Johannesburg. Jo’burg. Joeys. Jozi. Egoli. It’s all the same place.
South Africa’s biggest city. The city built on gold. The city that South Africans – well, those who don’t live in it – love to hate.
We generally don’t have a kind word for the concrete jungle that appears to be a shrine to money, crime, traffic jams, Gareth Cliff and a piss-poor rugby team. Confession. I was born there. At Mary Mount Hospital. While my parents lived at 55 Mars St. Truly alien. But, after just 18 months of life, I managed to persuade Mom and Dad to get the hell out and move to Pietermaritzburg. I’ve tried really hard to avoid going back ever since.
Check? You almost can't see the grossly ostentatious flaunting of wealth for the trees
The concrete jungle we call many names is actually, wait for it, the biggest man-made forest in the entire world. Yes. Hang on. No. I reckon birds had a big hand in helping to create the 10 million trees that green up Jo’burg today. But still, very surprising, hey?
And, just for good measure, the Awesome SA book also tells us that Jozi is the biggest city in the world not to be located beside a lake, a river or the ocean. Who knew that?
In this, the fourth of my occasional interviews with interesting people who live in my home village of Stanford in the Western Cape, I ask the “Big Five” questions of Jill Smith, who runs the local agency of Pam Golding Properties.
It is fitting that I publish this interview today, on Women’s Day, because Jill is indeed one of those women who are, at once, strong, feminine and inspiring! But why don’t you see for yourself?
FH: Please give us a little personal background, Jill. Where were you born, schooled, shaped as a person and when and how did you first discover our lovely village of Stanford? And when and how did you and Brian meet?
JS: I was educated in East London and did what was one of only a few career choices young ladies had then – nurse, teacher, airhostess, (very posh) hairdresser and secretary. My Mom loved courtroom dramas so I was to become a Stenographer – not a Shorthand Typist which is what it is – but a Courtroom Stenographer… it sounds so much better! You know the type, glasses perched on the edge of your nose and taking down verbatim all the sordid details.
In really boring and over-regulated countries, such as Little Britain (as opposed to Great Britain which ceased to exist decades ago), Germany and many others (but not including those where they drink a lot of really strong coffee like Greece, Italy and Turkey), people drive very well. As in responsibly.
We don’t have that problem here in South Africa.
It is an indisputable fact that, in Durban, everybody drives very slowly and badly, except for those spiky-haired boys who wear Ferrari jackets over their Manchester United jerseys and drive black VW Golfs. With tinted windows. They drive really fast. and very, very badly.
In Cape Town, everybody stares zennishly at The Mountain while they drive, even when they are pointed away from The Mountain. Enough said.
In Jo’burg, people take South African driving to another level altogether.
1. Indicators will give away your next move. A real Jozi motorist never uses them.
2. On average, at least three cars can still get through an intersection after the robot (traffic light) has turned red. It’s the people who don’t adhere to this basic principle who cause traffic jams.
3. Never, ever come to a complete stop at a stop sign. No one expects it and you’ll get bashed into from behind.
4. Under no circumstances should you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front. That space will be filled by two Golfs (driven by spiky-haired boys from Durban), a BMW and a minibus taxi, putting you in an even more dangerous situation.
5. The faster you drive through a red light, the less chance you have of getting hit.
PS: When a new, and as yet untrashed, car is bought in South Africa, the owner automatically assumes the right to be king of the road and is justified in expecting that every other driver will be so impressed that they will hang back and admire the shiny, new vehicle, thereby giving the proud new owner absolute right of way…
Beautiful. Follow those basic rules and you’ll be just fine. And nobody can accuse you of being as boring as the Brits.
In the fourth of my weekly interviews with an interesting resident of Umdloti, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – the idyllic seaside village in which I am blessed to live – I asked the Big Five questions of Andre Cronje, director of the Wild Touch programme on SABC.
Let’s have a quick look at him, shall we?
FH:You grew up in or near the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, yet knew from a very early age that you wanted to be out in the bush and working with wildlife… how did that come about?
AC: You see, Jozi-city is one of the most hardcore jungles out there. If you look at any aerial shot of the place it’s striking how many trees there are, there are also some crazy animals lurking in the bushes. On a more serious note, most of my ancestors were hunters, farmers and fishermen. I guess a love and understanding for nature is in my blood.
FH:You have been involved with Wild Touch, SABC’s popular wildlife educational programme, since its inception and now direct the series. How did you get involved and what does working with the programme mean to you?
AC: I have been working in the television industry for 11 years now so you naturally get involved with the kind of projects that fits your profile. It’s important for me to believe in what I invest my time and effort in. Series Directing Wild Touch is very rewarding because I know that I’m involved with sharing something beautiful and important with the nation.
