I walk the streets camera in hand, to discover my city, suburb by suburb.
I’m going to try and give this a bash, have been nagged on many occasions to start a blog. (You know who you are).
I’ve set myself a goal for 2018 and that is to try and find special places, interesting facts, special people who live in each and every suburb of the greater Johannesburg. Have you any idea how many suburbs there are? About 80 plus and that’s not including the townships which I hope to do as well.
If you live in a suburb of Joburg and have something interesting to share please drop me a line.
Brixton lies to the west of the CBD surrounded by Auckland Park and Crosby. It is named after the London suburb Brixton and many of the streets are named after districts of London. It originally formed part of the farm Braamfontein until it was surveyed out in 1902.
What stands out most for all of us is the Sentech tower, fondly known as the ‘BrixtonTower‘, which was built in 1962 to be used for broadcasting radio and television. I remember going up there when the viewing deck was first opened to the public and receiving a small replica of the tower, which I still have. There has been rumour of the tower reopening to the public however, we will have to wait and see.
My first official visit to Brixton, after many years, was to Kingston Frost Park when the community put on a market day event about three years ago – we were made to feel so at home and had a great afternoon. You just need to read the Brixton community page on facebook to realise how committed they are to creating and maintaining a good community spirit.
A absolute ‘must do’ in Brixton is to join one of Sifiso’s Heritage Treks through Brixtonand Fietas. Sifiso, (along with his wife) owner of the Roving Bantu Kitchen, holds nothing back on the past, present and future of these areas and the country during his tours. The Trek, as it’s fondly called, ends back at the Roving Bantu Kitchen for an authentic afro soul food experience. My highlight walking experience of 2017 has to be this. The Heritage Treks are once a month on the first Sunday, for more information on this and what The Roving Bantu has to offer check out https://rovingbantu.co.za
Myself and a few friends are working on the #20laps Project, where we hope to visit each and every public swimming pool in the Johannesburg area. This last summer we managed to visit the Brixton Public Swimming pool and I can’t wait to go back to see what refurbishments have been done as this was all still at planning stage when we were there – another reason to take me back, besides the friendly people we met around the pool.
Just recently I spent a great morning with Dan Zack who owns the Instrument Library in Caroline Street. The Instrument Library stocks a large range of primarily orchestral type instruments which are rented out to the public – Dan also does repairs to these types of instruments. (For those that know Tanya Zack of the “Wake up this is Joburg” series of books, which she produces along with Mark Lewis, this is her Dad and what a proud Dad he is.) For more information on the Instruments Library http://www.instrumentlibrary.co.za
The Brixton Cemetery is steeped in Johannesburg history, with early Randlords, architects, 1922 strike victims and many more who moulded the beginnings of this city all being interred here.
I’ve had to combined these suburbs as they share a common road, which I love to visit, starting in Albertville and continuing into Greymont so let me begin by telling you a little bit about each suburb.
Albertskroon adjoins Greymont and lies west-north of the City centre and was established in about 1896 on the farm Waterval. Both Albertskroon and Albertville were named after the Albert’s family who owned the farm called Waterval. Greymont lies north of Newlands and south-west of Albertskroon and was laid out in 1903. Before 1917 this township was part of Roodepoort/Maraisburg and only incorporated into Johannesburg on the 1st Feb 1939. The name is descriptive, meaning “grey mountain”, and does not seem to refer to a person named Grey. (Info obtained from South African Place Names by Peter E Raper)
I just love taking a stroll/drive down 5th Street, which eventually becomes Long Road, with its vast number of Antiques dealers who are all well stocked and reasonably priced. If you are looking for something in particular I’m sure you’ll find it here.
We start at Mieke’s Cottage and Antiques which has been running for over twenty years and is situated in 5th Street, Albertskroon. They have a very large selection of furniture pieces with some bric-a-brac.
Just over the road we get the Grand Hotel Antiques which is owned by Zeke, and this too has been running for many years. The variety here is huge with just about anything, and everything, antique. They are also in 5th Street but fall within the suburb of Albertville.
Heading further up the road, now named Long Road (in the suburb of Greymont) is Ooh-la-la Oregon and Antiques who have a good selection of old cameras, some interesting signs, military goods, vinyl records and a few bits and pieces of furniture.
Also on Long Street is Mahlah’s Antiques, owned by Tom and Jane, who specialise in antique tools and light fittings. If you are doing up a retro house then this place will have the lights you are looking for.
There are many more antique-type shops along the route so I would suggest you make a day of it. Happy antique hunting!
