Today is Nelson Mandela Day. July 18th was Nelson Mandela’s birthday (he died in 2013 and would have been 101 today), and while it’s not an official holiday, it’s a day when South Africans are called to do something small but significant to help others in their country. I spent the day driving through rural Limpopo province and happened to meet a legendary South African artist who has made many beautiful sculptures portraying Mandela. I’ll have more to say about Johannes Maswanganyi in a future post. But the actual purpose of today’s post is to tell you about Andrea’s Little Lung Warmers. 67 Little Lung Warmers for Nelson Mandela Day A couple of months ago a woman named Andrea asked if I could photograph a project she was working on. Andrea is a knitter and she was making 67 tiny sweaters — Andrea calls them Little Lung Warmers — to donate to charity in honor of Mandela Day. The number 67 is significant for Mandela Day because Mandela served South Africa for 67 years. (Read more here.) Once the sweaters were finished, Andrea wanted to photograph each one and then donate them to Friends of Tambo Babies. Andrea and I […]
Earlier this week, I saw a photo of the Nelson Mandela Capture Site on my friend Meruschka’s Instagram feed. Meruschka’s post reminded me that I visited the Nelson Mandela Capture Site nearly a year ago and had yet to blog about it. Hence, my newest Pop-Up Travel post. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site commemorates the time and place in which Nelson Mandela — on the run from the apartheid government — was captured and arrested in 1962. After his arrest in the small town of Howick, in what was then South Africa’s Natal Province, Mandela was convicted of treason and went on to spend 27 years in prison. Today this still-rural spot in KwaZulu Natal is marked with a dramatic sculpture by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli, depicting Nelson Mandela’s profile with a collection of jagged, black metal bars. (You may remember that Cianfanelli also has a beautiful Mandela sculpture in downtown Joburg called the Shadow Boxer.) An innovative bust of Mandela in Howick, KwaZulu Natal. Ray and I stopped at the Capture Site last year on our way home from an eventful trip to Durban and the Wild Coast. We were tired, but the site is literally minutes from the highway […]
Yesterday evening I arrived in Bloemfontein, a small city in South Africa’s Free State Province, with a bunch of other bloggers and photographers. It was overcast and the city felt dreary. We checked into our hotel. Dale, our leader, suggested we go to see the Mandela statue at the top of Bloemfontein’s Naval Hill. We would get there just in time for sunset. I looked up at the flat, grayish sky. A sunset seemed unlikely. But I was keen to see the statue anyway. We wound up the big hill, past suburban houses and hoards of joggers, and got out of the van near the statue. The sky remained blanketed except for a small bit of pink to the west. We dutifully pulled out our phones and cameras and walked to the overlook, admiring the view of the city and the beautiful monument to Mandela. He stands about half a storey tall, holding his fist in an “Amandla!” rallying cry position. (Amandla means “power” in Xhosa and Zulu.) The flaming orange sun poked a tiny hole through the clouds. The hole grew. Then this happened. Amandla, Madiba. This is why I love to travel. My trip is happening courtesy of South African Tourism and […]
Nelson Mandela died one year ago today. I hadn’t planned to post anything about this anniversary. But suddenly in the middle of this afternoon, Mandela crept into my head. I remembered how I was feeling at this time last year. (Here’s the post I wrote the day after he died.) Then I remembered that after Mandela died, I took a whole bunch of photos of a new graffiti mural that was painted in his honor. I’ve been meaning all year to do a blog post about it but never did. So, now is the time. This mural of Mandela, depicting the famous “Shadow Boxer” photograph by Bob Gosani, was commissioned by the Maboneng Precinct just after Mandela died last year. Cape Town graffiti artist Freddie Sam started painting the mural in the days immediately following Mandela’s death. I photographed the mural a couple of times while it was in progress. Another angle on the half-finished Shadow Boxer. I took this a few days later, right before Mandela’s funeral, when the mural was nearly finished. Incidentally, a spectacular sculpture depicting the same photo was erected on the other side of the city a few months earlier. Here’s my post about that sculpture. I […]
A couple of weeks ago I was in Pretoria at the Union Buildings — South Africa’s equivalent of the American White House — and saw the new Nelson Mandela statue for the first time. The statue was unveiled last December just after Mandela’s death. I shot some photos of the statue using my Holga film camera from Zavi Traders, and also with a disposable panoramic camera that I got from Zavi. Similar to the last time I shot with film, I have mixed feelings about the results I got from these two new rolls. But I’m really happy with the Mandela shots. Mandela’s outstretched arms, shot on a Rollei panoramic disposable camera. I had no idea that disposable film cameras still exist, let alone panoramic disposable film cameras. But I really loved shooting with this one and I’m hoping to do more disposable camera photography in the future. Apparently this particular model has been discontinued, which is a bummer. Once again, I accidentally double-exposed this shot and achieved an interesting result: Mandela superimposed over some Joburg aloe trees. I shot this on the Holga using Rollei Redbird film. On a totally separate and un-Mandela-like note: I recently attended a fascinating dinner theatre performance called Madame […]
Nelson Mandela was buried yesterday (Sunday), and South Africa’s official period of mourning came to an end. After listening to the funeral on the radio Sunday morning, I thought I was finished mourning too. But I hadn’t yet been to Mandela’s house in Houghton, where he actually passed away on December 5. My friend Michelle, who just flew into Joburg this weekend, wanted to go. So we went to Houghton on Sunday evening. I actually thought we might be too late and that things would have died down in Houghton by last night. Once again, I was wrong. The street was still a huge, living, breathing memorial to Madiba.
