#1billionrising2021 – Rising Gardens

I was made aware of this years 1Billion Rising campaign when a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in taking part in the Garden of Yarn at The Wilds (a nature reserve in the heart of Johannesburg) cumulating on the 14th February. A garden would be entirely made up of crochet, knitted and embroidered blooms. Yay! At last, a place to use some of the hundreds of roses I had crocheted. I of course jumped at the opportunity to put some meaning and purpose into these roses and working with a group of likeminded people creating awareness of an issue that is close to my heart, is always a plus in my book.

One Billion Rising is a global campaign started by Eve Ensler to raise awareness and hopefully stop rape and sexual violence against women. The On Billion refers to the UN statistic that one in every three women would be raped or beaten in her lifetime, how very sad is that! This years theme was One Billion Rising 2021 – Rising Garden (which you can read up about here onebillionrising.org)

For the Garden of Yarn one of the meaningful things I created was what I named “Ribbons of Roses” – these colourful roses would represent the different forms of violence, rape and abuse that women go through and yet together we stand by listening, comforting and supporting each other.

I also went with another campaign called #rosesagainstviolence as I had quite a few purple roses in my pile, which I attached the tag I got from their template to. These would not only go into the Garden of Yarn but I would also place them in and around the city to create awareness. On their blog you will find a video of how to do the roses plus the template for the tags so let’s fill our world with these roses. rosesagainstviolence.wordpress.com

We had hardly finished our garden when the rape statics for South Africa from October to December 2020 were made public – and these are only the reported cases – 12,218 people were raped in this three month period equating to 133 people being raped every single day. One can only imagine what the number for domestic violence and verbal abuse must be.

Is it the way we raise our boys? Is it a cultural thing where the men feel in power and to some extent claim ownership of us? Do our protector’s not do enough? Are the systems failing us? Do these awareness campaigns make a difference? How do we move forward? So many questions with far too few answers. We need to be heard that “Enough is Enough”.

Thanks to Stacey Rosen who managed the Gardens of Yarn, all my fellow craftivists, to One Billion Rising and Roses Against Violence. Let’s keep active until change is seen.

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Me and the Pandemic called Corona.

The R.E.M song “It’s the end of the world as we know it” has been playing over and over in my head for days now, except I don’t feel fine and most certainly don’t need anymore time alone – I’m a social person, I need people even if it’s just to watch them over a cup of coffee but that too gets my anxiety levels up…..I’ve become a homebody!

However the song resonates with me as we cannot possibly go back to the world we once knew, where we showed a total lack of concern for the planet we live upon or the creatures we share it with. Corona has possibly made us more aware of our actions and hopefully we will all learn something from it.

Am I scared of this virus referred to as Covid19 – hell yes! It occupies my mind much of the time when I am out, remembering to sanitise, to not touch my face and trying to stay clear of those non-conformists who don’t know how to, or want to, wear a mask or understand the meaning of social distancing. I wish we would all just do as we are told to so as to get over this pandemic. Do I keep up with what is on social media about the virus? Not much really as it’s difficult to distinguish what is the truth and what is not.

Besides the uncertainty of this pandemic, along with the anxiety, feeling scared and sometimes how depressive the whole situation is, it was, and still is, a time to take a break and reflect on ones life and what is important and how we would like the world to be moving forward. I can’t fix the world but I can fix my world.

