The recent Jozi Walks weekend brought a new verve and vibe to Hillbrow. Gerard Bester and his team of extraordinary young people of Hillbrow showed off the good, the funky and the dramatic side of Hillbrow life. It was a Hillbrow experience of note! Both the Saturday and the Sunday tours were fully booked. It is a first for the Theatre Community Centre and for the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation.
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.
In the early 1960s the Apartheid Government declared Pageview a white suburb (using the Groups Areas Act) and a decade later the bulldozers began their work. Residents were removed to Lenasia while many traders took up space at the Oriental Plaza. It was during this time that Franco Frescura set out to document some of the spaces, places and people of the area. Below are a few photos from 1973 that may interest readers. No captions have been added. If you recognise a person or building please post a comment below the article.
Satyagraha House is one of Johannesburg's iconic heritage venues. Back in 2009, before its transformation into a museum and guest house, it belonged to the Ball family who after almost thirty years of ownership decided to put it on the market. In the article below, Lucille Davie highlights Gandhi's connection to Johannesburg and the house. She also reveals some of the Ball family's memories and their feelings leading up to the sale.
The Soweto Theatre is a landmark structure built in an area with a powerful history. In the article below, Johannesburg enthusiast and well-known journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the details behind the theatre's design and construction. She also reveals the significance of the Jabulani Amphitheatre next door. The article was originally published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 12 June 2012. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
The last week of April 2018 will be remembered by Sandton enthusiasts for many years to come. It was the week that the Leonardo surpassed the Michelangelo Towers (140m) and then the Sandton City spire (141m) to become the tallest building in Sandton.
Dube is the name of a popular township in Soweto, but on a larger scale Dube is a well-known Nguni surname. However, in nature the name belongs to an animal, e-dube – a lovely, cheeky one with bold black and white stripes, the zebra. Here follows an exploration of the story of the Dube Township, Soweto’s own zebra. It is bound to reveal a few secrets and highlights how the Dube history differs from that of other Soweto townships. There are however, also similarities and a common apartheid and struggle past.
In the article below, Lucille Davie recalls the tragedy of the Westdene Dam Disaster. The piece was originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 20 June 2013. Davie's story was sparked by a visit by then mayor Parks Tau to various sites commemorating the loss of children. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
This wonderful album was published by Paul Schaefer and Company of Cape Town, a well-known compiler of souvenir books. The cover photograph in the oval inset shows the original Park Station which came to Johannesburg from the Netherlands in 1896. The station was designed by Jacob Klinkhammer. It was the point of arrival for visitors to Johannesburg in the early 20th century so this image is an appropriate entry portal to the town.
The Vaal river, a formidable obstacle at times, had to be crossed by the early settlers to open the way to the North. One of the crossing points in the days just after the Voortrekkers arrived was Viljoen's Drift. Josua Jacobus Viljoen had occupied the farm, Oshel, to the south of the river opposite what is now Vereeniging. The name Oshel (translated ox hell) came from the sandy ground which made life difficult for the oxen pulling a wagon.
In the article below, well-known writer Lucille Davie unpacks some of the complexity behind the life and personality of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The piece was written on 23 August 2013 for the Media Club South Africa website shortly after the publication of Madikizela-Mandela's book 491 Days: Prisoner number 1323/69. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
On Saturday 7th April 2018, the excellent Joburg Collectable Book Fair at the Rand Club saw at least ten dealers displaying their books, antiquarian maps and prints. Many rare and unusual Johannesburg books were on sale. The event was a huge success with visitors able to enjoy tours of the Club led by Brett McDougall and Brian McKechnie, musical entertainment by Tony Bentell and Selwyn Klass and several interesting talks by Isabel Hofmeyr, Hamilton Wende, James Findlay and Kathy Munro.
In the article below, well-known journalist Lucille Davie explores the rich social history of the Bantu Men's Social Centre and Dorkay House in downtown Johannesburg. Both buildings have received blue plaques since her article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 2 November 2006. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
My acknowledgement and huge thanks to Clive Chipkin, Marc Latilla and Alkis Doucakis who generously gave me their views and drove me to improvements and further research. Thank you.
During the restoration of the Pretoria Railway Station in the early 2000s, a swastika was found in the plasterwork above the clocktower. In the article below, originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 19 March 2002, Lucille Davie unpacks some of the theories behind the Swastika. She also takes an in depth look at the restoration process. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
A short distance from the modern Fourways CBD lies a highly significant gem from another era... an old house that once belonged to the Van der Walt brothers who farmed watermelons in the area.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie uncovers some of the powerful and painful history of Sophiatown. She highlights the origins of the suburb, its vibrant cultural scene and the tragedy of the forced removals. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 20 March 2003.
Since June 2000 more than R21-million in land compensation claims has been paid out to ex-Sophiatown residents. This adds up to 544 claims of R40 000 each.
The article below, written by journalist Lucille Davie, was originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 26 July 2013. It looks at details of Operation Mayibuye as well as an ingenious ANC arms smuggling operation that ran in the 1980s and early 1990s. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
When George Harrison discovered the Main Reef of gold at Langlaagte farm in 1886, it was believed by many to be an old river that had been turned on its side. They therefore believed the gold could not continue for more than about 30 to 50 meters underground.
Over the holidays I was given a unique Christmas gift by my friend, Peter Digby who shares my enthusiasm for Johannesburg heritage items. It was a single old yellowed newspaper page, dated 9th November 1965, from The Star Newspaper. The page was saved in a cupboard of the Digby home because it carried an unusual story. The headline was: “Fine old stone in a new wall“.