This is a book of photographs of old inner city Johannesburg, of its buildings, cityscapes, street views and public art. It is a very beautiful book and it slips easily and rather well into the library of books on the changing faces of Johannesburg. At least 20 companies or institutes have contributed funds for its publication. The photographer is Patrick de Mervelec, who teamed up with the architectural historian, Clive Chipkin who has written the all too brief captions for the photographs.
This is one of those literal doorstoppers of a book. It is an immensely thick, dense, daunting and difficult to read tome. The scope of this book is vast and totally pretentious. The eye was on the detail and seemingly, because it was the work of a committee, no civic worthy or fact of civic worth could be omitted. Some 45 years after publication it is incredibly dated. The big themes and what is unique about this city in its short 80 year history is either lost in the plethora of facts or not there at all.
I had not come across this book previously and found that it is a rare volume, as it was produced for family consumption and to commemorate the life of a remarkable South African early business entrepreneur Joffe Marks who established Premier Milling. As Marks died in 1951 aged 89, a book appearing some 50 years after his death is almost half a century too late.
What is the purpose of a film? At the simplest level, it is a form of storytelling in visual form, satisfying an age-old desire of humans to gather to listen to the elders of a tribe relate as oral tradition, fables and myths, stories and heroic deeds. Films can entertain, educate, offer fantasy, and as a visual medium can thrill, scare and transport the viewer to another world. Film is a medium of popular culture. Film is a means of learning about other societies mediated through the imagination of the director.
Eric Rosenthal was a prolific, popular writer and populist historian. His dates were 1905 to 1983 and during a long career as a journalist, researcher and historian he produced some fifty books. There is a useful bibliography of all his writing in the Wikipedia entry (click here to view) and a collection of 20th century Africana will probably contain a number of his works.
In October 2016 Johannesburg celebrates its 130th birthday. From those early beginnings as a mining camp on the veld here is a city in its second century sufficiently mature to realize that there are some buildings worth celebrating and preserving; the camp grew to a town, then a city and is now a sprawling metropolis. It was a city with little appreciation of its past and property developers then and now seldom show respect for the old and out of date.
Review of The Reb and the Rebel Jewish Narratives in South Africa 1892-1913. Edited by Carmel Schrire and Gwynne Schrire. Published by UCT Press and the Kaplan Centre of Jewish Studies and Research, University of Cape Town. 2016. Paperback, illustrated. 258 pages. ISBN no. 9780799224931
Review of The Johannesburg Gas Works, by Monika Lauferts le Roux and Judith Mavunganidze, published by Fourthwall Books, 2015, 94 pages, illustrated.
Burgess, John (Compiler): The Road Through the Grove – Friendship and adventure along Louis Botha Avenue, Johannesburg in the 1950s, '60s and ‘70s. (Redsky publishing, 2016. illustrated, 284 full colour pages, 4 page fold out map by Trevor Romain)
I turned to this book on my shelves because I sought some background information on the Hal Hurst full length portrait of the elegant Mrs José Dale Lace. This now almost iconic Johannesburg society portrait hangs in the drawing room of Northwards. The illustration of the portrait features on the contents page of the Stevenson book but despite its prominent position in the book, there is very little discussion about the background to the portrait or the artist Hal Hurst.
This small publication (sponsored by the Goldfields Foundation) was published as a Johannesburg centenary venture in 1986 by the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust (today the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation). It is interesting in the context of the bibliography of both where the heritage lobby was some thirty years ago and how topics of historical investigation change. It has become a sought after little publication, highly collectible though only 40 pages long.
These days overseas travel broadens the mind and empties the pocket. Sometimes on a journey abroad an encounter with a work of art, recalls a remembered and much loved treasure at home and in a flash a whole new understanding drops into the brain. I had just such an experience in San Francisco recently when I discovered the fabulous European art collection of the Legion of Honour Art museum. San Francisco was lucky enough to be the beneficiary of the Spreckles collection of Rodin sculpture.
In 1948 a book called Homes of the Golden City was published. The book is about Johannesburg. The initiator of the project was Allister Macmillan, who sadly died before the book was completed. The project was brought to completion by a young writer Eric Rosenthal (1905-1983) who went on to be be a prolific author on historical themes.
From Jo'burg to Jozi Stories about Africa's infamous city, edited by Heidi Holland and Adam Roberts, 2002, paperback, 258 pages, ISBN 0143024191
Activate/Captivate, Collections re-engagement at Wits Art Museum, edited by Laura De Becker and Anitra Nettleton, published 2015 by Wits Art Museum, 192 pages, illustrated. ISBN 978 0 620 67792 9
This is one of those dozen or so "must have in a Johannesburg collection of books". Published in 1979, it is a book that reminds one of the passage of time. How recent now seem one's young days and yet how long ago it all was. A friend recently commented that it is impossible to stop the march of progress, when I bemoaned the impact of the new Rea Vaya on Louis Botha Avenue which, as a result of the road works, instead of revitalization, has become a hazardous obstacle course.
Richard Lewinsohn, Barney Barnato from Whitechapel Clown to Diamond King, Routledge, London, 1937, 275 pages, 8 illustrations, hardcover
In its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, Ravan Press was regarded as the daring, oppositional anti-apartheid publisher in Johannesburg, ready to take an alternative perspective of South African society. The publishing firm was established by Peter Randall, Danie Van Zyl and Beyers Naude and the firm's name, Ravan was an amalgam of their three names. They were publishers of the left and they supported the academic struggle for a different view and ideological interpretation of social issues of the day.
Albums are normally highly idiosyncratic and personal to the individual who has assembled a collection of photographs or stamps or newspaper cuttings. In 1986 Dr Oscar Norwich, was a medical man with an insatiable appetite for collecting African maps and all information relating to Johannesburg history.