“In my years as Professor of Surgery at Wits, I have become aware of a disproportionately large number of students, doctors and academics associated with Wits Medical School who were educated at St John’s College. I have come to suspect that there is a St John’s Medical Mafia at work.”
The Wits Art Museum (WAM) in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, has around 12 000 items in its stores, with a strong southern African ethnographic collection of beadwork, drums, headrests, wooden sculpture, ceremonial and fighting sticks, dolls, masks, basketry, sculpture, wirework and textiles. The WAM collection contains many fertility ‘dolls’ from southern African cultures, and has 58 items which are named as ‘dolls’ made by Ndebele or the closely related Ntwane group.
A little-known story in South Africa is the remarkable effort under the direction of Professor (later Sir) Basil Schonland, Director of the Bernard Price Institute of Geophysical Research (the BPI), at Wits, to design and build a radar set within three months of the outbreak of war in September 1939.
Having graduated with the double Bachelor's degree MB Bch in 1959 after 6 years of study, I was now a brand-new Doctor.
The Medical training program at the time called for 2 more years of practical work under supervision, in a teaching hospital of one's choice before being officially qualified to practice. This was a bit like an Apprenticeship but called an Internship. Ironically we were not called Interns but Housemen or House Surgeons.
I found Mike Alfred's article about Jonathan and Geoff Klass absolutely fascinating as I have known Collectors Treasury and the Klass Brothers from the time they started up in business at what we now known as 44 Stanley Avenue (click here to read the article). Those were the days when for a young collector recently returned to Johannesburg there were wonderful book bargains and a great shared joy in finding good books. I have watched the business grow to the pre
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.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie tells the wonderful story of the rediscovery of the grave of Enoch Sontonga, composer of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. The article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 11 January 2002. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
For reasons that I have never fully understood, between about 1968 and 1972, the Wits campus underwent a period where posters of all colours and sizes proliferated, advertising everything from Rag Ball to intervarsity rugby, from Nusas teach-ins to visiting lecturers, and from Fresher’s Reception to rock and roll festivals. Every now and again the apartheid thugs that ran the country would provoke a rash of political posters, and the SRC elections were always an active time for poster artists.
The old ‘Rembrandt Gallery’ (built in 1963) on the University of the Witwatersrand west campus, has been given a second chance. After years of neglect, the refurbishment of this unusual little building has finally been completed, emerging as the ‘new’ Post Graduate Centre for the faculty of Commerce, Law and Management.
If you wish to depart this earth in a puff of smoke, Johannesburg has just the place for you. It has an excellent state of the art crematorium that has kept up with the times. Here is a heritage building with a difference. I have known about the crematorium since I was a child and attended a cremation service for the father of a friend.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie looks at the epic transformation of spaces across three buildings to form the Wits Art Museum (WAM). The piece is unique as Davie was able to draw from her experience on a behind the scenes tour shortly before WAM opened. The article was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 6 March 2012. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
The William Cullen Library is a much loved landmark on Wits University's East Campus. It was built in 1934 on the west side of the Library Lawns and houses a vast number of valuable collections. The article below, compiled by Rowallan Hugh Fitchett, traces the architectural history of the building. It was originally published in a mid1990s edition of Between the Chains, the journal of the Johannesburg Historical Foundation.
Johannesburg is a gold mining city and, through the decades, there have been a number of disasters related to the industry. A walk through Johannesburg's cemeteries offers a visual history of premature loss through mine related explosions. The granite memorial in the Braamfontein Cemetery erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the great dynamite explosion of 1896, is still moving and offers a unique insight into Johannesburg history.
In 1961 the "new" Johannesburg Civic Centre was being conceptualised. The City of Johannesburg invited architects to submit their plans for the new landmark building in an open competition. As part of this process the City issued a folder labelled Architectural competition / Boukindige Prysvrae containing a locality plan and detailed site plan.
In or around 1970, when the Department of Dramatic Art was about to open the following year, I was visited by John van Zyl and Art de Villiers, who had been appointed to the staff of the Dramatic Art Department. They were in a bit of a panic because notwithstanding that the Department was opening in a matter of a few weeks, no provision had been made for a performing venue.