The article below forms part of Mike Alfred's series on Joburg personalities from the first decade of the 21st century. Click here to view Kathy Munro's fantastic introduction and here to view the series index. The stories were written in 2005/6.
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
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie takes a journey around Lindfield House, one of Joburg's unique historic attractions. The piece was first published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 19 January 2011. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
Back in Victorian times the wealthy didn’t mess with security: they posted an armed guard, in the form of the footman, to sleep where the silverware was stashed - in the butler’s pantry.
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 the article below, journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the captivating story of the Jameson Raid, a major event in the history of Johannesburg and South Africa. The piece was first published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 27 October 2011. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
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.
This remarkable story of Fanny Klenerman and the Vanguard Bookshop first appeared in the journal Jewish Affairs in 2017. Click here to download the original article which includes full notes.
In the previous article the origin, course and outcome of the 1922 Rand Revolt were discussed (click here to read). In this follow-up article, some of the surviving sites from this event are reviewed.
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.
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation held its annual general meeting on Saturday 3rd August at Northwards. It was one of our best attended AGMs with over 80 members and associates present. The afternoon combined the formal annual general business meeting, report backs and a talk on Blue Plaques.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie profiles South African heritage icon Flo Bird. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 4 October 2002. Click here to read more of Davie's work.
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).
I returned to Johannesburg from Durban late in 1945 with my mother when the War in Europe was finally over. My dad would soon return from the Middle East after serving with the SA Medical Corps in Cairo at a military hospital.
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