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.
I have driven, and been driven, up and down Glenhove Road many, many times and always admired the large chemist bottles (otherwise known as ‘carboy’ which was purely a symbol used by chemists) in two little windows on the front of a building which has a plaque that reads “Glenhove Events Hub”. I found out last year that the building houses the National Pharmacy Museum of the Southern Gauteng Branch.
After making an appointment with Ray Pogir a retired pharmacist and now the curator of the museum, I headed to 52 Glenhove Road – on meeting Ray you immediately sense his passion for his profession, which he qualified in as a pharmacist, in the 1940’s. Ray gives me a little background on the building which was built in 1995 and the conference and events facilities it houses and then we head into the museum for a very informative tour of all the hundreds of items housed in it. It is a rather impressive collection of all things pharmaceutical.
The first chemist in Johannesburg – known in those times as an Apotheker – was established in 1886 by Ike Sonnenberg on Commissioner Street and was housed in a tent. Ray takes us through the skills required in which medication powders, pills and mixtures where made in the past. I’m fascinated by how minute the material quantities needed are and by the apparatus used in this manufacturing process – everything was so hands on.
There are prescription registers here dating back many years where Ray points out a prescription for President Paul Kruger who had contracted Malaria and one for his wife for what was the original pain plasters.
We look at all the different ingredients from poisons stored in green bottles, to light sensitive ingredients stored in blue bottles and the many natural plants used in medication. I even learn that “Spanish Fly”, an old aphrodisiac, is actually derived from a certain flying beetle, and that cannabis oil, arsenic and cocaine were all used many years ago in treating people. There is also a large collection of traditional medicines on display here.
There is so much more that I could add to this blog as I could have spent the whole day there listening to all of Ray’s stories and explanations – this has to be one of the best museums I have ever visited.
The National Pharmacy Museum is situated at 52 Glenhove Road, Melrose Estate. Contact Ray Pogir to make arrangements to visit 011 442 3615 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. A great reason to revisit Melrose Estate.
I’m not a great fan of Museum Africa as it fails to give me that welcoming feeling as I enter, there is no indication as to what exhibitions are on or where to find them. It almost looks like nothing happens there – too many blank walls and under-utilised spaces. My friend Kathy and I went to the museum after rekindling an interest in the ‘Joburg Firsts’ manuscript compiled by Anna Smith in 1976, specifically to see the exhibition “Joburg Firsts”, which, incidentally, has been on display since about 2012.
If you are in any way interested in the history of Johannesburg then this is an exhibition you should make the effort to see. Tucked away up the ramp to the left as you enter the museum is the area that houses this exhibition. The exhibition is mainly made up of display boards with photographs and text, with a few objects dotted around. The boards are beautifully set out in categories such as In the beginning, Sport, Education, Churches, Mining etc.. One cannot help but think how this exhibition could be transformed into a beautiful coffee table book that any Joburg enthusiast would love to own.
Some of the interesting facts you can discover about Joburg’s firsts –
Did you know there was a female mayor of Johannesburg in the 1940’s? I found this refreshing as women did not have many rights then.
Who was the first female mayor of Soweto? – Sophia Masite in 1995
When did the township of Orlando get it’s public swimming pool? – 1954
Which public space in Joburg never had any segregation laws under apartheid imposed on it and was open to all the people of the city? – The Zoo and Zoo Lake areas.
The first major disaster in Jo’burg was the Great Dynamite Explosion of 1896 when a freight train hauling 8 rail trucks of dynamite (about 60 tonnes) exploded at the Braamfontein siding. This left a crater measuring 50 meters wide by 60 meters long and 8 meters deep, as well as destroying 3000 homes.
The first Mosque was built in Kerk Street in 1906.
The Globe Theatre was Joburg’s first permanent theatre, opening in 1889.
Lottie Davis was the city’s first female motorcyclist in 1911 (I’m all for girl power.)
The first suburban library was in Jeppestown in 1896.
Soweto was incorporated into the City of Johannesburg in 2002.
There are so many more interesting firsts but I’m not going to list them all here as you need to take a visit to Museum Africa and discover them for yourself.
Museum Africa is situated at 121 Lilian Ngoyi Street, Newtown. They are open Tuesday to Sunday from 09h00 to 17h00. There is no entrance fee.
2018 has been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster ride for me with many happy times, great achievements, involvement in some awesome projects, lots of Jozi related aggravations and disappointments. We were blessed with the arrival of a brand new little granddaughter, Lea, but two of our children left for Australia – Mandy and family to Sydney and Jason to Perth (and we wish them all the very best in their new adventures).
