In Pretoria, just off the highway in a local park called Fountains Valley, is an army of life-sized bronze men and women walking toward freedom. This hidden bronze army, made up of heroes who fought in the South African struggle for democracy over the past four centuries, is the Long March to Freedom National Heritage Monument. A bronze of Robert Sobukwe, made by artists Louis Olivier and Nkhensani Rihlampfu, on the Long March to Freedom. The woman to Sobukwe’s left is Helen Suzman. I first encountered these sculptures in 2015, when about eight or ten of them went up in Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown. I was disappointed when the sculptures later disappeared from Kliptown and someone told me they’d been moved to a field in Pretoria. That didn’t make sense. It took me a couple of years to get to the sculptures’ new home in Fountains Valley. Now that I’ve been there, and seen not ten sculptures but well over 100, all marching in the same direction — some with fists raised, one on horseback, one astride a bull, some carrying books or briefcases and others wielding rifles or spears — I get it. Walter and Albertina Sisulu, leading the charge. […]
Welcome to Week 44 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 Cullinan, a historic diamond-mining town northeast of Pretoria. Cullinan is a classic day trip destination. It’s a quaint little town about an hour-and-a-half from Joburg (significantly less from Pretoria) with just about enough to see and do in a day — maybe two days for hardcore history buffs. Marie-Lais and I were there from about 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and experienced quite a lot. Train tracks in Cullinan. Diamonds are Cullinan’s claim to fame: Sir Thomas Cullinan discovered diamonds there in 1898 and later founded the Premier Diamond Mine. In 1905, Frederick George Stanley Wells found the 3100-carat Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond in the world. The Cullinan Diamond went on to become part of the British Crown Jewels. I’m not particularly interested in diamonds, nor is Marie-Lais. So we didn’t do the diamond mine tour, which I think is the main thing most tourists go to Cullinan for. I was, however, interested to learn that the diamond mines in Cullinan are still active and all the land in the […]
Welcome to Week 38 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 Pretoria suburb of Marabastad. Marabastad, like Sophiatown and District Six, has a history that can exist only in South Africa. A suburb of Pretoria just west of the city center, Marabastad has always been a multicultural neighborhood populated mostly by Indian and black South Africans. The area experienced forced removals during the 1940s and 50s, when everyone was forced to move out and people of different (non-white) races were relocated to various townships outside the city. A Marabastad street corner. A traditional medicine (muti) shop in Marabastad. Unlike Sophiatown and District Six, much of Marabastad was never demolished and the people who were forcibly removed continued to do business there. (There’s a decent Wikipedia entry about Marabastad, although the history section peters out after about 1950. Read more about Marabastad here.) Marabastad was supposedly named for the Ndebele Chief Maraba, who headed a village of the same name in the 1880s. Even today, Marabastad is the place where Ndebele artisans (like the women I wrote about a few weeks […]
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 26 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 Antique Route 6 in Pretoria. South Africa has a tumultuous past and a tumultuous present. The only thing that’s consistent here is change. South Africans tend to be constantly on the move, coming and going, accumulating and leaving behind trails of possessions that must be bought and sold, and bought and sold again. This state of flux leads to many interesting cultural phenomena, one of which is an abundance of antique shops. Antique shops are everywhere in South Africa but in certain places they concentrate together in clumps. Johannesburg’s Long Street is one example. Pretoria’s Antique Route 6 is another. The Retro Rabbit Antique Shop in Pretoria North. Antique Route 6 is a bunch of antique shops in Pretoria North, not far from the Hatfield Gautrain station, clustered mainly around Pierneef Street and Soutpansberg Road. The route has its own online map, at www.antiqueroute6pretoria.co.za. I have no idea why this route is called Antique Route 6. Are there another five antique routes somewhere? If anyone knows the answer I’d love […]
