Johannesburg

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. 
 

In a test of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s reputation and approval rating in South Africa, a motion to remove the name and statue of the Indian leader from the city centre was debated in recent weeks by the Johannesburg City Council, the country’s largest municipality. The motion called for the removal of the bronze statue at Gandhi Square — sculpted by Tinka Christopher, it depicts Gandhi as a young activist lawyer in his legal gown — and the re-naming of the site after Sophie de Bruyn, a well-known anti-apartheid activist.

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.
 

No. 43 St David’s Road had a modest start, being built for one Edwin Hawkes in 1908 at the time of the gold rush. The architect is believed to be Robert Howden who was known for being a Classic revivalist and whose work shows a Beaux-Arts approach. Hawkes sold it to Julius Wertheim sometime around 1915. Wertheim was a solicitor and notary and was very much involved in the community (an attribute which seems to have rubbed off on the present owner). No.

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.

 

In Fordsburg, passersby hurry through a nondescript market square bordered by Albertina Sisulu, Dolly Radebe, Mint and Central Roads, quite unaware it marks the final stronghold of armed strikers during the 1922 Rand Revolt.

Known as the 1922 Miners’ Strike, Rand Revolt or even Red Revolt, occurring merely five years after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, it remains the greatest violent political upheaval on the Witwatersrand (Rand).

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

Ladies and gentlemen. What a marvellous, almost miraculous Day this is for friends, neighbours and all the conservationists who stood with us holding protest banners 10 years ago. We were devastated when the buildings were demolished and for nearly three years there was a complete impasse. The authorities would not take any action, stop orders were in place and we in the heritage lobby could not see a way forward.

 

“The cemetery is the ghost of Roodepoort West. It is the last vision of the vibrant African location that once stood where the suburban houses now stand. Like a ghost, the cemetery continues to haunt the people, now living miles away in Dobsonville, who remember its past." - Michelle Hay. 

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