After walking the streets of Joburg for the past seven years, and now having a huge collection of photographs, I decided that it was time to do something with my photography so I started this blog, my aim was to focus on the suburbs of Johannesburg and what would make me want to go back to those suburbs. I’ve managed to post up 25 blogs this year, not all are of suburbs but all Joburg related. I was also fortunate to get some of my photographs published in ArchSA and Johannesburg in your Pocket. A couple of articles in the Heritage Portal carried my photographs as well and the City of Johannesburg used my photo’s in their brochure and poster for their Remembrance Day event at the Cenotaph.
We did two Land Art events this year, one at the Johannesburg Botanical gardens in Emmarentia and one at The Wilds. Both were very successful and attracted a good amount of people. I would love to do more of these events in different parks in the city… if it was not for all the red tape in applying for permission from City Parks. There could be a possibility of starting up a “Land Artist Group” that meet up throughout the year at random places to do some land art.
Victoria Yards opened officially and has become a firm favourite of mine on First Sundays as it is great to chat to the resident artists and see what they are up to. The Joburg Photowalkers along with the Joburg Sketchers held an exhibition there in September and I got some good feedback on my seven entries. It is also a great place to meet up with friends, plus it’s close to home.
Besides helping with the archiving at the Children’s Memorial Institute (CMI), I have also got involved with two cemetery projects – “Friends of the Cemeteries”, which falls under the auspices of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and basically maintains the burial areas and gets people to visit historical cemeteries such as Braamfontein and Brixton cemeteries, and the “South East Witwatersrand Family History Society” where we take photographs of the graves for the Genealogy Society of South Africa.
With Johannesburg Heritage Foundation I got involved in assisting with a few historical walks at the zoo during its birthday month. I really enjoyed these and hopefully we can repeat them this coming year. I went to the amazing Kedar Lodge and Meerhof Lodge with Kathy and even though these were just one night stays away from home, both trips were well deserved breaks from the norm.
Besides all the political issues that we have here in Jozi and the rest of the country, we still live well with so much to be thankful for. I promised myself that I would get rid of stuff in 2018 – well that did not happen, maybe I should try harder in 2019.
I wish for a greater understanding of, and empathy with, the people of this country, a cleaner, safer inner city, less moaning, more action, more positivity and less negativity in 2019. I do favour odd numbered years, so may 2019 be good for all of us.
I’m often asked the question what it is that makes me love this city called Johannesburg, Joburg, Jozi, Egoli etc. so very much? The answer comes rather easily – it makes me feel alive. Going through many emotions such as happiness, sadness, joy, anger, surprise, fear, anticipation, regret, contempt, love, et al. makes me feel alive. It gives me direction, an aim, a mission, a plan. enthusiasm to find a solution even if it’s just for me. Joburg stirs up all these emotions in me. I see that skyline as I head back into town after a trip and my heart melts – the iconic Ponte City and Hillbrow tower give me that “I’m at home” feeling.
I need a certain amount of chaos in my life and Joburg gives this to me, with it’s diversity of different cultures. You can go to Fordsburg and feel as though you are in India or Pakistan, Mayfair to feel as if you are in Somalia. Go to Cyrildene and feel as though you are in China or Taiwan and when you visit Yeoville you could be anywhere in Northern Africa. In central Joburg, visit Jeppe street to experience a bit of Ethiopia or Diagonal street to experience muti shops if you are not to keen on visiting the Mai Mai market. There is just so much to see and experience in this city which is also forever changing, it makes me wonder how anyone can say there is nothing to do here.
Green Spaces and public swimming pools, nature parks with really good hiking trails right here in the city, jacarandas in October all over my suburb and the rest of Joburg, cosmos flowers at Delta Park in April – so who needs a mountain and the sea.
Graffiti festivals attracting international graffiti artists, art hubs such as the Bag Factory, Victoria Yards and August house, the architecture both old and new, the history of the city. My list could go on and on.
Most of all it’s the people who make up this wonderful city; besides all the negative stuff you read and hear about, they are friendly, helpful and a whole lot of fun. Speak to any tourist and they will agree with this.
Jozi has a way of creeping under your skin, for she can at times not be the nicest city to live in but charms you into forgiving her. Someone once summed her up to be rough, parties hard but is someone you want to hang out with because she is so exciting. Besides all this it is where my home is.
Every year from late September to November, Jacaranda trees go into bloom in Johannesburg and Pretoria. This starts a photo frenzy among the photography fraternity with everyone trying to find where the best spot is to photograph these beautiful trees. Facebook, Instagram and other sites become inundated with purple photos. Today I found my best spot but before I get to share this place let me tell you a bit about these trees.