  • I’m beginning to realise that most things can be enjoyed right here at home. A bit of gardening is a great workout. You can create a culinary experience in your own kitchen. One can develop ones photographic skills in and around your home. Google, Pinterest and YouTube have become my tutors, I learnt to crochet from YouTube, make books amongst other things from Pinterest and learnt a lot of worldly knowledge from Google.
  • Shopping less – we don’t need stuff to make us happy, it only weighs us down. I am, however, still in the process of learning to throw things out, damn how I wish things did not bring back memories or that I could stop seeing the potential in everything.
  • Supporting local and one of them being the Urban Farms that I have right on my doorstep which will also get us to use what is seasonal and organic. I know you want to tell me to start my own veggie garden, been there, tried it and for two people you land up with way too much of a few things, besides fighting with all the little creatures who also see this as a food source. I share my fig tree with a multitude of birds and would not have it any other way but can someone tell me how I get them to finish off one fig before attacking the next.
  • Plastic! This is a difficult one as most things come in plastic but we have not bought a plastic shopping bag for a very long time now, we separate our waste, making it easier for the recyclers. We all just have to be more aware of how we dispose of our plastic waste. Polystyrene is another problem so I’d rather not support or buy anything that is packaged in it.
  • Speak up – I’ve found my voice to speak up on issues that do not sit well with our environment, our planet, our creatures and any of our people.

A small start and I’m already starting to feel lighter but the two things I’m most happy about is I don’t suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) any more. I’ve realised I do not need to attend EVERYTHING that is happening in the city any longer, but best of all is that my book addiction is no more and it’s now time to enjoy those books I have not read.

Get out there and smell the roses, feel the earth beneath your feet and do things that make you happy for TODAY is always going to be the only day you have.

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2020 – My year in review – what a year!

2020 started off like all previous years with phrases such as – this is going to be the year, thank heavens 2019 is over, this is my year etc. etc. Little did we know how 2020 was going to put the world in turmoil, that life as we knew it was not going to be the same, that we were going to have to make changes to how we lived, hugs and kisses where no longer going to be allowed as signs of affection and wearing a mask was going to become the new normal.

Early January and I’d excitedly booked a few tours with Johannesburg Heritage, which were to places I really wanted to visit and learn more about. One was Rose Road in Houghton (got this one in before lock down) and the other was Noordegesig (cancelled due to lock down). The Public Swimming Pool group decided to visit one more pool and then finish off the project with an exhibition and a Zine on the project would be for sale at Victoria Yards in early MAY (cancelled due to lock down).

Everything was like it normally was – the white butterflies migrated, Friends of the Cemeteries met for their cleanup sessions. I won a tour with Joburg Places as well as a trip around Joburg in the cutest car called a Jozibug, a tour with Joburg360, went with friends to a storytelling dinner at the Thunder Walker, Terry won some money on a Jacaranda radio competition – things were looking good so far.

A group of us arranged a tour to Alexandra township to attend a Shembe church gathering, which turned out to be a tour of the hostels as the members of the Shembe church had gone off to pray somewhere else. We were not disappointed as this was another side of township life we had wished to explore. Little did we realise that our lives were about to change and that this would be our last outing for awhile.

MARCH 2020 and the stories had started to surface, I did not take much notice of what was happening in China but became more concerned when Australia ran out of toilet paper, people were panicking and had started to horde but why toilet paper? Stories of a strict lockdown for 21 days had been circulated as the Covid19 virus had hit our shores. My brother-in-law was here and needed to get back to New Zealand before the world went into lock down, I felt my sisters panic, it now became very real. Well the rest we all know.

I began to knit, crochet, draw, sketch, embroider, clean out, we painted our lounge, tended to our garden, baked, the Jozi Land artists did a virtual Land Art event and I attend more webinars than I can count. All in all I had a lot to do but the best was that I did not need to suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as we were all locked up and nothing was happening out there. Pull on pants, sloppy tops and slippers became the attire of the day, hair went almost to grey but I was happy and above all else healthy and so was my family. It was good to get dressed up to go to the shops for essentials but equally good to get back to the safety of my home.

JULY restrictions started to be lifted and parks were opened. My first social outing was a walk in the park with friends which, in all honesty, I did not enjoy as I just wanted to get home. This anxious feeling lasted for a while when going out, there was no coffee chats or moving on to some other place as it was a case of do what you intended and get home. By late AUGUST it was almost back to normal with exploring places, doing photo walks and socializing with friends – all done, of course, with a mask, sanitizing of hands and trying very hard not to touch ones face.

