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joburg photowalkers

Saving Buildings and Lives in Hillbrow

My fascination with Hillbrow — a former middle-class inner suburb that is now the toughest neighborhood in Joburg — began in February when I explored Hillbrow on a Joburg Photowalk. When I heard there would be another Hillbrow Photowalk this past weekend, exploring the grounds of the old Johannesburg General Hospital, I signed up, stat. Saturday afternoon in Hillbrow.

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Exploring Joburg’s Downtown Chinatown

When Joe was a little boy growing up in Johannesburg, his favorite place to eat was a restaurant downtown on Commissioner Street, called the Golden Dragon. At least he thinks that’s what it was called. There’s no way to confirm it now because that restaurant, like much of Joburg’s “Old Chinatown,” is long gone. Run-down buildings on the outskirts of Old Chinatown, which is adjacent to the trendy inner city neighborhood of Newtown.

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Photowalking Jozi’s Downtown Fringes

Yesterday I took another jaunt with the Joburg Photowalkers, a group that organizes walks around different parts of town for photographers, amateur camera enthusiasts, and people who just want to explore. (Read about the last photowalk I attended in Hillbrow.) Monday’s walk covered a few different areas on the eastern side of downtown: Troyeville, Bertrams, Ellis Park, and the 12 Decades Hotel. It’s difficult to summarize everything we did in a coherent blog post; I think my photos tell a slightly disjointed story. But here goes. We started our walk at the Troyeville Hotel, which is actually not a hotel but a restaurant. Troyeville is a historically poor white neighborhood on the edge of downtown. The Troyeville Hotel is famous for its quirkiness and delicious Portuguese-Mozambican food. I’ll have to write a longer post about it someday in the future.

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The Mean Streets of Hillbrow

On my recent post about downtown Joburg, I received some questions about Hillbrow — a huge residential community overlooking the city center. I now have some answers. Hillbrow was a bustling middle-class neighborhood until the end of apartheid rule, when it began to transform. Similar to many 20th-century American inner cities, Hillbrow’s white middle class fled to the suburbs, making way for poor black South Africans (who were previously barred from living in places like Hillbrow) and immigrants from across the continent. The population soared and crime grew rampant; Hillbrow became a “no-go” area for visitors. Five years ago it would have been difficult (maybe impossible) for me to walk in Hillbrow and not get robbed. But the times, they are a-changin’. Yesterday I slung my camera over my shoulder and joined the Joburg Photowalkers for a jaunt through what most people consider to be Jozi’s meanest streets. One of many colorfully painted apartment buildings in Hillbrow. Our group met up at the Lutheran Community Outreach Foundation, a community center on Edith Cavell Street. This place deserves its own post so I’ll save it for later. At the center we met up with Tim Rees-Gibbs, a lifelong Hillbrow resident and member of […]

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