Jacaranda Mimosifolia is it’s botanical name, first seeds were imported by James Clarke and the first two trees were planted in Pretoria by JD Cilliers in what is now the Sunnyside Primary School. There is a plaque there that reads as follows – “These two trees were planted by the late J D Cilliers in the year 1888 and were the first Jacaranda’s to be planted in Pretoria. They were imported from Brazil”. In 2001 they were declared a “Category three Invader” which means they can’t be planted, propagated, sold or transplanted. However the existing Jacarandas will continue to keep us in awe when they bloom.
The first Jacarandas planted in Johannesburg were at Charlton Terrace in Doornfontein. It is also believed that a William Nelson owner of Nelsonia Nurseries in Turffontein grew 30 million trees, shrubs and plants by 1896. He undertook to line the streets of Kensington with Jacarandas, this took 6 months to complete. It is believed to be the first time in South Africa that trees were planted on such a large scale. (Info required from the Joburg City Parks site)
There are a few myths attached to these blooms – one is that if a student has not started tostudy by the time the blooms fall they will fail. Another is that if a bloom should fall directly on you it is lucky and therefore you will pass your exams. It would be interesting to know if this has been put to the test.
I discovered these beautiful Jacarandas in West Park Cemetery this morning whilst helping with the documentation of graves. Where are your best spots this year?
Enjoy them while they are here.
A few suggestions of great viewing places in the Johannesburg area, Saxonwold, Houghton, Westcliff and of course Kensington.
Bertrams, centrally situated, lies to the east of the city surrounded by Doornfontein, Lorentzville and Troyeville. It’s right next door to the Ellis Park precinct, on a Rea Vaya route and was proclaimed a suburb on the 16th August 1889 when Robertson Fuller Bertram, an estate developer, acquired a portion of the farm Doornfontein.
Bertrams is not the place that you should go wandering the streets of on your own, however there are a few places that are quite safe to go to and are my favourite places to visit in the area.
A must visit is the Bertrams Inner City Farm for great organic vegetables in the heart of Jozi. It’s advisable to make time to visit here as you walk around with either Amon, Refilwe or one of the other ‘farmers’ as they harvest your order.
Refilwe and her crew can also be found at Victoria Yards on their first Sundays; do try their freshly squeezed juices, mine been the beetroot, apple and ginger. They have a facebook page – Bertrams Inner City Farm and are situated at 46 Bertrams Road (the entrance is opposite the Rea Vaya station).
Right next door to the Bertrams Inner City Farm is the Joburg Cricket Club which caters for the children in the area and has had some amazing success stories, such as a trip to Greece in 2015 with the youth, only to return with the Hellenic Cricket Federation trophy as winners. Visit http://www.joburgcricket.club for more information.
Another of my favourite places is Twilsharp Studios which has working artist studios with an exhibition space. It is run by husband and wife team Garfield and Rebecca, who stay in the most intriguing accomodation on top of one of the many workshop roofs.
It’s not generally open to the public but do keep an eye on the Twilsharp Studios Facebook page (@twilsharpstudios) for upcoming exhibitions. It’s one of those places that makes you feel right at home. It is situated at 40/42 Gordon Road, Bertrams.
Unfortunately most of the area has falling into disrepair but with developments like Victoria Yards and Nando’s Head Office in the neighbouring suburb of Lorentzville things will hopefully start to improve.
I’m a lover of green spaces and community activities, it brings a neighbourhood, a city together, a way of meeting people. It gets people out from behind their high walls. Parkview just ticks all these boxes.
Zoo Lake, one of the many green spaces in Johannesburg, is situated in Parkview. Once a month ‘Artists Under The Sun’ is held here, as is the annual Jazz festival. However, it’s just such a great place to picnic or to just take a walk. Over weekends it gets rather busy so I prefer to visit mid week. I’m yet to be tempted to take a rowing boat out onto the lake – these you can rent with life jackets at about R10 per person and R7.50 per child per hour (please check costs as these can change).
If you haven’t packed a picnic then Moyo, an African themed restaurant, is right there with a stunning deck overlooking the lake and gardens. I normally stop for a drink or a light lunch but they do have quite an extensive menu and are open in the evenings.
The Zoo Lake Public Swimming pool is also a favourite during the summer months and is well used. It was built in the 1930’s and still maintains all of its original features. I found the shape unusual in that it is a square of 30 mts by 30 mts. There are very friendly lifeguards in attendance and the entrance fee will definitely not break the bank.
