Joburg’s religious diversity is one of my favorite things about the city. There are so many beautiful churches and mosques and temples, representing every faith imaginable, and while I’m not a religious person I love visiting places of worship. (See the “God Project” series that I’m doing with Jozi Rediscovered. By the way, you can expect a new God Project post very soon.) So when I saw that the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation was offering a “Mosques and Minarets” bus tour, visiting three mosques in different parts of town, I signed up. I usually avoid bus tours, but Joburg is vast and sometimes wheeled transport is necessary when visiting far-flung parts of town. As often happens on tours like this, I get distracted taking pictures and miss a lot of the interesting information imparted by the guides. Nonetheless, we had fantastic guides and one of them was the legendary Flo Bird, founder of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. Flo Bird (right) with Mohammed Docket, chairman of the Northcliff Jummah Musjid. I did manage to absorb a few details, which I’ll share along with many mosque photos. The Nizamiye Mosque We met the bus in Parktown (it was full — Joburg Heritage tours are very popular) and proceeded up the […]
Once upon a time, the Makuleke people lived on a triangle-shaped piece of land, bordered by two rivers, at the intersection of three countries. The land was beautiful and fertile, with a huge diversity of animals and the mightiest trees in the world. This triangle was called Pafuri. In 1969, at the height of South Africa’s apartheid, the Makuleke were “removed” from the Pafuri Triangle so the area could be incorporated into the Kruger National Park. Men with guns drove trucks into the Makuleke villages, rounded up the people, and drove them to a barren piece of land a couple of hours away. The people — mostly women, children, and elderly men, as the younger men were away working — were dumped and given tents to sleep in. The men with guns left, and the Makuleke had to start over. This is a grossly oversimplified description of what happened. I’m a blogger, not a historian. A typical scene in the Pafuri Triangle, on a bridge overlooking the Luvuvhu River. It probably looked much the same in 1969. A traditional home in the area where the Makuleke were forcibly removed, 90 minutes’ drive from the Pafuri Triangle. When democracy came to South Africa in the 1990s, […]
A few months ago, I briefly referred to a place in Brixton called the Roving Bantu Kitchen. In December I wrote a short review of the Roving Bantu Kitchen for JHBLive, but I held off on writing about it on my own blog because I wanted to get to know it better first. But now the day has come. If you’re really interested in the Roving Bantu Kitchen though, please read the JHBLive review first because I won’t repeat all of it here. Sifiso Ntuli of the Roving Bantu Kitchen. The word “Bantu”, among other things, was the apartheid-era term for black Africans. The Roving Bantu Kitchen was founded a few months ago on a street corner in Brixton, by Sifiso Ntuli and his partner Ashley Heron. Joburg music fans might already know Sifiso and Ashley as the former owners of the House of Nsako, another legendary venue in Brixton that closed a few years ago. The Roving Bantu Kitchen The Roving Bantu Kitchen is a tiny, quirky restaurant/pub/community gathering place/concert space/events venue that, in my mind, epitomizes what Joburg is about. The Roving Bantu Kitchen. Inside the Roving Bantu Kitchen. Over the last few months I’ve been to the Roving Bantu for film documentaries and […]
A few weeks after I moved to South Africa five years ago, I walked into an antique shop and fell into a conversation with the owner about interesting places to visit in Joburg. “You should really go to Modderfontein,” the guy said. “There’s an old dynamite factory there and loads of history.” He even offered to take me on a tour. I kept this in the back of my mind for years but never got around to Modderfontein, which means “muddy spring” in Afrikaans. It sounded far away — somewhere on the East Rand. A couple of other people recommended historic Modderfontein to me over the years. But it wasn’t until last week, when I went to Modderfontein investigating tourist attractions for another project, that I finally realized what I was missing. An old weather station building in Modderfontein. I’m not sure what year it was built but according to the Modderfontein Conservation Society it was was the first weather station in the Transvaal. I’m transfixed by the history of Modderfontein. It was founded in 1894 (eight years after Joburg) when ZAR President Paul Kruger decided the Republic needed a dynamite factory for the burgeoning mining industry. Kruger seconded a factory manager named Franz Hoenig from the Nobel company […]
There’s a lot I could say about my tour of Fort William, previously known as Anomabo Fort, on Ghana’s central coast. But this photo tells most the story. Tour guide Philip Atta-Yawson in a slave dungeon at Fort William. Philip is pointing to the hinge in the floor where people were chained. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Fort William was a “slave castle” — a place where human beings were bought and sold before being dragged onto the beach and loaded into ships bound for America. The fort later became a prison and is now a museum. Philip Atta-Yawson is the tour guide at Fort William; he lives inside the fort. I found Philip to be just as fascinating as the fort itself, if not more so. I was impressed by his ability to explain the fort’s brutal history in very few words. Philip lets the dungeons speak for themselves. The inside of the fort is haunting. The view from the roof is literally a breath of fresh air. Anomabo village from the roof of Fort William. I didn’t visit Elmina Castle or Cape Coast Castle, the two larger and more well known slave castles in the area. After visiting to Fort William, my friend […]
Before I continue my series on Lesotho and the Eastern Free State, I need to tell you about a fun excursion to the Cradle of Humankind that I took last month as part of the Gauteng Tourism Ambassador program. I wrote a long post about the Cradle of Humankind — a world heritage site 45 minutes from downtown Joburg where some of the world’s oldest hominid fossils were discovered — a couple of years ago. If you want to learn all about the Cradle of Humankind and what to do there, read that post. If, on the other hand, you feel like looking at pictures of me and a bunch of other photographers running around the Cradle of Humankind acting silly, then this post is for you.
