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south africa

Hannah, a moving to Joburg expert, in Breezeblock

Moving to Joburg? Hannah Can Help.

Are you moving to Joburg? Or have you already moved to Joburg and need some help adjusting? If so, meet Hannah of Translating Me. Hannah Pirnie, the bad-ass founder of Translating Me, at Breezeblock. I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her bad-ass but that’s what she is. Hannah and I share many things in common: We’re both foreigners living in South Africa. We both have blogs. We both love Joburg. We’re both on a mission to help other people love Joburg as much as we do. We both have names beginning with H. We’re both bad-ass. Basically Hannah and I are like the same person, only Hannah is way more organized than me and does a lot more stuff. Also she has three small children and two of them are twins. I’m digressing. The point of this post is to tell you about the services Hannah provides — helping people moving to Joburg (or actually to anywhere in South Africa) with all of the practical, logistical, and emotional aspects of relocating and adjusting to life in this crazy place. People often ask what I found most difficult about moving to South Africa. My answer is always the same: the bureaucracy. […]

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Reclaim the Wilds This Sunday

In April 2016 I published a blog post about the Wilds, a park near downtown Joburg. That post felt kind of controversial at the time because most Joburgers considered the Wilds to be a horribly dangerous place where no rational person would ever go. I visited the Wilds back then with my artist friend James Delaney, who lives next to the park and had recently started venturing in with his dog, Pablo. James discovered that despite its reputation, the Wilds really wasn’t dangerous after all. Not only was the Wilds not dangerous, James discovered, it was also one of the loveliest places in Johannesburg. James sits on a newly painted park bench in the Wilds. Pablo, King of the Wilds. Fast forward a year-and-a-half. James has made it his personal mission to transform the Wilds into a well used public space and he is succeeding. Over the last couple of years James has organized crews of volunteers to pull weeds, clear underbrush, and paint park benches. He hung bird feeders on the periphery of the park to attract attention, encouraged his friends to visit, and convinced the security guards in his apartment building to use the Wilds as a short […]

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Olatunji Sanusi, artist at August House

#Gauteng52, Week 46: Open Studios at August House

Welcome to Week 46 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 August House, a collection of artists’ studios and residences in downtown Johannesburg. August House is a building full of artists. I went last Sunday during one of the Open Studio events the building holds a few times a year. I ran into an artist friend who has a studio there (it seems nearly every artist I know either lives in August House, has studio space in August House, and/or is affiliated with August House in some way) and he was shocked when I told him it was my first time visiting. I now realize why. August House, a 1940s-era Art Deco building on End Street. The building housed light industry before it became an artists’ residence. Although I had never heard of August House until a year or two ago, the building has been an icon of the Joburg art world since artists began living and working there in 2006. There’s been lots of intrigue surrounding the building since then, with rumors of it being sold to property developers for low-cost […]

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Jacob Zuma arrest memorial

Adventures in North West Province: The Jacob Zuma Site of Arrest

Last week I had some adventures in North West Province (one of South Africa’s lesser known provinces). It was a fascinating trip on many levels. I can’t possibly recount all my North West adventures in a single post, so I’m starting with the adventure that I think will garner the most excitement among my South African readers: a visit to the President Jacob Zuma Site of Arrest. Site of Arrest. I’ll preface this narrative by saying I generally avoid blogging about South African politics, especially President Zuma. The last time I blogged about Zuma, during “The Spear” controversy at the Goodman Gallery, the post garnered quite a bit of strenuous debate. I’m really not looking to get into any political debates this time. But I just happened to find myself at the brand-new Zuma Site of Arrest and the experience was too good not to blog about. For those of you who don’t know Jacob Zuma: He is the third president of South Africa, currently serving the ninth year of his ten-year, two-term presidency. I’m not going out on a limb when I say Zuma is…controversial. In many ways Jacob Zuma is the Donald Trump of South Africa. I’m sure […]

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Chapel at Jesuit Institute South Africa

#Gauteng52, Week 45: The Jesuits of Auckland Park

Welcome to Week 45 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 Jesuit Institute in Auckland Park. Sitting atop a ridge in Auckland Park is a stately, century-old house occupied by a group of Jesuits. Who knew? I certainly didn’t, but Marie-Lais did. In fact, as #Gauteng52 draws to a close (only seven weeks left!) I need to give Marie-Lais Emond a shout-out. Her encyclopedic knowledge of secret Jozi places has made this series much more interesting than it would have been without her. If you’re not reading Marie-Lais’ weekly “Other Side of the City” column in the Saturday Citizen newspaper, which features my photos, now is a good time to start. (The column doesn’t appear online, unfortunately, so to see it you have to buy the actual paper or follow Marie-Lais on Facebook.) Anyway, Marie-Lais knew about the Jesuit Institute South Africa and the two of us went there to meet Father Russell Pollitt. One of several buildings that comprise the Jesuit Institute South Africa. The institute’s gardens are really spectacular. The Jesuit Institute residence, built as a private home by […]

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Church in Cullinan

#Gauteng52, Week 44: 9 Things to Do in Quirky Cullinan

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 […]

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donuts at Kramerville Bakery

