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johannesburg

Mama Anna with her beaded Ndebele kudu head

The Ndebele Artists of Mpumalanga: Coming Soon to Joburg

We drove down a dusty KwaMahlanga street, bordered by beige and brown houses. I saw dogs, chickens, and goats, all in various earth tones. Orange and lemon trees, laden with late-winter fruit, provided periodic bursts of yellow and orange. We pulled in front of an earth-colored house, guarded by an earth-colored dog. A color explosion awaited inside. Mama Anna Skhosana stood in the middle of the living room, draped in a jewel-toned blue, yellow, and red Ndebele blanket. Her shaved head was adorned with overlapping bands and a thick beaded collar hung around her neck. Mama Anna’s artwork — a large wooden kudu head covered in intricate beadwork — sat nearly finished on the coffee table. After a few minutes of enthusiastic greetings between Mama Anna, her daughter Minky, and my hosts Nomvula and Mahlapane, Mama Anna sat down to continue beading. Mama Anna works on a beaded kudu head. Every inch of the kudu is beaded. Mama Anna doesn’t use any glue to attach the beads (at least not that I saw) — only thread. We returned to Mama Anna’s house the next day and three kudu heads sat lined up on the sofa, ready for delivery to 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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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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Rosto in Linden - outside at night

Quickie Restaurant Review: Rosto in Linden

Linden, a quirky Jozi suburb not far from Melville, has always been one of my favorite dining spots in town. The Cheese Shop is there, as is Hashi. There are at least five great Linden restaurants that I’ve eaten at but never gotten around to blogging about, and at least five more that I’ve heard great things about but haven’t eaten at yet. So when I received an invite to have dinner at Rosto, I jumped at the opportunity to expand my Linden repertoire. Rosto, which is right in the middle of Linden’s 7th Street restaurant row. Rosto is new — less than a year old — and specializes in Italian-inspired roasted chicken and street food. [Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci invented the automated spit-roaster more than 500 years ago? I didn’t, until my meal at Rosto.] This is a Quickie Restaurant Review so I’ll be quick. What I liked about Rosto: 1) The decor. The restaurant is bright and cheerful and there is enough light to read the menu at night. Inside Rosto. 2) The staff. The people working at Rosto are nice, responsive, and knowledgeable about the menu, which is important because the menu is extensive […]

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Abby the Hillbrow Cat in Melville

A Hillbrow Cat Becomes a Melville Cat

Before reading on, I suggest reading Part 1 of Abby the Tiger’s story. Humans call me Abby. But they used to call me Tiger. Abby, formerly Tiger, a well-traveled cat. Some of you may remember me — I’ve told my story here before. I was born in Hillbrow and I used to live in a boxing gym there. Back then, when I was still a young cat, Heather (the human who owns this blog) asked me to write a guest post for her. She thought my life was very interesting, and I suppose she was right. This is me, more than two years ago, when I was a young cat in Hillbrow. The man in the photo is George, my original human. My story has become even more interesting since then. I recently bumped into Heather and she asked me to write an update. I will pick up where I left off. Two years ago (that’s about 10 cat years ago), I was a happy cat in Hillbrow. I slept at the gym and roamed the streets, wherever and whenever I pleased. I was small and fast and vicious and I knew how to take care of myself. I was Tiger, the […]

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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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