I did some Land Art at the Hilson Bridge festive festival, bade farewell to a few friends who moved down South, started a few projects that will carry me into 2021. I can honestly say that with this new strain of the virus, I would welcome another lockdown. People have become far too relaxed plus I feel we need to learn some lessons from this – if only to be better Humans and to understand that we need to take care of Mother Earth.

2020 taught me a few things that I’m grateful for – I don’t need to surround myself with stuff, I don’t need so much of anything, I can let go of things that don’t add to the happiness of my life as well as to not sweat the small stuff. As long as my family are healthy, safe and happy, I have my person to take care of and he of me, to give me the odd hug and to continue to understand where I’m at, all is good. I can’t forget my wonderful feathered baby who never fails to amuse me.

I don’t think the beginning of 2021 is going to be any better than what we are experiencing now but hopefully it will improve as the months go by.

I wish you all well…lets try and make the most of a bad situation, take care and respect each other plus do our bit to make the world a better place.

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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.

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The Javett Art Centre – Pretoria

The Javett Art Centre is not in Joburg but rather in Pretoria, so you might be wondering why I’m blogging about it. I was a guest of Strauss & Co on a recent trip to the Art Centre and from receiving the invite to climbing into the transport provided, I was excited. I had heard so much about the Javett Art Centre but the thought of driving through to Pretoria sort of put a halt on things as I’m not a keen highway driver.

The building, designed by Pieter Mathews of Mathews and Associate Architects, is impressive. The building links the University of Pretoria to the eastern side of the city by a bridge over Lynnwood road. We arrived on the UP side of the centre (as seen in the cover photograph).


This is the entrance on the eastern side.

The Art Centre houses four exhibitions at the moment:

  • 101 – Collecting Conversations – a collection of 101 signature works of South African artists selected from collections around the country.
  • All in a Day’s Eye – The politics of Innocence in the Javett Family collection of South African modern art.
  • National Treasures – an exhibition of significant gold pieces from the Mapungubwe Gold collection and more than 350 artifacts from the Anglo Gold Ashanti Barbier-Mueller Gold of Africa collection. This collection is a must see, unfortunately the lighting in the exhibition made it difficult to photograph.
  • A Strange Thing Materialised Along the Way – a selection of quirky objects from the University’s Museums.

Wim Botha’s “Commune – Suspension of Disbelief” a life size crossless crucifix made from stacks of bibles bolted together, hangs over the atrium.  A Houtlander “Chaste” bench hugs the balustrade.

We were met by Kutlwano Mokgojwa who showed us around, pausing at some of the pieces to give us a bit of background on the art and the artists. This really should be put on everyone’s list of places to visit.

Here are a few of my favourite pieces.

Reshada Crouse – “Passive Resistance” used to hang in the foyer of the Nelson Mandela Theatre and pays tribute to the role of the theatre during the struggle. It was interesting to see how many of our local actors and actresses one can spot in the painting.

Alexis Preller – “Discovery” depicting the discovery of the trade routes. The painting was commissioned by the then Transvaal Provisional Government and hung in their boardroom. 

Hilary Jackson Graham – “The Wreck of the Mendi” explores the tragic sinking of the SS Mendi which carried black South African troops to the Western Front during World War One. The painting is owned by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum of Art in Port Elizabeth.

Willie Bester – “Elections 1994”

Mary Sibande – “Cry Havoc” sits proudly in the middle of a space filled with local artists works.

We take a break before heading back. On the wall is a collection of Sam Nhlengethwa’s works – I’m a huge fan of his and also Houtlander whose “Preservation” bench is a work of art. 

There is so much more to see and think about that I will definitely have to return sometime soon. Thank you to Strauss & Co (https://www.straussart.co.za) for the invite and to JavettUP (javettup.org.za) for hosting us.





It’s not just any street, it’s Queen Street.

