all the small things
SARAH BUITENDACH: Where’s the jol in Joburg?
You can say a lot about the city — and not all of it good. But you can never say you’re short of things to do
A friend of mine regularly tells me how he is bored with Joburg.
Now, I think you can feel a lot about this hard, weird place — despondent, disillusioned, damaged even. But bored? Never! Just sit through a conversation with a Joburger vividly recounting a shoot-out at their local greengrocer, or discussing their regular lack of water, and you’ll get it.
But his argument — beyond the fact that it’s nice to live somewhere that’s functional, safe and not run by a ship of fools (fair points all) — is that in other “less boring places” there is just so much to do.
The last bit is where his thinking falls flat. This town is packed to the activity rafters. Even through the narrow lens of culture, food and the odd walk, the choices are impressive. They’re also proof that the sons and daughters of the City of Gold remain tenacious, imaginative and always up for fun.
Take Andticks, the pop-up concept store and events space at 16 Jan Smuts Avenue (once the offices of King James, before the advertising agency was bought by consulting goliath Accenture). It’s the brainchild of Vicky Ross, who owned the Park Café and Polish Nail Spa, and has now pulled out her jam-packed little black book to launch this gig.
For the next few weeks, the structures on the property are transitory homes to retail nooks for hot local outfits that include Mami Wata African surf brand and Daily Furniture. Ross has also put together a lineup of events that range from weaving and art classes to “one night only” dinners by the kind of cool cooks who have proper food types in a flap. They include the guys from Broodkop (whose sourdough and steak will change your life) and Joburg’s beloved Leopard (it’s a deli now, but its sit-down space and “little cough quail” menu item are much missed).
Up the road, the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra is wrapping up its spring season. There will be another run of concerts at Wits’s Linder Auditorium before you know it, so it’s worth keeping tabs on its website to book when tickets go online. Or buy a ticket subscription and get in there first.
From November 16-19, and following a great run of the stage adaptation of Damon Galgut’s Booker Prize winner The Promise, The Market Theatre is putting on the maiden production of Nkoli: The Vogue Opera. It portrays the life of gay anti-apartheid freedom fighter Simon Nkoli and has been described by the production’s co-lyricist S’bo Gyre as “if Hamilton and RuPaul’s Drag Race had a baby in South Africa”.
The creative community has been buzzing about this for months — in no small part because acclaimed composer Philip Miller is the man behind the show.
Of course, if you’re looking for something theatrical that suits the whole family there’s Janice Honeyman’s Peter Pan-themed panto, which is on at the Joburg Theatre already.
A feel-good story
If visual art is your bag, Jozi always has loads to offer, but a particularly powerful option is Lady Skollie’s Groot Gat at the Standard Bank Gallery in town. Lady Skollie was the 2022 Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Arts award winner, hence the venue. After debuting at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda earlier in the year, these bold, thought-provoking mixed media works are now on display in the CBD. Entrance is free and there’s plenty of safe parking.
And speaking of free, might I suggest a walk at Emmarentia’s botanical gardens. Go early to beat the heat, grab a cortado at Smart Perfect Coffee in the Thomas Bowler Street car park and then meander to the rose gardens. The water features there have unfortunately recently been drained (hopefully to fix issues), but this is somewhat offset by a blooming clever project.
The Gold Reef Rose Society, Ludwig’s Roses and City Parks are working to upgrade all the flower beds in this lovely terraced corner of the park. They’re making good progress thanks to financial contributions for new roses from all kinds of city dwellers who use the space and love it. Go and see for yourself, and then donate too. It’s a wonderful feel-good community initiative and a reminder that any place is what you make of it.
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