Of-course these suburbs also lay claim to Alberts Farm which is great for outdoor activities including the popular ‘Parkrun’. For more information http://www.albertsfarm.org
Walk my Jozi is an initiative started in 2017 by the JDA (Johannesburg Development Agency) to get people walking in areas that they would normally not visit. All the walks are sponsored by the JDA but run by individuals or tour groups over one weekend and are offered free of charge to the public. This proved so popular last year that the JDA repeated the event this year, over the weekend of the 19th and 20th May.
One of the walks I attended this year was the Orlando with Music Notes walk in Soweto run by His & Hers Jams (check them out on Facebook @HisAndHersJams). We were met at Constitutional Hill by Maud Dimpo Sebola and Tshidiso Sethogwe from where we were transported by local taxi to Orlando.
We had a very informative walk with great music and song along the way and I could go on forever about this walk which took us from Orlando East over railway bridges and along streets to Orlando West where we finished off with a braai (barbeque) in a beautiful community park – Ubuhle Bezwe – which was once a dumping site changed into a park by some of the community members.
However, I’m going to use this as a platform to give you my experience, thoughts and hopes for an area I should visit more than I do.
I have visited Soweto many times, and Orlando a few times, over the past couple of years. I’m always amazed at how clean it is compared to some of the inner city suburbs, including the one I live in. Another refreshing aspect is that there does not seem to be much of an issue when your neighbours add on extra space to their homes – in the form of corrugated rooms – whether it’s to run a business from or for someone to stay in.
The People – always a smile and a friendly ‘Hello’ and willing to share their memories and information on the area with such enthusiasm and pride, the way they will happily welcome you into their homes even though you are a stranger – I love them.
The Children – mostly all of them are outside playing games or participating in a sport activity… in fact, I don’t think that I have ever seen a child in Soweto glued to some tablet or cellphone. These kids are doing exactly what kids should be doing – running around playing, laughing, sharing and being happy.
My hopes for this wonderful place is something that I can’t honestly answer now – now it seems perfect for me but a place is always perfect when you are just a visitor. I would actually like to stay here for a couple of days to experience what it’s really like to live here. This is now on my bucket list in great big letters and once I’ve done that then perhaps I will be able to tell you what their hopes are.
Why not take a tour to some place you have not explored? Become a tourist in your own City.
You can also read and see photographs from the various walks on Facebook @Joziwalks.
Victoria is located east of the CBD, between Houghton Estates and Norwood, on what was once part of the farm Klipfontein owned by BP Viljoen. It appears to be named after Queen Victoria who died the year before it was proclaimed in December 1902. It has always been associated with Norwood and I don’t think many people realise that the top end of Grant Ave actually falls within Victoria.
It’s a tiny residential suburb with pretty tree-lined streets and not much else besides a quaint nursery, called Andersons, which has been in operation for over 100 years. Everytime I have visited this nursery I have managed to come away with something uniquely different.
Added to this is a coffee shop – offering breakfast, lunches and cakes – where you can either sit out in the garden or indoors if it’s a bit chilly, either to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city or just to catch up with friends. It’s a great meet up spot with a variety of choices on the menu and I can highly recommend their carrot cake.
If you have little ones there is a fun area where you can let them run around freely and play on the playground equipment or let them get creative in the craft centre. Unfortunately, the craft centre was not open on the day that I visited but having a peep inside it sure looks like a fun place to be.
Jozi Land Art happens once a year, around about Mothers Day, at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens in Emmarentia. This is the fifth time that I have partaken in this event at this venue. It’s a time I can’t wait for, just like a child waiting for Xmas. My head literally swims with ideas and lots of experimenting takes place at home for weeks before and somehow, as time draws closer, they change – they even change when I get there two days before the official opening to start working on your piece/s. I think that it’s the environment, and ones connection to it as you wander around looking for the right spot, that brings about these late changes. This too can sometimes get rather confusing when you are spoilt for choice, as everywhere you look is beautiful in so many different ways.
It’s all about appreciating and respecting nature, our green spaces and the life they contain within them. As we are in the city some rules are bent as far as materials are concerned as land art should be made up from what you find in the surrounds of the area – the art and landscape should be inextricably linked. ‘Brought in’ materials must be biodegradable, cause no harm to the environment and, if need be, removed after the event.
The artworks cannot be sold, so why do we do it? For me it’s getting out into nature and respecting what is around me and hopefully creating awareness in others. I also find the whole creative process very meditative, therapeutic and stimulating. Besides that, you are working with like minded people so if you need to take a break and have a chat, which are mostly in-depth conversations about changing the world, you can.
Once again I’m upset with trees been chopped down in the name of development, hence my other piece which is stencil work using mielie rice and bread letters. (feature image)
Here is a pictorial of other reasons that this is so special to me.