Yesterday, The Joburg Photowalkers choose Queen Street as part of their “Alphabet Photo Challenge”. Being part of this group, it was great to have my fellow photography friends visit my hood. We met at Cut & Craft, one of the popular restaurants on the street, which opens at six thirty in the morning. This time suited us as we planned to capture the early morning rising sun but also because there would be minimal traffic on the street at that early hour. We ventured up and down the semi quite street until businesses opened, stopping for breakfast in between.

Cut & Craft – a great place for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a quick snack and coffee. http://www.cutcraftbistro.co.za or on Facebook @cutcraftbistro

I drive up and down this street on a regular basis, stopping off only at the businesses I have on my agenda to either get something or to meet someone for a “catch up”. Walking the street yesterday made me realise what an awesome street we have right on our doorstep, filled with interesting shops some which have been around for a number of years and some that I got to experience yesterday for the first time. It is quite amazing what you discover when you walk down a street as opposed to driving it.

I’ll let the photographs do the rest.

Wilson Stone/Steel for all your paving, planters, fire surrounds etc., plus there are rooms full of great gift ideas – pop in, you’ll be surprised. http://www.wilsonstone.co.za

Country Flowers is just so welcoming with a sweet smell of jasmine on either side of the entrance. Great gift ideas for the nature lover. (apologies for the pavement but I gather they are fixing the water meter) http://www.countryflowersonline.co.za

Kensington and Rand daily mail1
Touch Wood – this is such a welcome addition to Queen Street. Their showroom is full of beautiful furniture plus they have a very cute coffee stop called Crate. http://www.touchwoodsa.co.za

Refurbishing your home and need a period door, windows, floor boards etc. – the guys at The Yard will be able to help you. http://www.theyard.co.za

Bespoke is just the place for that unusual lamp you’ve been looking for – these camera ones were my favourites. Find them on Facebook @bespokelamps.

Ye Olde Collector – Looking for porcelain, glass, copper and brass ware, figurines, etc. – you are sure to find something here. Find more details on their Facebook page @yeoldecollector.

The decor at Reception Kitchen and Bar will have you in awe, the double decker bus in the garden will blow you away. A must visit. Find them on Facebook @ReceptionKitchenandBar



There is so much more to this street, from restaurants serving a variety of foods, to coffee shops, antique shops, charity stores, a butchery and spice shop, etc. etc. – just to many to mention here.  So, next time you are passing through do make time to park your car, take a stroll and end off with a meal or drink before heading home – you won’t regret it.

(I wish I could have included all the fantastic businesses/shops that we have on this street but that would take away some of the surprises you will get when you walk down Queen Street.)




For the Love of Jozi – Houghton Estate.

Houghton Estate, including both Upper and Lower Houghton as they are known, is steeped in history, wealth, beautiful green spaces –  two of which are golf clubs – and is home to some of Johannesburg’s best schools. It lies between Killarney, Melrose Estate, Norwood and Bellevue.  It was established after the second Anglo-Boer war and named after the owners of the land, the Houghton Estate Gold Mining Company which was formed in 1889. Munro Drive, which has spectacular views to the north, falls within it’s boundaries. There is so much to this suburb but let start with my favourite space.

The new entrance to The Wilds.

The Wilds – recently restored to a beautiful, popular green Joburg space. It all began with a dog named Pablo who needed a space to walk, run and play. His master, local artist James Delaney, who lives close by began cleaning up the overgrown shrubbery and in order to honour Nelson Mandela on Madiba day 2017 created 67 metal owls which he installed in the trees. An interest was created and people wanting to see this installation visited and fell in love with the space. Not long after this, volunteers were at hand to help James clean up more areas, paint the benches, donate and plant plants and pull weeds as they walk along the pathways. A lot more of James’ animal creatures have been installed including a life size pink and yellow giraffe. Do visit and see what you can find.

This space aptly named the Giraffe Lawn.

