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johannesburg

November 2016 blog course

A New and Improved 2Summers Blog Course

I taught two one-day blogging courses last year, and they went really well. We met at Bridge Books, learned about blogging and social media, and photowalked around downtown Joburg. Everyone seemed to have fun and leave the course with fresh inspiration. My November 2016 blog class in front my favorite downtown mural by Faith47. But this time I want to do more. Learning to blog is not a simple, step-by-step process. Every blogger wants something different from his or her blog and the people who attend my class tend to show up at various points in their blogging journeys. Some have established blogs already and are looking for pointers to spruce things up. Others have only a vague notion of starting a blog. Some plan to blog about food; others about women’s rights. Some want to start a new business while others just want a new hobby. I started to think about a way to structure my course so that every blogger or potential blogger, no matter where they are on the spectrum, can come away with a clear plan of action. The new and improved 2Summers blog course was born. The Next 2Summers Blog Course: August 2017 My next […]

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Neck and neck at Turffontein Racecourse

#Gauteng52, Week 24: Turffontein Race Course

Welcome to Week 24 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 Turffontein Racecourse in southern Johannesburg. My home town, Baltimore, is a horse-racing town. The Preakness, one of the three jewels in the Triple Crown, happens every year at Baltimore’s Pimlico Racecourse. Somehow I never went. I attended a few steeplechase-type races in rural Virginia, but never made it to a legit city racetrack while living in America. Finally, two weeks ago, I had a real day at the races at Joburg’s Turffontein Racecourse. Welcome to Turffontein, which means “turf fountain” in Afrikaans. Turffontein is ancient by Joburg standards — founded in 1887 (just a year after the city itself) by the Johannesburg Turf Club. I definitely felt the history there and loved the way the Joburg skyline looms behind the racetrack. A view of the city behind Smart Mart (#5), who was warming up before his race. I bet on Smart Mart because I liked his name. I learned three important things at Turffontein: 1) Photographing horse-racing is hard. 2) Betting on horse-racing (and winning) is even harder. 3) Riding a […]

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Swazi Werner with his books at the Zebra Inn

Remembering Swazi Werner of the Zebra Inn

I just published a blog post and I don’t normally do multiple posts in a day. But I just heard the news about Swazi Werner, owner of the Zebra Inn, who died last night. Swazi in his basement library in 2014. My hard-drinking days are long gone and I generally hate going to bars. But the Zebra Inn, which you can read about in this article I wrote for Sawubona a couple of years ago, is an exception to that rule. The Zebra Inn is the most iconic bar in Joburg and I’ve always loved going there. Swazi was Joburg’s most iconic bar owner. Last night there was an armed robbery at the Zebra Inn. I know very few details. But Swazi and his friend Johann Botha, a prominent journalist and television presenter, were shot and killed. There are a few short articles floating around about the murders, but the ones I’ve seen so far have only made a fleeting mention of “the owner” of the bar without identifying Swazi. Perhaps this is because Swazi wasn’t his real name. Swazi once explained to me that his first name is Werner (he was originally from Austria), but he used to live in Swaziland and […]

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Cooking chicken at Food Junxion

#Gauteng52, Week 23: Food Junxion

Welcome to Week 23 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 Food Junxion, a take-away restaurant in downtown Johannesburg. While visiting Master Mansions last week, I noticed a delicious smell emanating from a street-level restaurant in the building next door. There was a man in the window of the restaurant, cooking chicken over a coal-fired grill, painting the chicken bright red using a thick brush. The restaurant’s name was Food Junxion. On a whim, Gail and I decided to eat lunch there. Grilling bright red chicken. I’m sure Food Junxion has a great story, but I don’t know it. It didn’t occur to me until later that I might want to blog about Food Junxion — at the time my mind was swimming with romantic stories of hat factories and secret Hindu temples. So I didn’t ask any questions or take a ton of photos during our meal. But here’s what I can tell you: 1) Food Junxion is cheap: R30 ($2.30) for a platter of chicken, roti (Indian bread), chips (fries), and salad (a small pile of iceberg lettuce). Next time I’ll skip the salad and substitute […]