A Secret Bakery in Kramerville

The Kramerville Bakery is hard to explain. As is Kramerville itself. Despite the small-town-sounding name, Kramerville is a street full of furniture showrooms and interior design warehouses in an industrial area just off the M1 highway north of Sandton. A few years ago, a ragtag bunch of restaurants, coffeeshops, and bars started popping up amongst the showrooms and warehouses. These food and drink venues are usually hidden above, behind, or inside the showrooms and warehouses, and hence accessible only to people in the know. The Kramerville Bakery is the newest of these secret venues. The entrance to the Kramerville Bakery. Note the stacks of plumbing pipe outside the door. To find the Kramerville Bakery you must drive to the end of Desmond Street (Kramerville’s main drag), make a right onto Archimedes Street, then turn right into an unmarked parking lot and drive to the end. There you will find a plumbing supply warehouse, no sign of a bakery. Park your car, walk around to the back of the plumbing warehouse, climb a short flight of metal steps and then another flight of steps inside. Boom! You’re in the bakery. The steps behind Marie-Lais lead up to the bakery. I should mention […]

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Fortiscue Help of African Flavour Books

#Gauteng52, Week 43: African Flavour Books

Welcome to Week 43 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 African Flavour Books, with locations in Vanderbijlpark and Braamfontein. Word of new local bookstores travels fast in Johannesburg. I started hearing about African Flavour Books, which sells primarily African literature with a hint of African-American mixed in, the moment they opened their shop in Braamfontein. I visited the new Braamfontein shop for the first time a couple of weeks ago and scored a copy of Lauren Beukes’ Moxyland for the rock-bottom sale price of R80. (That’s about $5.75 for a brand-new paperback!) The shop is bright and cheerful, with a fantastic selection of books and an adorable section for kids to sit and read. I fell in love instantly. The new African Flavour shop in Braamfontein, right across from the Once in Joburg Hotel. Books. More books. Cute kids reading books. You get the idea. The Story of African Flavour Books As I was making my purchase I fell into conversation with Fortiscue (aka Fort) Helepi, the owner, and learned that while the Braamfontein shop just opened, African Flavour itself is […]

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Gin and tonic from Cedar Square Night Market

A Visit to Fourways and Some Thoughts on Markets

Joburgers love markets. I’m not talking about farmers markets or flea markets. In Joburg, the term “market” usually refers to a gathering of eclectic food and craft vendors where people go to eat, drink, shop for specialty products, and to see and be seen. The markets always happen either on weekend days or weekday nights, either weekly or monthly. These markets are popping up all over the city, and they are very trendy, and for a long time I was judgey about them. I had this idea that all the offerings at all the markets are basically the same, and I couldn’t see the point of going to a market when I can just eat in an actual restaurant or shop in an actual store. So when I was invited to attend the Stall Night Market at Cedar Square Shopping Centre and write a blog post about it, I hesitated. A night market in the parking lot of a shopping mall, in Fourways? (I’m also judgey about Fourways, exurban land of massive malls and housing complexes.) I wasn’t so sure. The night market at Cedar Square. Then I told myself to stop being a diva and open my mind. So […]

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Eli in Rhodes Park

#Gauteng52, Week 42: Kensington’s Rhodes Park

Welcome to Week 42 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 Rhodes Park in Kensington. Kensington is one of Joburg’s most interesting neighborhoods and I don’t get over there enough. I have this idea that it’s on the opposite side of the world from Melville, even though it’s less than a 20-minute drive without traffic. My friend Gail lives in Kensington and she’s always posting pretty photos from her walks in Rhodes Park. So when I heard Gail was organizing an art exhibition at the park called “The Land That Never Forgets”, I made a point of taking myself across town to check it out. Looking out over the lake (or dam, as South Africans call it) in Rhodes Park. Exactly two years ago there was a terrible crime at Rhodes Park. Since the tragedy Gail and a group of her friends have been holding weekly cleanups and other events to help uplift Rhodes Park, and it seems like they’ve made tremendous progress in making it a safe, welcoming place for the community. This exhibition — consisting entirely of land art — […]

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Salmon sushi at La Marina

#Gauteng52, Week 41: Fresh Fish at La Marina Foods

Welcome to Week 41 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 La Marina Foods, a fish and specialty food supplier in Modderfontein. Marie-Lais and I drove into a bland office park in Modderfontein. We blew right past La Marina Foods the first time, asked directions twice, and eventually made our way to an imposing metal gate. Is this place really open to the public? I thought. It looks very warehouse-like from the outside. But the security guard opened up for us. We parked, stepped inside, and found ourselves in a culinary wonderland. The La Marina deli. La Marina is first and foremost a food supplier — mostly seafood — supplying restaurants and hotels all over Joburg and South Africa. If you live in Joburg you’ve probably driven past many La Marina delivery trucks without noticing. But La Marina also has a retail shop and deli, again mostly seafood, but also selling cheese, meat, and exotic packaged foods from all over the world. The food at La Marina made me really, really happy. Kirsten Jooste, owner of La Marina, in front of the […]

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Martin and Ania of Impressed

#Gauteng52, Week 40: imPRESSed Craft Bindery and Letterpress

Welcome to Week 40 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 imPRESSed Craft Bindery and Letterpress in Birdhaven. Strangely, this will be the second #Gauteng52 post I’ve written about a letterpress printing studio in Joburg. But with the exception that both places use very old printers, imPRESSed in Birdhaven couldn’t be more different from Print-A-Line in Malvern. Martin and Ania Ciolcosz, owners of imPRESSed. I’ve been struggling to write this post because I don’t know how to coherently explain the wide variety of interesting activities that go on at imPRESSed. Martin and Ania are Polish-born South Africans who quit their day jobs to become printers, book-binders, and collectors. They built a special brick studio on their property where they collect antique letterpress printers and printing/bookbinding tools. They print cards and invitations and stationery, restore and collect old books, craft handmade journals and notebooks, and conduct courses and demonstrations on letterpress printing. I think the pictures explain things better than I can. Inside the imPRESSed studio. Martin and Ania have collected some extremely old printers — the machine on the far right was made […]

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