FH:We are constantly being alerted to horror stories related to the degradation of our environment. Working so closely with it, what is your experience of human abuse of the environment and what would your message be to the youth who are to inherit it?
AC: You said I must keep my answers short, this question might take days to answer! But I think if we look around us right now, you will see the answer. The abuse that’s visible in the environment is only a mirror of our abuse of ourselves. Just like the orangutang, we are also running out of living space and just like the fish in our rivers the polluted water will also kill us. If there is a message for the youth it would be to start a revolution! Don’t be as ignorant as me, your parents, your teachers or our world governments. Don’t accept the easy way out and do question what is going on around you. To this day we are pretending that we don’t know that we are killing the earth and ourselves.
FH: A group of foreign visitors to South Africa (let’s say, ahem, a gaggle of gorgeous Scandinavian environmental science students, shall we?) arrive on your doorstep and demand to be shown the finest wildlife attractions our country has to offer. Where would you take them? And why?
AC: It depends… the Scandinavian students can hang around my house for a week or so and they’ll get up close with vervet monkeys, various snakes, spiders, amphibians, whales, dolphins and the beautiful birds of prey that hang out here. If it’s a small group I’ll take them on a wilderness walk through the Umfolosi Game reserve. Am I allowed to punt any cool organisations on this blog? Check out www.wildernesstrails.org.za.
FH:Cool. OK. So, you’re often to be seen surfing off and skateboarding around our gem of a seaside village, Umdloti. And I happen to know that you live in a beautiful house hidden deep in the bush on a hill overlooking our bit of the Indian Ocean. How did you get to be such a lucky bugger? And, go on, make us all insanely jealous… please describe your paradisical living-in-Umdloti-vibe!
AC: Jeez, Hatman, you just blew my cover. I was put under a witness protection programme several years ago and they forgot about me. I’ve been trying to get out of this lifestyle for years! Jokes aside, if you let go of your fear, everything else happens naturally. I remember as a kid I dreamed that I was surfing some deserted island. Everyone around me always said that it’s a silly dream because I live in a city 600km away from the sea. So I thought F@*^ you all and I started imagining that my skateboard had no wheels and the concrete was water. The rest is history as I have since spent tmy life living my dreams. I do want to encourage everyone to live their dreams, however far your imagination runs… though it’s crucial that you never forget this: “Concrete is not water” and you will get hurt along the way. So to answer your question about how I got to be such a lucky bugger… “no matter how hard you fall if you get up and try again, you will succeed”. Oh, and by the way this doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt like hell either.
“Cape Town is neither as wealthy nor as large as Johannesburg (or nearly as sumptuously African as Durban), so the inhabitants compensate with a superior attitude based on the claim that they were there first… It is socially unacceptable for a Capetonian to talk to people that they have not previously talked to, which severely limits social interactions. If the opportunity should somehow present itself, a traditional Cape Town greeting is “Jou ma se poes“, often abbreviated to “Jou ma“, which means, roughly “Good day and good health to you and your good mother, sir!”
A Capetonian chills at a Cape Town bar in a Capetonian way. If Capetonians don't talk to people to whom they haven't talked to before, who DO they talk to?
One of those tricky questions, isn’t it? One that only a Capetonian could answer. Please do. Please help the rest of South Africa (the country Cape Town was once part of) to understand. Thanks.
And, in case those reading this in the Smother City have made up their minds that I wrote that quote at the top of this post, I didn’t. I wish I had. Funninesses. Lots of. I urge you to fully (that’s fulllly, bro) absorb how Uncyclopedia summarised the Republic of Cape Town. It’s too divine. Doll.
This weekend, in the second of my series of interviews with interesting Umdlotians, I ask the Big Five Questions of art photographer Jacki Bruniquel…
Jacki Bruniquel draws on a spiritual connection with the natural environment for her artworks Pic: Hatman
FH:What sparked your interest in art/photography? And how did your work first manifest itself?
JB: I have always been interested in art, some of my first memories involve drawing Enid Blyton characters on the great big faraway fig tree at the bottom of our garden. Perhaps it was something i was born with … it was also something that was also always encouraged by my parents. My interest in photography started when I began my fine art degree at Michaelis (Cape Town). On our first day we were told to make a pinhole camera from a box, a tin, some photographic paper and a piece of Prestik. I began a love affair with the dark room right there and then and found it much more enjoyable then sketching the crusty naked hobo types they got in for life drawing classes. From a pinhole camera i went on to a Pentax and then a Hasselblad. These days I have gone digital (and really really really regret selling the Hasselblad so I could buy a ticket to London!)