There is so much more to Parkview, such as the quaint shops along Tyronne Street – and do keep a lookout for events on at Alliance Francaise, maybe even attend one of their language courses, like zulu or french. (www.alliance.org.za/johannesburg)
Maboneng (taken from the Sesotho word meaning ‘Place of Light’) is a vibrant area which falls within three Johannesburg suburbs – City and Suburban, Jeppestown and New Doornfontein. I’m not going to go into long explanations of the history of the area etc. etc., but rather what it is that keeps on bringing me back.
I love suburbs where the “streets are alive” – full of people out and about, sitting at sidewalk restaurants and coffee shops, browsing the street vendors stalls, appreciating the graffiti/street art, buying some fruit from the guy who pushes a trolley along the street selling his wares, stopping to listen to a busker play a tune or having your photograph taken by one of the many ‘street photographers’ – this is Maboneng.
Of course there is the Market on Main on a Sunday, which attracts a lot of people, with their huge variety of food and drinks as well as The Living Room, a rooftop venue with great views of the city while you enjoy some good music, or one can venture over to the New Doornfontein side to check out some really incredible street art or visit the Agog gallery, ending with a drink on their rooftop.
Why do I keep on returning here – for a number of reasons one of which is that I feel safe, I’ve made good friends with some of the vendors, I’m a avid book collector and a few of my favourite bookstores are here – David Krut Bookstore, Bridge Books and then over a weekend there are also a few sidewalk book dealers. It is seldom that I have left here without finding another great book to add to my collection.
It’s a place that needs to be explored as there is just so much to see and experience – meet a friend for coffee or lunch, check out the unusual wares in some of the shops, support the sidewalk vendors or just discover the amazing artworks all around. I’ll let you in on my favourite eatery – it has to be James at Maverick Corner for an authentic Ethiopian meal under the olive trees. To escape the crowds for a quiet drink or coffee then Bertrand on Fox Street is the place.
Newtown has so much history attached to it, so I’ll firstly fill you in on a brief history of the area before I let you know why I frequent the place – The Newtown precinct was originally known as “The Brickfields” due to the high levels of clay in the area which established brick making as a popular form of generating income at the turn of the century. In 1896 it’s location, close to the city centre and the railway line, attracted a lot of businesses to the area and the name given at the time was Burghersdorp, wherein about 7000 people of all races lived. In 1904 when the bubonic plague broke out the local fire brigade was ordered to torch the Location, as it was now referred to, and it burnt for three days. When they rebuilt the area it was then named ‘Newtown’.
I started frequenting Newtown regularly when the first outdoor flea market started on Mary Fitzgerald Square in the 1980’s, along with visits to ‘Kippies’ for some jazz and the ‘Yard of Ale’ just to catch up with friends. There was of course also the Market Theatre that opened in what was previously the fresh produce market, in 1976 and operated as an independent non-racial theatre.
With the new Newtown Junction sitting alongside the Market theatre it helps make attending shows in the evening so much easier for parking and security. There is also a very good tour of the Market theatre which takes you backstage and also points out some of the old signage and pay stations from when it was the produce market. For more information check out their webpage <markettheatre.co.za>.
Newtown to me has always been the ‘Gallery of Graffiti‘, and this is where my love of this art form started. Under the freeway the support pillars of the motorway get painted once a year for the ‘Back to the City’ festival. I love graffiti/street art so I do make frequent trips to see what I can discover as it spills out over the area. Newtown also has some of my favourite pieces of public sculptures – Brenda Fassie outside the Bassline and KippieMoeketsi outside what was Kippies Jazz Club. Then there are the Newtown Heads by a group of local carvers and recently restored by Americo Guambe who originally lead the team who first carved the heads in 2001.
Other activities that get me coming back are the exhibitions put on at the Market PhotoWorkshop (www.marketphotoworkshop.co.za) which is also a school of photography, a gallery and a project space opened in 1989 by renowned photographer David Goldblatt.
Sci-Bono Discovery Centre (www.sci-bono.co.za)runs amazing exhibitions such as ‘Body Worlds’ and more recently and still running “Wonders of Rock Art – Lascaux cave and Africa”. Turbine Hall holds the Joburg Art Fair once a year, showcasing up and coming local talent amongst some well known artists.
Other places of interest are – Museum Africa with the Bensusan Museum ofPhotography along with other displays and occasional exhibitions. SAB World of Beer (www.worldofbeer.co.za) shows you the history of beer and the making of it. Lastly, the Workers Museum which is one of the last surviving examples of a municipal compound built in 1913.
So next time you are on the Red Bus which has a stop outside Sci-Bono, get off and explore the area but I do need to say that you should be vigilant and best be in a group when walking from one area to the next.