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Bougainvillea flowers

Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Lockdown Day 60)

It’s Day 60 of the South African lockdown. And today, it is time to fetch the bolt cutters. I wake up in my usual fog, lying in bed in the chilly darkness, reaching to remember what day it is. I stagger into the kitchen to feed the cats and make coffee, telling myself I need to go for a run — or a walk, at the very least — but instead crawl back under the covers with my phone. Scrolling mindlessly through social media, I suddenly remember that last night I downloaded Fiona Apple’s new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. I’d been listening to a review of the album on a New York Times podcast, just before drifting off to sleep, and after hearing one brief clip I knew I needed this music in my life. It’s time to listen. I spring out of bed, brush my teeth, and get dressed. I slip my phone into my jacket’s inside pocket, tie on my mask, insert my headphones, and walk Melville from end to end as Fiona’s syncopated rhythms fill my ears. I’ve been/ thinking about when I was trying to be your friend/I thought it was then/But it wasn’t/It wasn’t […]

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Inside the Artivist in Braamfontein

Artivist: Braamfontein’s Must-Visit Art Bar

In Braamfontein there is a tiny, tree-lined street called Reserve Street. It’s more of an alley really, in a block created by Jorissen and De Korte Streets to the north/south and Melle and Biccard Streets to the east/west. Beams cross over the street, draped in vegetation, creating the illusion of a mini-forest in the middle of this noisy city neighborhood. On this alley/street is a place called Artivist. Happy Hour at Artivist I call Artivist an “art bar”, but it’s really a restaurant/bar/art gallery/music venue. I went early on a Thursday evening and found a nice smattering of guests, a friendly and talented bartender, tasty African snacks, and a thought-provoking exhibition by Zimbabwean artist Kudzani Chiurai. There’s a balcony above the bar with space for more art, and a secret music venue below — called the “Untitled Basement” — hosting regular jazz performances and other hip musical events. (Artivist’s owners, DJ Kenzhero and Bradley Williams, are current and former DJs.) Since the legendary Orbit Jazz Club is now closed (sob), I’m so happy there is another Braamfontein music venue to fill that void. Braamfontein is inhabited by thousands of university students, but William the bartender says Artivist is geared toward […]

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Yemi and Ladysmith Black Mambazo at MTN Bushfire Festival in Swaziland

Swaziland’s Bushfire Festival: My Top 8 Tips

Last weekend I attended the MTN Bushfire Festival in Swaziland. It was my second time at the festival (read about my first Bushfire in 2012) and my seventh trip to Swaziland, one of my favorite countries on earth. But this was my first time doing the full Bushfire experience, i.e. camping out on the festival grounds and staying for the full three days. Crowds at Bushfire. Swazi sunsets are the best. I’m not a hardcore camper nor a hardcore partier, and this generally precludes me from enjoying big music festivals. I went to Oppi Koppi, South Africa’s largest music festival, a few years ago and while I’m glad I did it once and survived, I would never go again. There are far too many people, too much dust, too much ridiculous behavior, and — most importantly — too few clean bathrooms (i.e., none) at Oppi Koppi. Bushfire is different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a festival and camping is a pain and people are drunk and the whole thing is exhausting and I came home with a stupid cold. But Bushfire is a delightful walk in the park compared to Oppi Koppi. House on Fire, the wonderfully eclectic, funky venue where […]

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BCUC at the Orbit

A December Staycation in Braamfontein

For the longest time I have been meaning to blog about the Orbit, a jazz club in Braamfontein, and Once in Joburg, a posh hostel — aka “poshtel” — across the street from the Orbit. I’d been holding off on doing so because I wanted to experience the two places together as a downtown Jozi staycation. I finally did that last week, spending the night at Once in Joburg and enjoying an evening at the Orbit watching my favorite Jozi band, BCUC. My staycation was organized by I Am Joburg, a new collective providing curated tourism experiences in Joburg. The lobby at Once in Joburg. My friend Michelle and I checked into Once in Joburg, which is a cross between a backpackers and a hip budget hotel. I’d visited Once a couple of times before but hadn’t stayed overnight until last week. One Night at Once in Joburg I love the vibe of this place — it’s always busy and the staff are welcoming and fun, offering a range of social activities and tours for guests. Once is right in the center of Braamfontein, within a block or two of half a dozen restaurants, several bars, a fabulous bookstore and, of […]

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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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Fashion at Work Shop New Town

Work Shop New Town: The Embodiment of Jozi Coolness

If you read this blog then you already know that downtown Jozi is cool. But do you know about Work Shop New Town? This particular corner of Joburg takes coolness to a whole new level. Ntsaki (left) and Jade (right), two salespeople at Work Shop New Town who are also contenders for the two coolest people in all of Johannesburg. They’re surrounded by shoes from Maria McCloy, one of Joburg’s coolest designers. I intend to buy a pair of these shoes very soon. Work Shop New Town is “an innovative retail concept” in Newtown, adjacent to the Newtown Junction mall. It’s a modern, open-plan glass structure, filled with small fashion and design shops that meld seamlessly into one another. Work Shop New Town is built on the site of Joburg’s “Potato Sheds”, a historic fruit and vegetable market built in 1911 that was torn down to make way for Newtown Junction. There’s not much left of the actual Potato Sheds, unfortunately, but the old trolley tracks to the market are still there and run right outside of Work Shop New Town. I’m not a big shopper, as I’ve said many times before, but Work Shop New Town has the kind of shopping […]