Thank you to all the other artists and everyone who came to support us.
Malvern lies to the east of the city surrounded by Kensington, Jeppe, Denver and Bedford Gardens. The land was formerly part of the Doornfontein Farm and named after the urban district of Malvern in Worcestershire, England. It was proclaimed in June 1904. Malvern over the years has become known for the second hand car dealerships which can be found all along Jules Street. As children we were told that this street was the longest, straightest street in Johannesburg – whether that still rings true today I have no idea. The suburb is spilt into two areas Malvern – which falls under Johannesburg – and MalvernEast – which falls under Germiston, I’ve been unable to establish how this came about.
I have visited Malvern many times and still do for a couple of reasons. My earlier memories of this suburb are of when I hung out with the Hells Angels and we used to go to the Boys and Girls Club on Jules street for Sunday night movies, which were held in what was then a boxing club. Presently, I still visit this same building but for very different reasons, as on the ground floor is The Mediterranean, a Portuguese supermarket that sells great fish, meat, bread, spices, etc. It’s been running for about 32 years and is now owned by the Sequeiro family who took it over in 2009. I highly recommend this place next time you want to prepare something Portuguese to eat. There is safe parking either in front of the store or down the adjacent side street.
For all those people who may have felt that they ‘lost’ something when the Dolls House Roadhouse closed down, why not visit the Pure and Cool Roadhouse on Stanhope Street. This used to be a branch of the “Dolls House Roadhouse” until it was sold to the new owners about 37 years ago and who then chose to change the name. (The building I’m sure was built from the same plans as the Orange Grove one.) The food is really good and, of course, their Lime Milkshakes taste the yummy-same. Jean-Claude and his staff will only be too happy to make your visit a pleasant one.
The Malvern public swimming pool tucked away in a little side street is well maintained with a beautiful lawn area. I need to go back there on a hot summers day as I’m sure it will be teaming with happy children. (Off Jules street down Marathon Street)
There is so much more to this area and, should you wish to find out more, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation run the odd tour to Malvern, which will fill you in on the fascinating history of the suburb.
Orange Grove lies to the east of the city surrounded by Norwood, Sydenham, Linksfield and Houghton. I love the original name of the area “Lemoen Plaas”, referring to the orange farm that existed here where orange trees were planted by JC Esterhuizen, his daughter was married to a Viljoen whose farmhouse became the original site for the famous Orange Grove Hotel, (which is now the Houghton Office Park) prior to its development as a suburb of Johannesburg.
In the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s it was known as “Little Italy” – I fondly remember on a Sunday afternoon sitting on the sidewalk along Louis Botha at one of the many little Italian eateries drinking Sangria while the kids ate Gelato ice cream. However, my time in Orange Grove goes way back to my junior school days, when I went to the Astra, one of the local movie houses, to watch my first Elvis Presley movie. Later on in life I used to attend “Sessions” (these were before Dico’s and Nightclubs etc. were formed) in the area, such as those which were held regularly at Vreda Hall. Vreda Hall still exists and I’ve often been tempted to go inside but some memories are best left as memories.
What brings me back to this area today are a few places. Let’s start with the HospiceShop. I’ve been shopping there for about 20 years now, ever since I developed a love for antiques and collectables. I’m now a fanatical book collector so the bookshop gets a weekly visit from me, as does the rest of the Hospice corner with it’s bric-a-brac, furniture, clothing etc. After shopping head to their Coffee shop for that much needed coffee and toasted sandwich or to indulge in something sweet. There is nothing like a bargain and an added bonus is that you are supporting a very worthy cause. http://www.hospicewits.co.za for more information and how you can help.
HospiceWits Charity Shop on Louis Botha.
Always exciting to find something on Jozi.
Super Sconto, the biggest Italian retail store in South Africa, is another of my favourites with their well stocked supermarket which is crammed with various pastas, gnocchi, speciality canned tomatoes and puree, olive oils, meats and cheeses. Pop upstairs to the Deli/coffee shop for a panini or pasta lunch or just to catch up with a friend over coffee. http://www.supersconto.co.za
Finally, the Radium Beer Hall – this well known landmark of the area is also the oldest surviving pub in Johannesburg. The Radium was originally opened as a ‘tearoom’ in 1929 by the Khalil family. The present bar counter was rescued from the Ferreirastown Hotel and is well over a 100 years old. It has become a renowned live music venue with music events happening every week but still remains a popular local. Tuesdays are very popular, with their half priced pizzas been a favourite. http://www.theradium.co.za
Orange Grove has one of the ‘Development Corridors‘ running through it with the installation of the Rea Vaya bus route and it’s stations been developed along Louis Botha Avenue. I’m excited by the fact that in some of the developments in the area the community are involved and their ideas are taken into account by #ArtMyJozi – a collaboration between the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and Trinity Sessions. You can get more information here – http://www.thetrinitysession.com.