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Outside Master Mansions

A Magical Visit to Master Mansions

A couple of weeks ago I attended the book launch for Master Mansions. Master Mansions is the eighth in a ten-book series called “Wake Up, This is Joburg”: written by Tanya Zack, photographed by Mark Lewis, and published by Fourthwall Books. My precious copy of Master Mansions. Just a side note about the “Wake Up This is Joburg” books: If you attend the launch of one of the books, then buy the book and impatiently rip it out of the plastic right away, please do not do so while eating canapés. You’ll risk putting greasy fingerprints on the delicate, un-laminated cover of the book. (I photoshopped my fingerprint out of the picture above.) The “Wake Up This is Joburg” series is fantastic. I learned about it late, after the first five books had already sold out, so I only have numbers six, seven, and eight. (Nine and ten haven’t been released yet.) The narrative in these books — which are more like fancy pamphlets, covered with thick, matte paper and bound with staples — is exceptional and the photography is inspiring. The short stories are required reading for anyone who appreciates Joburg’s beautiful oddity. At the book launch my friend Gail approached Harshad Bhikha Master, one […]

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Ted Sheasby at his printer in Malvern

#Gauteng52, Week 22: An Old-School Printer in Malvern

Welcome to Week 22 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 PrintALine, an old-school print shop in Malvern, Johannesburg. Ted Sheasby’s letterpress print shop in Malvern — a run-down suburb in eastern Johannesburg dotted with auto repair shops and crumbling semis — will never appear in any guidebook. This story is more about a person, and a process, than it is about a place. Ted Sheasby in his shop — an ancient garage in Malvern.  So this isn’t a typical #Gauteng52 post. But when I look back over my 52 stories about Gauteng Province at the end of this year, I want Ted’s story to be one of them. It’s too interesting and weird not to include. And besides, this might be the only blog post ever written about Malvern. Stepping Back in Time Inside a Malvern Garage When I was a little girl, my father was the sports editor of the Sykesville Herald, a newspaper in the small town where I grew up. I have a vague memory of going with my dad to the room where the Herald was printed. The room […]

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Table at Breezeblock in Brixton

#Gauteng52, Week 21: Breezeblock in Brixton

Welcome to Week 21 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 Breezeblock, a new café in Brixton. I blog a lot about Joburg restaurants, and I must confess it’s not always as interesting as it used to be. When I first moved to Joburg I blogged about practically every restaurant I ate in. But these days I often go to a restaurant set to do a blog post, then leave an hour later thinking, eh…not exciting enough. Breezeblock, the newest hangout in Brixton, is not one of those restaurants. I knew Breezeblock was blog-worthy the moment I walked through the door. A simple, beautiful table at Breezeblock. Breezeblock, the Best New Thing in Brixton First and foremost, Breezblock is in Brixton. Brixton (which is next door to my beloved Melville) is one of Joburg’s most interesting and underrated neighbourhoods, but up until recently there were few places in Brixton to hang out and have a meal. A couple of years ago the Roving Bantu Kitchen opened, and now we have Breezeblock — open every day for breakfast and lunch and serving excellent […]

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The Victorian Secret in Benoni

#Gauteng52, Week 20: Benoni’s Victorian Secret

Welcome to Week 20 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 Victorian Secret, a restaurant and bakery in Benoni. I hate to break it to you guys, but the Victorian Secret in Benoni doesn’t sell lingerie. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great place to take your wife or girlfriend. The Victorian Secret’s pastries are every bit as delicious as a sexy lace camisole. Okay, that was a terrible metaphor but I had to do it. Moving right along. I was introduced to the Victorian Secret by Laurice from the Johannesburg in Your Pocket Guide. Laurice grew up in Benoni and took my friend Marie-Lais and me on an exploration of this quirky town just east of Joburg. (In the past I have referred to Benoni as a suburb — as I would to any smallish town on the outskirts of a huge city — but I found out the hard way that some Benoni residents do not take kindly to this characterization. Lesson learned. Sorry, Benoni: You’re a town and nothing but a town.) We didn’t find any flamingos on […]

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Folded Basotho blankets

#Gauteng52, Week 19: Where Basotho Blankets Are Made

Welcome to Week 19 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 Aranda Textile Mills, home of the Basotho blanket. Basotho blankets are not made in Lesotho, the tiny country for which the blankets are named. Originally produced in England, these woollen symbols of Basotho culture are now produced at Aranda, a factory/showroom in the South African town of Randfontein on Johannesburg’s West Rand. I’ve been wanting to visit Aranda since I learned about it in 2013 from the Basotho blanket ladies of Clarens. (Read more about Basotho blankets and the blanket ladies here and here.) I finally got my chance a few weeks ago. The Basotho blanket sales room at Aranda. Aranda’s extraordinary story started several generations ago with the Magnis, an Italian textile-making family in Tuscany. The Magnis’ factory was destroyed by the Germans during World War II, and a South African colonel convinced the family to move their operation to South Africa after the war ended. After several decades of producing a range of blankets and shawls at their mill in Randfontein, the Magnis added Basotho blankets to […]

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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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