musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Parktown

The Women’s Jail in Johannesburg

This is a retrospective post dealing with my visit to the Women’s Jail in Johannesburg. I can tie the date down to 10 March 2012 as that was the day that I visited the Number 4 JailConstitutional Court and Johannesburg Fort.

I do not remember the Jail as I did the Fort, I remember the Fort because of it’s strange angled entrance, but I suspect I just didn’t notice the jail right next door.

The main entrance certainly doesn’t look like a jail, if anything it looks like just another old building that has an extreme case of burglar bars. 

However, if you do manage to walk through the front door you will be surprised at what lies beyond. 

The jail was built around the “panopticon” concept of Jeremy Bentham, as it features a central area with cell blocks radiating around it. It certainly looked very smart and businesslike when I was there, but I suspect reading back on history it will turn out to be yet another place of punishment and not rehabilitation.

The women’s jail was built in 1909, with separate sections for whites and other races. Treatment meted out on prisoners here really depended on their race. The white prisoners were given better treatment as compared to other races who were crowded in their cells with bad and inadequate sanitary conditions.

However, considering the state of the nearby “Number 4” jail, this place appears to be almost luxurious in comparison. 

The problem with a place like this is that many who were incarcerated really deserved to be here, and many did not. This jail also held political activists like Winnie Mandela and Albertina Sisulu.

In 1932 Daisy de Melker was held here. She was eventually convicted of murder and executed by hanging.

Realistically there was not a lot to see here because much of the facility was closed when I was there, and naturally I was the wrong gender to be in a place like this. 

The one thing I did not feel in this building was the sense of heaviness that I got from Number 4 Jail, at least the cells in this building seemed to be more habitable than that of Number 4. Still, I am sure that the days and nights were very long for the inmates, many of who were incarcerated for trivial offences that did not warrant the punishment dealt out by the courts. This building does go back to the bad days of “Pass Laws” and all the petty apartheid legislation that was created to oppress the African population.

My time was over and I do recall I had to be elsewhere on that day so I did not spend too much time here. The irony is that I lived very close to this place of imprisonment and never even realised it. At least the reason for this building has changed, it is just a pity that places like this are needed in the first place.

DRW ©  2012-2019. Retrospectively created 05/06/2017, fixed non opening images 13/07/2019

Updated: 13/07/2019 — 10:17

Public Art: Pieter Roos Park

The opportunity to go around Pieter Roos Park in Parktown, was one I had to take. I had ulterior motives because in June 1992, a memorial to HMSAS Parktown, was unveiled in the park. Unfortunately, even though I lived close by in those days I never really visited the park, and had never seen this memorial up close.  The tour was courtesy of Past Experiences, with whom I had gone walkies before. The aim was to try visit the public art that is in the park, after which I intended to head off home. However, between when I arrived and when the tour ended a seed had been planted in my mind.
The first photograph I took was not at the park, but close by. The Queen Victoria Hospital was where I was born over 50 years ago.
Like a large portion of the children of my era, very few of us even remember being there, but the experience must have left some impression on our mothers. It used to be THE maternity hospital in Johannesburg, but fell into disuse, probably because so much of its functionality was taken over by the new JHB Gen just up the road. 

Cornerstone of the Queen Vic

Just over the street was the old Children’s Hospital, a place I grew to know when I was very young. We would walk up the hill from Park Station to visit the hospital, up the hill, past the Miners Monument and then down the hill till we saw those strange outside stairwells. I had my tonsils removed there, probably at age 9, and that was an expedition all of its own. 

Today it’s called the Transvaal Memorial Institute for Child Health and Development. But I have no idea what they actually do there.  Unfortunately I could not work out where the old Fever Hospital was, as I would have loved to photograph it as well.

Then it was time to go to the park. The first piece of art that greets you is a steel creation of a multi-armed figure topped with silhouettes of people. Its a wonderful airy piece of work and has many beautiful angles and lattices to peer through. 

Close by was what was left of my HMSAS Parktown Memorial, sadly, vandals have stolen the anchor and the memorial has lost its context, but I am glad it is still there, along with the Roll of Honour.
The story of this brave little ship and her crew are beyond the scope of this blog, but more information may be found at the relevant Wikipedia page.
The park is a well tree-ed space, and green was the operative word, I could see many people taking advantage of its facilities, and it was definitely a haven of peace in a mad city.
Our next major artwork was the graffiti plastered walls of the sub-station. This formal graffiti work is brilliant, and  the artist has so much talent. The theme seemed to revolve around the private lives of television sets. I cannot explain it, you have to see it for yourself! 
This piece of public art is next to Queens Str, and make sure you walk around the whole building!
Very close to this work are a line of cocopans that look lost. In a city that was built on mining, these miniature train wagons turn up in the oddest places.
There is also the obligatory cubist work that could be…. um, or maybe….
Actually, this strange piece is by the famous sculptor Edoardo Villa. Personally  I think it needs eyeballs.
Close by is an interesting piece that illustrates “The significance of the ‘spruit’ in the urban storm water culvert“.
Again it is one of those things that needs an on hand investigation, although a handy information board does help a bit.
Then we came to one of my favourite pieces. One of those marvellous steel creations festooned with cut out insects and creatures. It was really one of those pieces that I can photograph all day. There is an almost alien-like craziness about this creature/creation.
The theme of insects is carried across to the playpark alongside, with its recycled tyre surface and assorted “goggas” in contrasting colours.
The last piece was one of those magnificent wood stump carvings that leave me boggled. There are two others in the park created out of old tree stumps, and the artistry is outstanding. Preservationwise, they are in need of it though.
Then it was time to head off elsewhere. Constitution Hill was waiting for me, but that’s another blog posting for another day. Oh, and just in case you wanted to know…
© DRW 2012-2018. Images and links recreated 23/02/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 14:36
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