The Wilds was recently awarded a Blue Plaque – “The Wilds was established in 1924 on a donation of land by the Houghton Estate Township. Co. to the City. It was landscaped with indigenous flora first displayed at the 1936 Empire Exhibition, and attractive water features were added in the 1950’s. The City dedicated the park to the memory of Jan Smuts after his death in 1950. The elegant pedestrian bridge was built in 1965, and the impressive greenhouses were a gift from JCI in 1966. The Wilds was declared a National Monument in 1981.”  To read more and find out about walks, events etc. at The Wilds join their Facebook page “Friends of The Wilds”.

Walking along these paths – one forgets that you are in the heart of the city.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation – Ever wondered what Nelson Mandela’s post-presidential office looked like? Then visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation –  it’s a beautiful building and well worth a visit. There is also a permanent exhibition dedicated to the life and times, works and writings of the late Madiba. It’s a place most of us drive past on a regular basis but never think of going into.

Nelson Mandela Foundation.

This was Madiba’s post presidential office from 2002 – 2010.

A permanent exhibition of Madiba’s life. The glass enclosure in the middle represents his cell on Robben Island.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation is situated at 107 Central Street, Houghton.  It’s advisable to check what days one can visit on or otherwise just keep an eye open for the many temporary exhibitions that are held there. (www.nelsonmandela.org)

Houghton Estate is really spoilt for choice when it comes to green spaces – from The Wilds and Killarney Country Club to the beautiful Houghton Golf Club where you can enjoy a drink or meal overlooking the greens.

Houghton Golf Club.




My journey with – The long march to Freedom.

My journey with The Long March to Freedom started way back in 2015 when on a visit to One Eloff in  downtown Johannesburg, I visited the studio of Nkhensani Rihlampfu. He was working on a statue of Basil D’Olivera, the first non white South African to play English County cricket. I was in awe of the detail on D’Olivera’s jersey and the size of the statue. At this stage I did not anticipate the magnitude of this exhibition.

On my first visit to this amazing collection of statues that make up “The Long March to Freedom” exhibition (which was first located at Fountain Valley Park just outside Pretoria), we were greeted by a very friendly guide named Tumo, who took us through the park explaining each statue in detail, whilst also protecting me from the harsh sun under an umbrella while I took photographs.

The collection starts off with the first chiefs and ends with the last activists, showcasing South Africa’s struggle for liberation over a period of 350 years.

I was happy to find the completed statue of Basil D’Olivera 

The brain child of Dali Tambo (also Director of the National Heritage Project), the exhibition came about after he visited his father Oliver Tambo’s grave and assured him that he would make a statue of him to honour his part in the struggle. He heard his father’s reply from beyond the grave saying “Don’t do it just for me – do it for all of them.”

The exhibition now has close to 100 statues and has involved 40 professional sculptors, 8 South African Foundries and 5 less experienced artists who have been trained and mentored in the art of bronze sculpture. It is also the largest collection of bronze statues in one exhibition in the world.

Ida Mntwana the second president of the ANC Women’s League and first president of the Federation of South African Women. (Artist – Sarah Lovejoy.)

Earlier this year the statues were moved to Maropeng, located in the Cradle of Humankind. This site, I feel, is far better suited to the exhibition and I love the natural surroundings  adding to the statues lifelike appearances as they march across the veld (the astro turf and close proximity of the fence that was at Fountain Valley have been left behind – thank heavens) .

I was fortunate enough to be invited to brunch at the Maropeng Hotel and the unveiling of the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela statue on Valentines day where Dali Tambo gave a wonderful talk on the role of the women in the struggle, reminding us as well that “Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them, let’s keep them alive by remembering them.”

Madiba and Winnie march hand in hand.

I did enjoy my moment with Madiba at Fountain Valley before Winnie came along.