Umdlotian Darren Aiken is a sculptor of international repute. He lives in a beautiful home which seems to tumble down a hill on different levels until it lands almost on Umdloti’s north beach. He shares a home and studio space with wife Audrey Rudnick, also an internationally acclaimed artist.
In this, the first of a series of interviews with some of a whole bunch of amazing people who help to make Umdloti the idyllic South African seaside village that it is, Darren spoke to fredhatman.co.za…
Darren Aiken... with some of his miniature sculptures. That's Archbishop Desmond Tutu listening in awe to Metallica guitarist James Hetfield... with Springbok rugby star Schalk Burger looking on Pic: Hatman
FH: What was your early inspiration to take an interest in art?
DA: My first introduction to plasticine, at four years old. My inspiration for it to become all-consuming was the 1978 World Cup soccer in West Germany. My dad was there on business, I collected the Tiger comic weekly (a sports action boys comic book) and I sculpted each player from West Germany, Brazil and England 4cm high, with pin pricks for eyes and a cut for the mouth and a blob or spike which suited the shape of the nose, complete with hairstyle and “sidies” of the time, full colour clothes, numbers and bootlaces and stripes. These players I used as working toys, physically striking the ball to each other (with my help of course) and at goal on a green painted field with lines on a wooden board – it was my favourite game or toy of my youth.
It’s all over Twitter this morning. Capetonians tweeting about their Smother City being declared an “independent state”.
And I’m all over the floor, blubbing with uncontainable mirth, my thighs black and blue with the slapping of them. This is too much of funniness.
But, scarily, I think they’re being serious. As usual. Capetonians take themselves very seriously, don’t they? Serious about everything they eat being organic and hydroponically hand-grown up the backside of a vegetarian cow. But I digest, I mean digress.
OK. So their radio station Heart 104.9FM has put out an official declaration that Cape Town is, for the month of August, independent of, um, well, everywhere else. Which will please that nice Julius Malema no end. And me.
Capetonians, forever foraging for new ways to feel good about themselves – and be seen as better than everyone else – have warmed to this theme like a sunny winter’s day in Durban. They’re all over it like a nasty rash. Which is what I get whenever I try to talk with a Capetonian, whose most recent recollection of the sun in winter is only to be found up his or her jacksy.
OK, down to business. Let’s scrutinise Heart’s declaration and pick up on a few facts, as Apetonians like to see them. It breathlessly states: “… the people who inhabit the beautiful city of Cape Town are like no other. According to research recently conducted by OIL, there is a distinct Cape Town mindset that is unique to Capetonians (OK, can’t argue with that). Capetonians were found to be more relaxed and content with their lives than their South African counter parts – it must be the sun and sea air.” Excuse me? Sun? In August? In July? In June? In September? In Cape Town? Come on.
Cape Town in winter. Not exactly ideal Pic: shaunoakes.com
I strongly dispute that Capetonians are “more relaxed and content” than the rest of us. It’s just that they are way too pleased with themselves. “Mountain this, mountain that… wine this, wine that… white beach here, white beach there… blah this, blah that.” Very windy, Capetonians. Very windy, Cape Town.
Check out this howling south-easter from OIL’s Velma Botha, very windily spinning out the “research” done for Heart 104.9FM: “Capetonians generally are found to be happy with their surrounds, other than (sic) in Johannesburg and other cities where people are constantly on the lookout for something better.” Naughty Velma. Not true. Capetonians are RESIGNED to living with gale-force winds, dark days and incessant rain which has just recently flooded parts of the city. Especially the disgraceful Cape Flats shanty-sprawl which, intriguingly, doesn’t appear to have been incorporated into the new Republic of Cape Town. Helen Zille must be giving all Capetonians night classes in “The Art of Spin”.
Notice how Velma’s “research” takes a pop at Jo’burg and “other cities” – presumably including the sub-tropical, sun-all-year-round paradise that is Durban? I don’t need to be a psychologist to correctly interpret this as a sign of mass insecurity among Capetonians, do I?
Winter in Durban: not at all bad... and neither is our World Cup stadium, which makes a mockery of Cape Town's half-sucked Polo Mint confection, doesn't it?
Before linking you with the full text of Velma’s and Heart’s head-spinning propaganda, I’ll leave you with this last little over-polished gem from CapeTownMagazine.com, which has respewed out all of the preceding tripe: “Cape Town’s charm and a combination of factors all work together to enhance the global appeal of Cape Town when compared to other 2010 host cities. World-class beaches, ample tourist attractions and a cosmopolitan night life make Cape Town the must-visit host city for visitors during 2010.” Yeah, right…