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.
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.
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.