Another highlight of my journey was to be invited by 2Summers to visit Nkhensani’s studio again and one of the foundries used in the casting of these statues, The Workhorse Bronze Foundry, in downtown Joburg not too far from One Eloff. I never realised the amount of work involved in this process and now have a new found appreciation for all bronzes.

Rina Noto the studio manager at the Workhorse Bronze Foundry takes us through the process of casting a bronze sculpture.

I highly recommend a visit to “The Long March to Freedom” and while you are there explore the Maropeng Visitors Centre, maybe even book an overnight stay at the hotel.

Maropeng 2019
Some of the statues in the collection.

This is definitely not the end of my journey with this exhibition, but more like the beginning, as I share these statues, the knowledge behind their making and their role in our history with family and friends.

Tumo Bopape our wonderful guide always ready with an umbrella, be it for the heat at Fountain Valley or the pouring rain at Maropeng.


For the love of Jozi – Troyeville

Troyeville – how do I explain this ‘melting pot of everything’ suburb which has been home to so many of our exceptionally creative talents, filled with history of the early beginnings of Jozi and which has more churches than any other suburb located in it (I still need to find out the reason for this)? I find Troyeville interesting, stimulating, inspiring, gritty, down-to-earth and very real.

Drew with Dionne who is an intricate part of the Spaza functions.

The place that has me coming back to Troyeville time and time again has to be Spaza Art Gallery, a semi-detached house in Wilhelmina Street owned by Andrew Lindsay who himself is a well know creative in the city, with a tower in the garden called the *I’Themba tower. It’s HAPPY BIRTHDAY month for Spaza Art Gallery and as very little is known about the beginnings of Spaza Art Gallery I posed a few questions to Andrew, affectionately know as Drew, to get the full story on its eighteen years.

How did you land up in Troyeville?

It was by default really. I was looking to buy a bakkie scouring the classifieds in the newspaper, when I spotted a Troyeville semi-detached going for R60 000 with no deposit required. Together with a friend, I put in an offer not expecting to get it as neither of us had full-time employment, but we got it.

How did Spaza Art Gallery come about?

It began when I was doing mural paintings with the Social Development arm of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). They were setting up training centres all over South Africa to give retrenched mineworkers skills to start their own small businesses and I was asked to create murals and artworks at the centres. My approach was to go into these towns and villages where the centres where located and recruit local artists to assist me. I was also hoping that it would serve as some training and lead to opportunities for them. 

A mosaic done for NUM.

In my travels I met some really talented self taught artists. Back in Joburg whilst working on a large mural on the Market Lab Building, I met up with one of these artists which I had met near Bushbuckridge. He had recently won a local award and thought he could ‘hit’ Joburg, taking a taxi from gallery to gallery. I guess he was in for a surprise and left Joburg poorer for the experience.

However, this got me to thinking that I could create a space to show people, like him ,who really wanted to come to Joburg, that there was a huge gap between rural and small town artists. So in late 2000, when the tenants in the semi on one side gave notice, I started turning this space into a gallery which had its opening on the 3rd March 2001. One of the successes of the gallery was showing the works of an artist I had met in Welkom, a graduate from the Bloemfontein Technikon, and having his entire body of work bought by an investment company.

The other aspect was that I knew a lot of local artist who had works lying around in their studios, so we were never short of works to display and sell.  So began this journey….exhibitions, poetry and music sessions, making of huge sculptures in the garden… some of which can be seen around town like the mine worker on Sauer Street (now Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Street), all the Angels on Beit Street alongside the Alhambra Theatre and some even being sent off to Mauritius. 

Spaza Art Gallery

(The ‘gallery semi’ has now been turned into an Air B&B but tucked away in the garden is a tiny replacement gallery that recently held a ‘Matchbox’ exhibition).


The little gallery in the garden.

I know you have done a lot of work that is visible in the city, would you like to mention a few that you are extremely proud of?