I’ve been invited to be a Gauteng Tourism Authority ambassador. I don’t think I’ve ever been an ambassador for anything before so this is pretty cool. It basically means that I get to do some fun things around Gauteng Province (the province where Joburg is) and tell you about them. So here goes. The first task of my ambassadorship was to visit Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers and take a cycle tour around Soweto, which is great because I’d been meaning to do this forever anyway. I feel like I don’t go to Soweto enough and this past weekend was the perfect time to go, as Nelson Mandela lived in Soweto and I was keen to see how people were celebrating his life there. Kids at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers.
As the entire world knows, Nelson Mandela died last night. “Tata” is the Xhosa word for father. Nelson Mandela is often referred to as “Tata Mandela” or “Madiba”, which was his nickname. Mandela’s imminent death had been a forgone conclusion for months. He was 95 years old and extremely ill, kept alive with the help of a life support machine.
“…no one can blame brave just men for seeking justice by the use of violent methods; nor could they be blamed if they tried to create an organised force in order to ultimately establish peace and racial harmony.” –Chief Albert Luthuli, 12 June 1964 (printed on a placard at the Liliesleaf Visitors’ Centre) ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ Last Thursday (11 July) was the 50th anniversary of the raid on Liliesleaf Farm, which eventually led to the historic Rivonia Trial. That would have been the perfect day for me to write a post about the amazing museum at Liliesleaf, which I’ve been meaning to do anyway. But I missed it. However, today (18 July) is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday. Mandela (whose nickname is Madiba, for the non-South Africans among you) was the central figure in the Rivonia Trial, which led to Mandela’s 27-year imprisonment. So now I have a second chance to write a meaningful post on a meaningful day. I won’t miss it this time.
A while back I told you about a mystery monument, covered in a black tarp, in front of Chancellor House in downtown Jozi. The mystery monument in February, just after it was erected. I can’t believe this was three months ago. It took a bit longer than expected for the unveiling to take place, as often happens with official city government ceremonies. The monument was finally revealed by the mayor of Johannesburg this past Saturday. I went to see it the next afternoon. It’s glorious.
I recently visited Alexandra Township for the first time since moving to Joburg, to attend a kids’ baseball tournament. At the end of my post about the tournament, I said I was looking forward to spending more time in Alex in the near future. Turns out my next visit was nearer than I thought — two days later I received an invitation to attend a tour of Alex, sponsored by Joburg Tourism and the Alex Tourism Route-Open Africa Cooperative (ATROAC). Alex needs more love. It’s just as interesting historically as Soweto, where 99% of tourists go when they want to visit a Joburg township. Alex has its own Gautrain station (Marlboro) and is across the road from Sandton, where most of Joburg’s visitors and business travelers stay. But Alex hasn’t been discovered by the big tour companies yet. Go now, before that changes. Alex in the foreground. Sandton in the background. [Joe deserves special credit for editing this photo. It didn’t look half this good when I shot it.] Our day in Alex began at the AlexSan Kapano Community Centre, recently renamed the Alexandra Resources Centre. We checked out the brightly colored library and business centre, then boarded a bus for a three-hour tour, led by […]
UPDATE (March 2017): I wrote this post six years ago, at a time when I was pretty clueless about life in South Africa and how to write about it. I regret the title of the post and the poverty-porn-like tone that much of its prose conveys. But I have a policy of never deleting any of my old posts, so it will stay. Last Saturday Joe and I went to Diepsloot, a sprawling informal settlement — or squatter camp — on the northern outskirts of Joburg. We went with the Joburg Photowalkers to attend a Mandela Day celebration sponsored by the Diepsloot Arts and Culture Network. Diepsloot. Squatter camps like Diepsloot sprouted up in the mid-1990s, when the apartheid-era townships overflowed with people flocking to South Africa’s cities, and the government began moving those people to empty tracts of land on the cities’ edges. Nearly two decades later, the population is still growing and poverty rages on. Squatter camps, which consist mostly of corrugated iron shacks without running water or electricity, continue to swell. About 200,000 people live in Diepsloot.