Everyone knows that Washington D.C. is a historic city. But unbeknownst to most of the world, D.C.’s history extends far beyond the monuments and museums around the National Mall and the Tidal Basin. Looking south down 16th Street from Columbia Heights, toward the White House (further away then it looks) and the Jefferson Memorial. Last Friday I went running through Meridian Hill Park — in Northwest D.C. between 15th, 16th, and Euclid Streets — and noticed how pretty it is. I decided to go back the next morning to take photos, and my friend Bob graciously agreed to accompany me (rising far earlier than his normal Saturday wake-up time) to provide some historic background on the park.
“…no one can blame brave just men for seeking justice by the use of violent methods; nor could they be blamed if they tried to create an organised force in order to ultimately establish peace and racial harmony.” –Chief Albert Luthuli, 12 June 1964 (printed on a placard at the Liliesleaf Visitors’ Centre) ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ Last Thursday (11 July) was the 50th anniversary of the raid on Liliesleaf Farm, which eventually led to the historic Rivonia Trial. That would have been the perfect day for me to write a post about the amazing museum at Liliesleaf, which I’ve been meaning to do anyway. But I missed it. However, today (18 July) is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday. Mandela (whose nickname is Madiba, for the non-South Africans among you) was the central figure in the Rivonia Trial, which led to Mandela’s 27-year imprisonment. So now I have a second chance to write a meaningful post on a meaningful day. I won’t miss it this time.
A while back I told you about a mystery monument, covered in a black tarp, in front of Chancellor House in downtown Jozi. The mystery monument in February, just after it was erected. I can’t believe this was three months ago. It took a bit longer than expected for the unveiling to take place, as often happens with official city government ceremonies. The monument was finally revealed by the mayor of Johannesburg this past Saturday. I went to see it the next afternoon. It’s glorious.
As I said in my previous post (and many other posts, for that matter), Joburg is pretty from above. But just to clarify, Joburg is pretty from ground level, too. On Sunday I participated in another walking tour with Gerald Garner from JoburgPlaces. (Read about my previous JoburgPlaces tour here.) Sunday’s tour took us from Newtown to Maboneng and back, mostly on foot with a bit of driving mixed in. Walking through Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown.
UPDATE: The Rand Club is closed for renovation, as of early 2016. It is unclear when the club will reopen. Johannesburg is a relatively new city, founded in a big hurry when gold was discovered here in 1886. Jozi has reinvented itself several times during its 130-year history and there isn’t much in the city that can be considered “old”, at least by European or Asian standards. The Rand Club, Joburg’s first gentlemen’s club, is a notable exception. The Rand Club is old, and proud of it. The Rand Club, in the center of Joburg at 33 Loveday Street. Cecil John Rhodes chose the spot for the Rand Club in December 1886 and the club was founded in October 1887. The current building has been standing since 1904. It’s been renovated a few times since then, and was refurbished completely after a fire caused extensive damage in 2005. But from what I understand, the Rand Club still looks pretty much the way it did 110 years ago. The club’s members wouldn’t have it any other way. The Rand Club’s grand staircase. Statue of Cecil John Rhodes in the Rand Club foyer. Cool statue but I find his gesture to be a […]
A few weeks ago, while Dad and I were staying at DeHoek Country Hotel, we found ourselves with an afternoon to kill in the Cradle of Humankind. We considered going to Maropeng, the flagship attraction in the Cradle. But after two weeks of stuffing his brain with every facet of South Africa’s history, Dad couldn’t face the prospect of absorbing the history of humankind in an afternoon. I was also a bit exhausted with my role as enthusiastic Jozi tour guide. I sat on my luxurious bed at DeHoek and flipped idly through the hotel’s guest services directory. Something caught my eye. “Old Kromdraai Gold Mine,” I read aloud. “Yes,” said Dad. “Let’s go there.”