The author and poet Mike Alfred followed up his book Johannesburg Portraits: From Lionel Phillips to Sibongile Khumalo (Jacana, 2003) with a second series of writing about contemporary Johannesburg people a few years later. In a series of interviews and reflections Alfred captured the pen portraits of people who he encountered in Johannesburg, people who made a difference to and who had an impact on the kaleidoscope of Johannesburg in the first decade of the 21st century. Mike’s book is about their lives, their achievements and their relationship with th
Roger Webster, storyteller, raconteur, heritage supporter, broadcaster and author passed away after a short illness on 6th January 2020. Roger was an enthusiast of South African heritage and history.
Last weekend my husband Keith and I spent a weekend in Durban as guests of the Durban Art Deco Society (DADS). I was there to deliver the lecture at the Annual General Meeting of the Society on the Sunday morning at the Phansi Museum but we had about 26 hours to see Durban and pleasure the pulse of the Indian Ocean city which had been Keith’s home town and my favourite teenage holiday destination. I knew Durban from my childhood sojourns and then family visits to the grandparents once we had settled in Johannesburg but in recent years our visits have dwindled so
I snapped the image above from the Station Street entrance of the Braamfontein East Campus - exiting the Wits gates. Photo taken on Sunday 17th November 2019. It reminded me of how much of a city university Wits is and how layered the city is in the buildings around us.
In the foreground are the old corrugated iron semi-detached workers cottages (now the Performing Arts Administration of Wits’ School of Arts). This was once a home of an artisan - we know they were here as artisan’s residences of turn of the 20th century Braamfontein.
Saturday 5 October 2019 was a heritage cum book day of note at the library complex to be found at Solomon Street. The weekend offered booklovers the annual City Library book sale spread over two days, hosted by the Friends of the Johannesburg Public Libraries and the Johannesburg Library and information services.
Last month I attended the opening of the new photographic exhibition at Museum Africa: The Gift of Seeing History – The Legacy of Dr Arthur David Bensusan. The exhibition commemorates the 51st anniversary of the establishment of the Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography. The exhibition runs until 21st September and has been curated by Ms Dudu Madonsela of Museum Africa.
The Grand Station Hotel went up in flames on Friday evening, 2 August 2019 (main image courtesy of Eugene Ulman). This news reached the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation members at their AGM on the Saturday afternoon. Heritage people gasped with shock, dismay and distress. The hotel was an icon of Johannesburg, it achieved the status of being Johannesburg’s oldest surviving hotel, although by the late 1980s it was no longer run as a hotel.
On Saturday 3rd August 2019 I delivered a talk to members of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation entitled ‘Blue Plaques - Heritage History and Blue Lining our City.’ The Heritage Portal has had requests for at least some of the “take-aways” from this talk to help guide other South African heritage bodies. I will be delivering a talk on blue plaques in October at the HASA conference in Tulbagh. Meanwhile let’s skim over the subject of blue plaques and their possibilities.
This week I dropped in to visit James Findlay’s bookshop situated in the basement of the Rand Club. If you have not yet visited the reborn Rand Club it is definitely worth it. Enjoy a coffee at the bar (or go for something stronger) and spend some time out in the bookshop. The Rand Club has come to life with a renaissance and reinvention.
If you are a Johannesburg enthusiast you will certainly be delighted to acquire four recent Johannesburg books. It seems like almost a deluge of titles on old Johannesburg. A fellow Johannesburg heritage enthusiast threw me the questions: well what is the difference between these books, which one is for me and is it really necessary to buy four books all on Johannesburg?
A few months ago it was my pleasure to lunch with Mr Walter Pon, of first Chinatown of Johannesburg and Brett McDougall (Chairman of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation). Mr Pon has a passion for the history of the Chinese community in South Africa. Lunch was a gastronomic route into Chinese culture and history - our meeting point was the Ming Woo restaurant (corner of Alexander and Commissioner Street) which started and ended with copious small cups of delicate green tea. Lunch was Dim Sum, a variety of enticing servings of Chinese delicacies. This unpretentio
The map above is of considerable interest as it shows the principal route of travel to South Africa and from the principal ports inland. By 1889 the railway had reached Kimberley from the coastal ports of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and East London; and in Natal the railway went as far as Ladysmith. The Lorenco Marques railway connection went inland as far as Komatipoort. From the terminal points the traveller proceeded by coach.
On Saturday 16th February, Chinatown in Cyrildene put on its festive finery and glamour costumes. The colour red predominated and red symbolises happiness. The Chinatown in Cyrildene was celebrating the Chinese New Year in style with the biggest and best of street parties.
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has been given the generous gift of a delightful 1987 centenary calendar, celebrating the 100 years of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The Calendar comprises six prints of watercolours by the well-known artist of that era, Philip Bawcombe.
Ordinances of the Transvaal 1903, 1904 and Statutes of the Transvaal 1907. Whoever wants to look at old, dry, dusty, obsolete law books? Law books date, they take up space on shelves and laws are repealed. Legal language is precise and unemotional. The Transvaal ceased to exist in 1994 and today a completely different provincial government structure has replaced the pre 1994 arrangement of four all white driven apartheid provinces and the 10 bantustans.
Last weekend (Sunday 3rd February 2019) I joined ten heritage stalwarts of Kensington who came together to acknowledge history and pay homage to a remarkable war memorial and the men whose names once appeared on it. We gathered because during January 2019 the memorial had been extensively and probably irreparably damaged. Erica Lűttich had together with her students created an art installation by wrapping the memorial in cloth.
An advantage of book auction sales is that they renew the stream of collectable books coming onto the market and give a fresh spurt to book collecting. New book collectors are encouraged to join the book community. Old book collectors have the opportunity to acquire that elusive appealing title on the wish list. There is nothing quite like the excitement of bidding on an auction sale for a desired treasure, and the market deciding who will be the fortunate new owner.
Kathy Munro's three part series on the Yeoville Water Tower comes to an end with this piece (click here to view the series index). The article highlights the overall German contribution to early Johannesburg and suggests that the German connection to the Yeoville Water might be a reason why its origins were concealed in 1914/1915.
Below is Part 2 of Kathy Munro's wonderful series on the Yeoville Water Tower (click here to view series index). The piece takes an in-depth look at the historic blueprint and reveals the secrets of the water tower's origins. The article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Architecture SA. Thank you to Paul Kotze for giving us permission to publish and to Gail Wilson for the use of some of her magnificent photographs.
I recently came across the souvenir album Barnett's Views of Johannesburg and Suburbs. I photographed a panoramic view of the early town (in three sections) and thought I would share it. The book has no date but the look of the cover, very art nouveau design with floral garland, and the street scenes and buildings leads me to believe that it was published in the late 1890s or early 1900s.