Welcome to Week 18 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 Tswaing Meteorite Crater. About 200,000 years ago, a swimming-pool-sized rock crashed into South Africa. The collision created the Tswaing Meteorite Crater. Two thousand centuries later, the Tswaing Crater is a nature reserve in the far northern reaches of Gauteng Province. The Tswaing Crater is not to be confused with another nearby impact crater, the Vredefort Dome, which is thought to be the largest impact crater in the world and is about 166 times larger than Tswaing. (The Tswaing Crater is 1.8 kilometers, or just over a mile wide, and the Vredefort Crater is an unfathomable 300 kilometers wide.) Ray and I had been wanting to visit the Tswaing Crater together forever, and I’ve been really excited to feature it on #Gauteng52. Unfortunately our visit didn’t go as smoothly as planned and we didn’t experience the crater as fully as we’d hoped. I have some valuable tips to share that will make your visit to the Tswaing Crater more fantastic than ours was. The Tswaing Crater, looking way less impressive than […]
Welcome to Week 6 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 Freedom Park, a monument to those who fought and died in South African conflicts. South Africa, like most countries, has a complicated and tumultuous history. There are many fantastic, thoughtfully designed museums and memorials commemorating this history and I’ve been to most of them. But somehow Freedom Park in Pretoria eluded me until last month. Looking out over S’khumbuto, the main memorial at Freedom Park. Freedom Park was founded in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and based on a mandate by President Nelson Mandela, who said in 1999: “…the day shall not be far off, when we shall have a people’s shrine, a Freedom Park, where we shall honor with all the dignity they deserve, those who endured pain so we should experience the joy of freedom.” The park officially opened in 2007. I’ve been holding off on writing about Freedom Park because it’s a difficult place to describe. Unlike the more popular historical museums like the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pietersen Museum, and Constitution Hill, which present […]
I’m in America right now and I had really been looking forward to seeing the fall leaves here. I came home at exactly this time last year and the leaves were spectacular. Alas, it’s been a warm autumn on the East Coast and that seems to have slowed down the color change. The leaves have only just begun their transition in Maryland and Virginia. Not to worry though. While I don’t have any good fall leaf photos yet, I do have good pictures of white jacarandas in South Africa. The white jacarandas of Herbert Baker Street. Two weeks ago I went to Pretoria with my journalist friend Marie-Lais Emond, who writes a weekly column for the Citizen called “Other Side of the City”, to find the legendary white jacarandas. Marie-Lais had known about Pretoria’s white jacarandas for years but had never been able to find them before. Finally this year, someone gave her their exact location on Herbert Baker Street in Groenkloof. What’s the Big Deal About White Jacarandas? A bunch of white-flowering trees in early summer might not seem like a big deal to those of you on the American East Coast and in Europe. But if you live in Africa or […]
Joe and I woke up ridiculously early one Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day. Joe had an idea for an outing but wouldn’t tell me what it was. He ushered me into the car and we headed up the M1 toward Pretoria. When I saw this granite monolith staring down at us, I realized Joe was taking me to the Voortrekker Monument. Die Voortrekkermonument. (It’s all one word in Afrikaans.) Voortrekker, which means ‘pioneer’, is pronounced ‘FOUR-trecker’, with a rolled R that I can’t replicate.
Pretoria, which sits just north of Joburg, is smaller and tamer than its neighbor to the south. Some Joburgers consider Pretoria to be a boring backwater, while many Pretorians see Joburg as a crowded, wild place that’s best avoided. (I grew up near Baltimore, Washington D.C.’s northern neighbor. A similar rivalry exists between those two cities.) Pretoria City Hall, one of many historic buildings in Pretoria. Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. Well, sort of. The country actually has three capitals: Pretoria, where the president is; Cape Town, where the Parliament is; and Bloemfontein, where the courts are. Sort of. South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, actually sits in Joburg. But Joburg isn’t one of the capitals. Go figure.
A few months ago I attended my first cricket match and learned that cricket is not a game for sissies. Yesterday I discovered rugby is not for sissies, either. I’ve watched rugby on TV before, and I’ve seen Invictus. But nothing prepared me for the moment after the whistle blew, when I watched a guy catch the ball, run for a few seconds, and get slammed to the turf by a 1500-pound mob of muscle. Without pads or a helmet. My sports photography leaves a lot to be desired, but you get the idea.
Sandwiched between a week in Durban and a week in Lesotho, Joe and I are wrapping up one hectic (but fun) week at home. We’re leaving again tomorrow morning and I have no time to write a proper account of this week’s events. Here is a brief synopsis. 1) We had our first overseas visitor: my colleague Evan Von Leer from Washington D.C. He spent a few days with us in Melville while on his way to Lesotho and stayed at the Die Agterplaas B&B, which is a block up the street. The Agterplaas is a great guesthouse – I would stay there myself if I didn’t already live here.