grounds of an actual prison, curiosity got the better of me. I became even more excited when I googled the place and found an article saying museum-goers must walk through the visitors’ area of the prison to get to the museum. Ted and I drove to the Kgosi Mampuru Prison, formerly Pretoria Central Prison, not far from downtown Pretoria. We pulled up at the gate and drove through after a cursory search of Ted’s trunk. The Prison Museum building is just inside the prison grounds, to the left of the front gate. The museum, which used to be the prison manager’s house, has its own parking lot. Next to that parking lot is a small […]

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Click Boutique Hotel garden

Quickie Restaurant (and Hotel) Review: Clico Boutique Hotel

Last month Ray and I were invited to enjoy dinner, bed, and breakfast at the Clico Boutique Hotel in Rosebank. I jumped at the chance. People are always asking me for Joburg hotel recommendations, but I rarely have much to offer because who spends the night at hotels in their own city? I was also eager to try Clico’s restaurant as I’d heard good things. My birthday was in July so I decided to schedule our visit on that day, and Clico turned out to be a great place for a sumptuous birthday feast. Dinner at Clico. The garden and pool area at Clico Boutique Hotel. What I liked about Clico: 1) The location. Clico is in Rosebank, just a couple of blocks from the Gautrain station and across the street from the Keyes Art Mile. 2) The service. The reception staff, wait staff, and everyone working at Clico were particularly outgoing and friendly. I offered some feedback after my stay via email, and the Clico management responded immediately in a positive and proactive manner. 3) The wifi. Clico has free, unlimited wifi with a simple password and no silly vouchers or megabyte limits. WHY DOESN’T EVERY HOTEL DO THIS? 4) The […]

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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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