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The Best Night Ever in Soweto

It was the first night of the #72hrsSoweto campaign, the day before the start of the Soweto Wine Festival. It was freezing cold, raining, and I was ridiculously underdressed. We had just finished a home-cooked meal — lamb stew, pap, spicy chakalaka, steak, and vegetarian curry — at the legendary Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, followed by live music and poetry around the fire. Our group was preparing to leave. I shivered, thinking about burrowing under the covers back in my room at the Soweto Hotel. “We’re going somewhere else now,” one of the other bloggers told me. I sighed. Maybe I’m too old for this campaign, I thought. It was already past my bedtime. But I dutifully climbed into the van with the rest of the group. A few minutes later, the van stopped. We piled out into the drizzle and I followed the feet of the person in front of me, picking my way around mud puddles in the darkness. We walked inside a gate, into a haze of herby smoke, and through a doorway into a bright yellow room. The room was warm and filled with music. The emcee and the DJ, Kuttin’ Keith (otherwise known as the healer). It was hard to take it all in at first. The […]

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The 2014 Joburg City Festival: My Photo Highlights

The Absa Joburg City Festival was this past weekend. There were many cool events happening simultaneously all over the city and I didn’t manage to see and do everything that I wanted to do. But I did make it to quite a few things and I had a blast. Here’s a photo round-up of my Joburg City weekend. Graffiti artwork on display at the Absa Gallery. I started on Thursday evening at the Absa Art Gallery downtown. Absa Bank is the title sponsor of the Joburg City Festival and they kicked off the weekend with a huge art exhibition, which included stunning photography, paintings, and graffiti artwork. I’m partial to these graffiti-painted model train cars, as my boyfriend painted them. The guy in the trippy shirt and Rasta hat seemed to like them too. The exhibition is up for a month — go check it out. After the Absa exhibition I headed to the Sheds @1Fox. Courtyard at the Sheds @1Fox. The Sheds officially opened on Thursday and they are fantastic. The space looks amazing and I can’t believe how many delectable food stalls there are to choose from. There are also craft shops, three bars with an extensive wine and beer menu, a huge bubble tea stand, and a […]

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Preview: The Sheds @1Fox, and the Best Week of the Year in Joburg City

Remember my post from three months ago about the Sheds @1Fox? The giant, historic warehouse on Fox Street slated to become a fashionable downtown market? I went back to see it again last Friday. The Sheds three months ago. The Sheds on Friday. The Sheds @1Fox has come a long way since June and it’s on schedule to open this week, just in time for the Joburg City Festival. On Thursday (2 October) there will be an “urban picnic” to celebrate the opening of the Sheds, benefiting the Starfish Greathearts Foundation, and on Saturday (4 October) there will be a concert featuring my favorite Jozi band, BCUC. I’m excited to check out both events. Speaking of the Joburg City Festival, the festival is this weekend (the two events at the Sheds are part of the main programme) and there will be exciting things happening all around downtown Jozi from Thursday through Sunday. Last year’s Joburg City Festival was awesome and I can’t wait to see how this year measures up. Browse around the festival website to see what’s on and then book your tickets — there are some really big acts playing so don’t procrastinate. Public transport is available to and from all Joburg City Festival events. BCUC […]

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The Best Jozi Birthday Weekend of All Time, Ever

My birthday is on Tuesday. On the actual day I’m going to be in Knysna — a lovely seaside town in the Western Cape — as a guest of the of the Knysna Oyster Festival. I’ll be participating in countless exciting activities in Knysna and I imagine this will be a pretty fun way to spend my birthday. (It’s a big one, by the way.) But of course I am also a little bit sad that I won’t be celebrating in Jozi. I more than made up for that this weekend though. Last night my favorite Jozi band, BCUC, played a gig at Curiocity Backpackers in Maboneng. This gig was more or less organized in honor of my birthday. I don’t know how to explain how great it was. Here’s the only decent picture I got: BCUC forgot their sound equipment so they performed without microphones. “We’re improvising for 2Summers,” said Jovi (center). At least I think that’s what he said. I was too busy swooning to hear him properly. The lack of sound equipment made BCUC’s performance about 100 times more awesome, in my opinion, although I suspect that they’ve all lost their voices today. (Read my other BCUC posts here and here.) Thanks so much to […]

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Five Random Thoughts on the Joburg Philharmonic Orchestra

On Thursday I attended a performance of the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO). I had a great time, but I don’t know a lot about classical music so I feel uncomfortable reviewing the performance in the traditional sense. Also photography isn’t allowed during JPO performances so I don’t have any pics. (I can’t stand to publish a photo-less post so I’m including some shots I took a few months ago at an outdoor JPO performance downtown.) The JPO performs outside the Rand Club during the Joburg City Media Weekend in May 2013.

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Joburg City Fest: Beer, Bright Lights and BCUC

The Joburg City Festival started two days ago and I’m already behind. There are at least half a dozen awesome events every day — I can’t do it all while also finding time to tell you about it. I’ve taken thousands of pictures already. Nightfall at Randlords Sunday evening. I have a few hundred more shots like this. I’ll start by telling you about my weekend experiences and catch up on the rest later.

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