Saturday marked the annual heritage tours of The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. This year the foundation focused on the older parts of the City of Joburg, with walkabouts around distinct areas, including struggle sites, Green spaces, and Randlord’s homes. I took part in the ‘Pride of Joburg tour’ which was a 3 hour walk through the oldest parts of the inner city, including the Rand Club, Hollard square, and the Johannesburg Public Library. The tour bus picked up the tour group from Oxford street where the foundation had their home-base for the weekend. We arrived shortly at Ghandi Square where we began on foot. The tour was given by Adam and Brian, who are avid city lovers and knowledgeable about the architectural history of the city. As we walk I imagine life in Joburg’s inner city in past times and its life through the ages.
Walking around the City is liberating, as one foot steps in front of the other, it is as if you are moving and being transformed by the buildings and spaces before you. The Victorian and Edwardian buildings display the grandeur of old times. The elite and wealthy displaying and boasting their gold-measured worth. Women in their corseted gowns, fascinators and parasols can be easily imagined walking through the streets alongside the burlesque buildings while the men with one hand leaning on a walking stick and the other holding a pocket-watch step into the old Standard Bank.
The Art Deco buildings clash against the Victorian buildings, with modernist features and height. Signifying a new error where Capitalism and office hours overpower the inefficiency of grandeur. The city bustling and busy with suits and anxious minds concerned about shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. But, Joburg wasn’t simply a romantic life spent in the city, but one of conflict and serious disenfranchisement too. I imagine workers and people parading for their rights and their worth, not a measurement of labour, outside the Magistrates court. Today, the diversity of the city glows as we walk down the streets that resemble the crumbling debris of rotting buildings alongside the modern and new city life. Skating crews chill outside of the Public Library, women dressed in Canary yellow and wearing the highest heels parade the streets. Different people all living their every-day lives in and amongst each other.
I loved just walking the streets for my eyes to wonder and my mind to imagine. Often the only way Joburgers experience the greater city is through their car windows… I think it’s time we hit the streets.
Pictures taken by me. Disclaimer: I am not a photographer, just a girl with a camera.