I not only worked for NUM but have done a tremendous amount of public art projects – mainly murals – around the country. My first major mosaic project was the Troyeville Park in 1995. Again it was skills based and I proposed to work with the homeless in the park. It was a part of a deeper understanding that I had developed from when I first started working on a mural in 1991. You include the local community where possible and it protects what you are creating. This is true for this mosaic which has not been vandalised in all these years.

Part of the very large mosaic in Troyeville Park.

 Perhaps the most prestigious achievement was winning the competition for the Constitutional Court doors with Myra Fassler-Kamstra…and we actually made the doors on the property in the back yard. Another favourite is the 1922 strike mural on Bertram Road, working with 22 local women which really touched my heart as it was so transformational for those working on the project. I still enjoy the busyness of a white on white mosaic such as the pillars on Joe Slovo bridge.

con hill 2019
Constitutional Court doors.

What does the future hold for Andrew Lindsay and the Spaza Gallery?

There is a local initiative – The Maker’s Valley – which we will see how we can fit into but there are no plans yet. It’s hard to run any space, never mind over such a long period of time, as it requires continual renewal especially in the light of  the boom of new places and galleries,  but I think the future is more digital so we will probably move in that direction. At the same time I still think we have something unique to offer the people of Joburg and, of course, overseas visitors.

We have hope and the *I’Themba tower in our garden, so join our Facebook page and come and visit.

Watch out for events as there is always something to look forward too.

Besides Spaza Art Gallery what’s your favourite place in Troyeville?

It has to be the Troyeville Hotel.

I would agree with Drew on that – they serve wonderful Portuguese inspired food and its well worth a visit.

Chatting to Drew over the years that I have known him, I have come to realise that he really needs to jot down all the wonderful stories he has to tell about Troyeville and it’s inhabitants of then and now. Maybe a few more blogs are required on this old suburb of Johannesburg.


Looking up the I’Themba tower.

*I’Themba tower which stands in the garden of Spaza Art Gallery was a community project pieced together, on a 20 metre high redundant communications tower, using over 7000 recycled plastic bottles that each hold a message of hope inside. The project was initiated by r1 (local street artist) and involved local schools and waste collectors in collecting the bottles and putting the messages of hope inside each one. i’Themba means trust and hope, rather fitting for such an amazing space – don’t you think?








Black History Month – Dube, Soweto

February is “Black History Month” and originally started in the USA, but I’d like to think that we acknowledge this as well in the month that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, which was on the 11th February 1990.  Accordingly, when I saw that the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation was doing a tour of Dube in Soweto to honour six establishments with Blue Plaques, I thought this would be a good way to acknowledge our ‘Black History Month’.

The sky was thick with grey clouds as I headed to the Sunnyside to catch the bus – I had wished really hard that the rain would stay away, as everytime I have been to Dube with the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation it has poured down – hence my feature photo. It did not rain and turned out to be the perfect day for this event, and I am glad to know that the heavens occasionally ‘listen’ to me.

The home of the Sexwale Family.

Our first stop was at the house of the Sexwale family, where a blue plaque honouring Makhura Frank Sexwale who lived there with his wife Godlieve and their six children. Godlieve Sexwale still stays in the house and came out to watch the unveiling.

Frank Sexwale 1918 – 2015. Makhura Frank Sexwale was the first Chairperson of the Soweto Legion (1982-1990). He volunteered for active service during World War II and was one of 200 ex-servicemen to receive a very small house where he and his wife Godlieve raised six children. Their son Lesetja was killed in the liberation struggle and Tokyo – sentenced to 18 years on Robben Island – was the first democratic Premier of Gauteng……”

Godlieve Sexwale says a few words after the unveiling.

The second Plaque was at the house Andrew Mlangeni – “In 1962 Andrew Mokete Mlangeni was one of the first six members of Umkhonto We Sizwe to be trained in Communist China. A keen golfer he had to now concentrate on politics. In 1964 he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Treason Trial and incarcerated in the cell next to Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. He returned – with a degree and post graduate qualification in Political Science – to this home that he had occupied since 1954 with his wife June and their children…….”

