Sometimes in my quest to discover all of Joburg’s hidden places, I miss out on the un-hidden ones. Such is the case with Mandela House, the Mandela family’s former home on Vilakazi Street in Soweto. It’s probably one of the top five tourist sites in Johannesburg and not only had I never blogged about the house before this, I’d never even visited. Nelson Mandela and his family lived on Vilakazi Street between the 1940s and the 1990s. The house is now a museum run by the Soweto Heritage Trust. It’s a small, one-story red brick house and there’s nothing particularly remarkable about it, other than the fancy fence around the property and the many photos and plaques covering the walls inside. Vilakazi Street is hugely popular with foreign tourists and student groups and it’s always choked with buses and souvenir salesmen. I’d also heard (although I can’t actually remember from who) that the house isn’t all that interesting. I guess that’s why I didn’t go for so long. But I finally wandered in earlier this month and realized I’d been completely wrong. The beauty of this house lies in its simplicity and I think it’s a stunning tourist destination. I […]
UPDATE: The Long March to Freedom Art Walk is fully booked. Hopefully we can organize another one soon. Last January I visited the Long March to Freedom National Heritage Monument in Fountains Valley, Pretoria. I was enchanted by this glorious phalanx of 100 bronze South African freedom fighters, all marching in the same direction. But the Long March to Freedom was hidden in Fountains Valley. No one would ever come upon it without actively looking. A year later, the monument has moved to a much better location at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind. Maropeng is one of Gauteng province’s top tourist attractions, and the Long March to Freedom is prominently placed right at the entrance. Now thousands of people will get to see the monument every month, which is exactly the attention it deserves. I took a trip out to Maropeng a couple of weeks ago. Not all the sculptures had been moved yet, but there were enough. The army of heroes marched across the open grassland, on this site where humankind was born, in their quest for freedom. The Long March to Freedom Art Walk Maropeng is about an hour north of central Joburg and I encourage everyone […]
The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre is a science museum in Newtown, in the middle of the Joburg CBD. The museum is housed in a cavernous, 110-year-old former electrical workshop. Somehow I’ve never blogged about it before but last week I received a perfect opportunity when I was invited to the launch of Sci-Bono’s “Wonders of Rock Art: Lascaux Cave and Africa” exhibition. The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre during the opening of the Wonders of Rock Art exhibition. The Wonders of Rock Art The Wonders of Rock Art is a collaboration between Sci-Bono, Wits University, the French Embassy in South Africa, and the French Institute of South Africa. There is a lot going on in this exhibition and I can’t begin to explain it all. But in short, there is a life-sized reproduction of France’s Lascaux Cave, which has been nicknamed “the Sistine Chapel of Prehistory”. The Lascaux Cave was discovered in 1940 (by a bunch of teenagers chasing a dog) and is filled with one of the world’s most stunning displays of prehistoric rock art. A reproduction of Lascaux’s “Panel of the Black Cow”. The reproduction was painstakingly created using the same materials the original Cro-Magnon artists used 17,000 years ago. Reproducing the reproduction. […]
I’ve just returned to Joburg after two weeks in the United States. I spent most of the trip trying to stay warm (this was my first dose of American East Coast winter since 2010), running errands, and spending time with family and close friends. I didn’t have much time for cultural pursuits, but I did achieve one major Washington D.C. tourism goal — a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (I’ll call it the African American Museum for short), located prominently on Constitution Avenue right beside the Washington Monument. The museum opened in September 2016. Read more about the museum’s award-winning architecture here. I feel it’s important for me to write a post about this museum, as it links the two halves of my life together in a couple of ways. First, the African American Museum was designed by acclaimed British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, who also designed the Hallmark House building in downtown Johannesburg. I stood in the same room with David at the Hallmark House media launch a few years ago but was too shy to talk to him. I regret that now, as I’d like […]
The weekend after Heritage Day, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has an annual tradition of offering a whole programme of tours at very affordable prices. There are about a dozen tours to choose from over the course of two days and you can do three tours for R150, or about $11. (Read about last year’s Heritage Weekend.) This year I intentionally chose two walking tours through neighboring Joburg suburbs — one in Forest Town and one in Killarney — because I thought they’d be fun to blog about together. Walking through Forest Town. For those of you who don’t live in South Africa, I should explain that the term suburb has a different meaning in South Africa than it does in the U.S. or other places. The city of Joburg is made up of dozens of suburbs, which are more like neighborhoods in American cities. Each suburb has its own identity and often engenders fierce loyalty among its residents. (My love for Melville is a good example.) Forest Town and Killarney, despite being almost adjacent, are totally different from one another. I loved exploring them both. Forest Town: Joburg’s English Forest Forest Town was founded in the first decade of the 1900s, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
I first visited Lindfield House in early 2011, a few months after I moved to Joburg. I blogged about it then, but after visiting for a second time two weeks ago I now realize that my original post was inadequate. I can’t say enough about how amazing this place is, and the Jozi blogosphere needs a reminder. Lindfield House, at 72 Richmond Avenue in Auckland Park. The house was built around 1910, when Auckland Park was still a distant suburb of Johannesburg. Lindfield House is part museum, part tea room, part events venue, part educational facility. It’s also a private home where a modern-day Victorian lady lives. Katharine Love — the sole owner, operator, curator, chef, housekeeper, and resident of Lindfield House. She conducts all of her tours in a Victorian housekeeper’s uniform. A Tour of Lindfield House Every inch of every room in Lindfield House, from the drawing room to the kitchen to the bathroom to the pantry, is decorated to look like a late-19th-century/early-20th-century home in an English colony. The house is filled with thousands of antiques, collected over a lifetime. Katharine and her parents moved here when Katharine was a young girl, and she and her late mother have been collecting Victorian antiques […]
A few months ago, my friend Ang at JOZI.REDISCOVERED and I started #TheGodProject. The point of the project is to visit and document different places of worship in Johannesburg. For the first installment, we started relatively simply with the one of Joburg’s Catholic churches. For the second installment we’re really going for it, investigating the Church of Scientology in Joburg. When I say “we”, I really mean Ang. This project was her idea, and I’m just the girl trailing along behind her with a camera. My job in this project is to post a few pictures and refer you over to Ang’s blog, where the real action is taking place. In this case I am more than happy to do so, because the Church of Scientology is a pretty complex phenomenon and I am in no place to explain it to you right now. Photos of Johannesburg’s L. Ron Hubbard House I am, however, excited to share a few photos of the L. Ron Hubbard house in Linksfield Ridge, where Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard lived in 1960 and 1961. This beautiful historic house, built in the 1950s, is a registered Joburg heritage site and really worth a visit, whether you’re interested […]
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.
When I was eight years old, my dad took me to see the movie Gandhi. I suppose Dad thought it would be an educational experience. Unfortunately I don’t remember anything about the movie except that it was long (there was an intermission!), Gandhi always seemed to be dying, and the bloody riot scenes made me cry. Before I moved to Joburg, I didn’t know that Gandhi once lived in South Africa. In fact, he lived here for 20 years. Gandhi’s passive resistance movement wasn’t born in India, but across the ocean in South Africa.