Postcard of the day

That’s cool, my photo of some Melville schoolkids hanging out beneath a tree in springtime bloom is today’s ‘Gauteng postcard of the day‘.

The original photo, which includes some cool graffiti can be seen here; unfortunately the graffiti was painted over earlier this year.


Stilte in die hospitaal

Stilte in die hospitaal – Silence in the hospital – Thulani umsindo

The writing (and a red dot) on the walls at Joburg Gen hospital (also see my earlier post).

Be a man

Be a man… by becoming slightly less man. Poster at Joburg Gen hospital.

Joburg Gen

The Joburg Photowalkers descended on the Johannesburg General Hospital (‘Joburg Gen’, the city’s oldest hospital), in the infamous Hillbrow district last weekend. Used until the mid-1980s, the hospital has some buildings and walls which date to the city’s earliest beginnings, built within a few years of the discovery of gold in 1886. Replaced by a really ugly new hospital plonked on the ridge, Joburg Gen was partly reused, partly mothballed, and partly left to rot. That leaves it in the weird situation of having fully functional clinics (including Africa’s largest HIV/AIDs research clinic, with 200 new patients per week apart from the hundreds of regulars) scattered between derelict empty buildings and old nurse flats which have been squatted – all within the security gates. Tours are rarely given here, which is why the usually small Photowalker group now ballooned to about 50 people. We were shown around the complex to see the heritage and the efforts that are being done to create a Hillbrow Health Precinct by renovating the historic old hospital buildings for new use.

After decades of neglect, the old main building is being renovated and will get a modern new 3rd floor.

These glass walls overlooking the operation rooms allowed the doctors to work by daylight. Students used separate entrances around the back of the building to access the viewers balcony between the inner and outer windows.

Photowalk chaos.

The ivory castle.

Modernist lines.

An unreal-looking Hillbrow Tower.

The first operating room, apparently one of the oldest remaining buildings in Joburg. In the days before lightbulbs and anaesthetics the slanted roof had glass panes to allow the daylight in.

An ornate ivy-overgrown iron staircase.

An old villa in the hospital grounds, now semi-squatted, with the garden used for urban farming.

Reliefs over the entrance to the huge empty 1930s hospital building (note the chappie has underwear while his girlfriend doesn’t).

The sandstone chapel for the nuns.

The pressed ceiling of the renovated historical management building (click here for an exclusive uncut behind-the-scenes making-of this photo).

Finally, a gem just outside the main hospital grounds: the wonderful Esselen Hospital, built in 1943 and designed by Wilhem Pabst, a German architect who emigrated to SA in the 1930s.

Melville winter

A mid-winter stroll around Melville with inspiring friends, taking in a long brunch at Service Station, Joburg’s best views from the Melville Koppies reserve, suburban streets and local beadworks.

UN Summit, with representatives of the USA, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and a shady character from the Netherlands.

Towers over Melville.

‘I can make any camera you want’.

Update: here’s Karen’s blog about the very same stroll, but with much better pictures.

Kitchener’s Carvery

One of the oldest bars in Joburg can be found in a former Braamfontein hotel, just north of the city centre. The Milner Hotel was founded in the early 19th century, and its bar Kitchener’s Carvery – named after the Afrikaner-eating British field marshal – looks like nothing changed in decades with its loud wallpaper and panel ceilings. On weekdays the regulars can be found propping up the bar, but on weekend night the pretty young things roll in, and there’s DJs playing electro music, bands and plenty of trilby hats.

One day her son is going to be too tall for use as a tripod.

Artist in the house.

I keep bumping into these guys.

Parade on Main

Berlin celebrates the Fête de la Musique festival each year with over 100 stages throughout the city, and hundreds of bands. Joburg is a newcomer to the party, and today the Arts on Main / Main Street Life complex celebrated with a puppet parade on the street and live music inside the Pata Pata bar, the Bioscope cinema and the Chalkboard Café. Together with photographer neighbour David I took the opportunity to have an Ethiopian meal in the sun at the market there, and to visit all floors of the complex to see the photos and artworks on show. As a bonus we also got a quick tour of some of the 12 Decades hotel rooms (see my earlier blog post) and the rather small private studio apartment of an actor resident with rather striking eyelashes.

On the roof of the Main Street Life building, where a new café has art, great views, a bar and soon a pool too.

Joburg’s skyline, with Africa’s tallest building poking into the blue sky.

My favourite room in the 12 Decades hotel, the apartheid-themed 1946-1956 room…

… where the absurd apartheid laws of that era now are firmly engraved inside the toilet bowl.

Each of the floors has artworks; the hotel floor was decorated with photos by the Joburg Photo walkers who I often join on urban photo safaris…

… which is why I can be seen in the middle of this picture 🙂

I wasn’t too enthusiastic about Gordon Froud’s art exhibition in an earlier post, but I think his own ‘minibus taxi crash’ sculpture made of plastic coat hangers (often sold along the road) is great.

The Arts on Main Sunday market. Healthy stuff, clothing, hipsters, art, Ethiopian food.

This is what Johannesburg’s coldest winter day of the year looks like – people enjoying the sun in freezing 13°C conditions.

At chalkboard café. You’re encouraged to scribble on the tables and walls with Chalk.