Cottesloe lies to the West of the city centre surrounded by Auckland Park, Vrededorp and Wits University. It was named by a former Minister of Lands, Dr. Adam Jameson, after a Western Australian town situated some 11km south-west of Perth. (South AfricanPlace Names – Peter E Raper). Cottesloe is perhaps better known for the Egoli Gas Works, which cannot be missed when driving in the area, with its huge black gas tanks and the intriguing derelict buildings that stand alongside them. These works were inaugurated in 1929 on what was considered to be the perfect site as it was out of town but within reach of its consumers, after the original gas works in Newtown closed in 1928 having opened in 1892; it is also deemed to be one of the most historical and architecturally significant sites in Johannesburg.
I was fortunate enough to explore parts of the old gas works building at the launch of the book “The Johannesburg Gas Works” which was comprehensively put together by Monika Laufarts and Judith Mavunganidze. (This book is available from http://www.fourthwallbooks.com)
However, it’s what occupies a bit of the old gasworks on the south side of the site that keeps me coming back to Cottesloe – the Liebermann Pottery which was established by Sammy and Mary Liebermann on their return to Johannesburg, from London, as trained ceramicists in 1954. Originally it was a home based studio producing a range of traditional tableware and dinnerware (which was Sammy’s forte) and picture ceramic tiles (ably done by Mary). Unfortunately, this is the only bit of history that I’ve managed to find on this establishment.
I love coming here with it’s overstocked shelves of all things ceramic – all in beautiful patterns and colours. The outside is also overflowing with vibrant coloured flower pots and one can’t help but be tempted to get something to take home. Besides that, from the outside area you get another view of the old gasworks building – there is something quite fascinating about this structure. (www.liebermannpottery.net)
Also in Cottesloe is the University of Johannesburg Bunting Road Campus, which holds regular art exhibitions in the FADA Gallery (Faculty of Art Design and Architecture). Join their Facebook page to keep up to date with what, and when, exhibitions are on.
Craighall Park lies to the north of the city centre, bordering Delta Park in the West and Parkhurst in the South. It’s very centrally situated to Hyde Park, Rosebank and Sandton.
In 1891 the farm Klipfontein was bought by William Gray Rattray who renamed it Craighall after his birthplace in Blairgowrie, Scotland. His estate comprised of the suburbs now known as Craighall Park, Craighall and Blairgowrie (You can read more on the history here – http://www.theheritageportal.co.za/article/short-history-craighall).
Way back in the 70’s I frequented the Craighall Park Hotel as it was owned briefly by some friends of mine, but have not been in the suburb for many years besides driving through along Jan Smuts. I recently returned to the area when I visited the REEA Foundation (Rand Epileptic Employment Association) which I had known about for some time but had just never got around to going to. It’s one of those places I wish I had made the effort to get to long ago.
Why am I excited about this place? Firstly it has an incredible second hand book shop and as an avid collector of collectible books (which they have in a special section and are reasonable priced) I was in my element. Besides that, it must be one of the most organised charity book stores I’ve ever been to. Everything is in categories and alphabetically sorted. The staff, made up of volunteers and residents of REEA, are friendly and helpful – to such an extent that I find it hard to leave.
Secondly, a few steps from the bookshop is the Bamboo Palace which does furniture restorations and holds paint technique classes, whilst a little bit further down is the Rambling Rose Charity Shop which is always good for a browse and to drop off your unwanted items.
Taking a walk past the horse stables and along a little dirt road past the veggies gardens makes one feel as if you are way out in the country, forgetting that just up the road Jan Smuts Avenue is gridlocked with traffic. I met Barry who took me into a hothouse (which I believe is a historical building) to show me the macro veggies he is cultivating. This place and it’s smells awakened childhood memories of my grandfather for me, as he had a similar type hothouse wherein he cultivated Barberton Daisies. At the veggie gardens I spotted a lemon tree with the biggest lemons on it that I have ever seen – Barry told me that the fruit is a cross between a lemon and a grapefruit, got a couple to take home to try.
On the property is also the Gerakaris Winery (read more about this here http://2summers.net/2018/02/12/winery-joburg) as well as the Co2 Lab, where you can take pottery classes or just browse around their shop, from which I got some stunning ceramic gift tags. Also on the property is the Colourful Splendour Nursery which is stocked with a huge variety of plants and all of your gardening requisites.
At last I reached the Delta Cafe for a much needed coffee break.