The article below, written by journalist and Joburg explorer Lucille Davie, looks at the layered history and significance of Johannesburg's markets over the years. It was originally published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 9 January 2004. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
Cultural history is plagued by the plague. The Black Death stalks through history pages captivating and horrifying us at the same time, even Shakespeare used the threat of the plague in his plays to curse his characters. Most modern humans see the plague as something of the past, a historical disease far removed from modern day living and experience.
However the plague has once again raised its head.
Johannesburg celebrated its 130th birthday on 4th October 2016 in great style with a memorable happy event organized by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (JHF) under the direction of its incomparable founder Flo Bird. The executive mayor, Herman Mashaba, as first citizen of Johannesburg was guest of honour at the birthday party held at Museum Africa in Newtown. Johannesburg city Councillor, Nonhlanhla Sifumba, member of the Mayoral comittee responsible for Community Development was also a guest of honour.
The Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA) is, with growing concern, following reports from heritage preservationists and activists about the crisis unfolding at Museum Africa – in our opinion custodian of one of the finest and most valuable Africana collections in the world.
In short, the crisis stems from critical staff shortages, in some cases, at least, two decades in the making, as important curator, educational, conservation, cleaning, facilities management and security posts have been left vacant.
The secret of a successful visit to Museum Africa is to concentrate on one exhibition, so giving oneself reason to return for another visit. A recent question on the Breakfast Quiz of Classic FM about the first Traffic Light installed in Johannesburg, triggered just such a focused visit to Newtown, as I set out to explore an evergreen permanent exhibition on Johannesburg Firsts.