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 Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has been given the generous gift of a delightful 1987 centenary calendar, celebrating the 100 years of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The Calendar comprises six prints of watercolours by the well-known artist of that era, Philip Bawcombe.
A short distance from the entrance to the Market Theatre is the famous jazz club Kippies. In the article below, Joburg journalist and explorer Lucille Davie reveals the story behind the building and the man that gave it its name. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 13 September 2002.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie explores the painful history behind the Worker's Library and Museum in Newtown. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 10 October 2008. 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.
On 21 August 2017, conservation architect Frances Woodgate delivered an outstanding speech at the pilot launch of The Station Market. Those lucky enough to be in the audience were treated to an in-depth look at the history, significance and future of one South Africa's great heritage landmarks. We are honoured to publish a full transcript of the speech below.
The following history of Johannesburg's early markets formed part of a much larger piece on the Market Theatre which appeared in the 1976 edition of Restorica, the old journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). The name of the author does not appear which is a huge shame for such a well researched article. Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.
The Johannesburg Stock Exchange has had a remarkable six homes during its existence reflecting the massive growth of Johannesburg, South Africa and the institution itself over a relatively short period of time. The streets where it has been located have become famous in financial circles around the world (think Simmonds, Hollard, Diagonal and now Gwen Lane). Whenever the Stock Exchange has moved, major banks and companies have followed creating new financial districts and leaving old ones to reinvent themselves.
Diagonal Street is one of Johannesburg's iconic streets with an energy hard to find anywhere else. It is difficult to imagine a time when its very existence was threatened. The following compilation of sources provides an overview of the preservation of Johannesburg's most famous street scene. The details appeared in a survey conducted by Johann and Catharina Bruwer in the early 2000s. Thank you to the City of Johannesburg for giving us permission to publish.
About five years ago I stumbled over weeds and litter to get a glimpse of the crumbling Edwardian Lavatory in Newtown. I wondered how many more times I would be able to visit the heritage gem before the forces of neglect consumed her. When Atterbury announced its plans for the massive Newtown Junction development I prayed that this would mean a second life for the historic structure. Thankfully my prayers were answered and the developers along with their heritage consultants kept the building safe and secure during three years of construction.
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.
When people look back on the demolition of iconic structures many question why more wasn't done to save them for future generations to admire. As time passes the complexities of each case often disappear. We really enjoy digging deeper into the debate of the day and trying to unravel the motivations and interests of the parties involved. In the case of the Newtown Cooling Towers there were strong arguments on both sides. The short Sunday Times article (1985) below highlights a few of the complexities of the time.
The original conversion of part of the Newtown Market Buildings to create the Market Theatre complex in the mid 1970s is one of the great adaptive reuse success stories in South Africa. The complex is one of Joburg's cultural icons and a huge asset to the reviving Newtown Precinct. In the article below Nigel Mandy describes the fight, vision and generosity that it took to get the initial project going.