Andrew Mlangeni unveiling the plaque at his house, assisted by Prema Naidoo, one of the board members of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

The house in which Potlako Kitchener Leballo (PK) lived.

The third Plaque was at the house of Potlako Kitchener Leballo (PK) – “While training as a teacher, Potlako Leballo was only sixteen when he volunteered for active service at the start of World War II. Twice taken prisoner in North Africa he was court-martialled for objecting to discrimination against black South African soldiers. Initially a member of the ANC Youth League, he broke away with Robert Sobukwe to form the PAC becoming Second in Command and Chief of its military wing, APLA-POQO. He was living in this house while planning the pass law protest at Sharpville for which he was jailed for two years. PK was banished to Vryburg, but chose to return to Lesotho, the land of his birth.

Cheche, I think this was Jackie Selepi’s sister in law and Flo Bird from Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. 

The fourth Plaque was unveiled at the house of two Activist Doctors – “This house was built for DrAB Xuma in 1959, after he was evicted from Sophiatown (His house still stands in Sophiatown as a museum, forming part of the Trevor Huddleston Centre.) A highly qualified medical practitioner, Xuma was president of the ANC from 1940-1949. After his death in 1962, his widow Madie Hall sold the house to Dr. Nthato Motlana. A community leader, his medical practice became a haven for the injured during the anti-apartheid uprisings of the 1970’s and 1980’s. His wife Sally is life president of the SA Council of Churches and Black Housewives League.

Family, friends and neighbours of  Sipho Mchunu come out to witness the unveiling of the Blue Plaque.

After a stroll up the road looking at the beautiful gardens and hearing about all the well known people who stayed in these houses, we arrived at the fifth house to be greeted by many family members of Sipho Mchunu who lived here. “Mchunu Home and the Maseru Massacre – Faced with a new wave of popular resistance in the turbulent 1980’s, the PW Botha regime embarked on cross-border attacks. Following the attack on Matola, Mozambique in 1981 the SADF inflicted a massacre on the ANC mission in Maseru, Lesotho on 9th December 1982. Most of the comrades were unarmed and unable to defend themselves. Forty two people died including five Basothu women and children. One of the fatalities was a member of the ANC mission in Lesotho, Sipho Mchunu, who lived in this house……..”

Singing with such passion.

We then walked around the block, bringing us to the final house where the people of Dube were in full song and dance. It was so moving that the hairs stood up on my arms and I didn’t really want it to end. This is the house of Sebina Letlalo – “A founder member of the ANC, he lived under banning orders through the 1960’s with the last one expiring in 1972. Thousands attended his funeral in January 1981. The raising of the banned ANC flag amid reports of the apartheid flag being burned, forced government to pass the new Republic of South Africa Constitution Act 101 of  1981 making it a crime to damage the national flag……”

Cheche Selepe our very informative guide.

We ended the tour at this establishment with a wonderful spread of food and drinks and the outstanding hospitality of the people of Dube. However, I am in awe of the historical knowledge of Cheche Selepe, a writer who, along with Flo Bird and David Gurney, led us around the neighbourhood sharing endless stories of the people of Dube.

We met so many interesting people that I wish that I could have included all of them and the many photographs I took. The area Dube is filled with interesting people some who live there still and some who have left. Hopefully I will return to discover them all.

Read more about Dube here – http://www.theheritageportal.co.za/article/dube-story


For the Love of Jozi – A hidden gem within Melrose Estate

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.

Ray Pogir the curator of the museum.

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.

As you enter you are already in awe of the vast collection.

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.

There are some really beautiful storage containers on display.

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.

pharmacy museum
Some unusual medication packaging.

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.

Ray explaining to Jordan and I the workings of a very early cash register.

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 raypogir@pssasg.co.za. A great reason to revisit Melrose Estate.

So much to see in the National Pharmacy Museum.





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