musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Newtown and Johannesburg revisited

During my previous visit to Newtown in September of 2011, I was severely hampered by really crappy weather. This time around, even though it was winter,  the weather had warmed up considerably from the previous week. The occasion was the “Creative Jozi” Public Art walking tour with Past Experiences. The intention was to pass through Newtown and then into the city itself, heading towards Hollard Street and stopping at a number of sites before returning back to our vehicles. I also wanted to revisit the Concourt area to photograph two artworks I had missed before. 

The former station

There had been a few changes at the Market Theatre parking area. The structure known as “The Potato Patches”  was now a big hole, and the wonderful old pedestrian footbridge was gone. However, the equally beautiful (and derelict)  toilet building could now be seen much better.
It was still possible to hang out with “Kiepie” or Brenda Fassie
And this beauty is still impressive.
Heading out, we passed Sci-Bono towards the old Chinatown area where the “Paper Pigeons” roosts on the traffic island that we used to pass on our way to and from Mayfair with the bus when I was young. 
From this spot one can see the former John Vorster Square, which was a place where many Apartheid Activists lost their lives to the violence of the security branch.  I had been wanting to get down here because the Sunday Times, as part of their centenary, had commissioned an artwork  to commemorate the eight people who lost their lives in this notorious police station. 
 
It is a powerful piece, stark in its simplicity, but sombre at the same time.  The artwork, entitled “Simakade” (the Zulu for “forever standing”), is by Kagiso Pat Mautloa.
From here, we walked up towards Main Street, pausing at Chancellor House, where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo practiced law. 
 
Before passing the Magistrates Court,
 
and up into Main Street where many of the mining houses had their headquarters. The Anglo American buildings are magnificent, and their decorative friezes are really worth looking out for. The most famous piece here has to be the Oppenheimer Fountains which was relocated from its original site behind the Rissik Street Post Office, to this spot in Main Street. And, as usual the fountain was not working! (or had been turned off). 
 
 
The most impressive piece of art had to be the statue above the door of the Anglo American offices. I had missed seeing it before, but this time around was lucky  The Cheetah statue is by Dylan Lewis.
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Even the fountain is beautiful. 
 
 
The cornerstone of this building was laid by Sir Harry Oppenheimer on 15 June 1938, and it must really be magnificent on the inside. They do not build buildings like this anymore.
 
The BHP Billiton Building, which is close by, has an equally magnificent entrance.
 
 
The area where this building is has quite a few reminders of Johannesburg’s mining history, including the “Langlaagte Stamp Battery” dating from 1886.
 
 
As well as the lintel from the former Cullinan Building
 
 
This space is now occupied by the former Standard Bank Building, which was constructed from the top downwards.  Also in this area is a Hunslet mine locomotive, 
 
 
old mining machinery,
 
  
And, one of my personal favourites, a rhino statue which is based on the gold rhino that was discovered at Mapungubwe. 
 
 
And, staying on the theme of rhino, a particularly striking wall which I originally thought was using a rhino as the motif, it turns out that the theme of this work is “bull and bear”, in reference to the Stock Exchange.
 
 
The whole of Main Street from the Magistrates Court up through to Ghandi Square is well worth the visit, it is traffic free and well looked after and secure. And, if your shoes pack up, pop into your local cobbler.
 
 
Having reached the halfway point at Hollard Street, we now turned around and headed towards Market Street, and as usual it was crazy. I remember Market Street from when I was young, and it was always a hubbub of traffic and pedestrians. Not much has changed except it has become even more congested because of the Rea-Vaya stops that have effectively reduced the traffic here to a crawl.
 
Unfortunately we did not go past the refurbished Library, and I eventually did make a trip to see it and was not disappointed.
 
 
Another place from my past is Kohinoor World of Music, which I do remember from the days going to the Library by bus. It seems as if they have decided to remain where they are instead of fleeing to the nether regions of the northern suburbs. 
 
 
Fortunately, many gems still exist in this area, and the first time I had been here on a tour in 2011 it had been a public holiday so was very quiet. This was not true today.
 
 
The Rosenberg Building is one of the many oldies in Johannesburg, its foundation being laid in 1905.  There are also newer monoliths, like the former African Eagle building which is an easily recognisable landmark in the city.
 
 
Although when I was young it did not sport a giant coke bottle on its flank. 
 
We paused at the small park where the statue of Walter and Albertina Sisulu is. This is easily one of my favourite pieces of street art, and one which seems to charm everybody that finds it. 
 
 
The end destination was close, and we took a route that I did not know existed before, coming out at Sci-Bono and the end of the tour. 
 
 
I was bushed, but still wanted to make a trip to Museum Africa, and the Fort and Constitutional Hill. But that is another story, for another day. There are more images of Johannesburg on the relevant gallery pages
 
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