In Portrait with Keys, Ivan Vladislavic describes Johannesburg drily as ‘the Venice of the South’, because ‘the backdrop is always a man-made one.
We have planted a forest the birds endorse. For hills, we have mine dumps covered with grass. We do not wait for time and the elements to weather us, we change the scenery ourselves, to suit our moods. Nature is for other people, in other places.’
‘Nature’ was actually imported into the Highveld. There were almost no trees on the grasslands of the Witwatersrand, and Johannesburg’s developers realised that if their upper-end real estate was going to be attractive to foreign investors, it needed to be shaded. And so, when they planted the Sachsenwald Forest on the northern slopes of Parktown Ridge to provide pit-props for the mines, they decided to multi-purpose the trees to provide shade for the settlers and to reduce the dust of the veld and of the mining activities. The project succeeded. Look at Johannesburg’s northern suburbs from the top of one of the ridges, ...or from the sky or the Google Earth view, and you will see a vast forest that the birds have indeed endorsed; the largest man-made urban woodland in the world, according to the city’s publicity shtick: plane and oaks, blue gums and jacarandas, immigrants all.
Mark Gevisser was born in Johannesburg in 1964, and lived here until he was 40. Although he shamefully now resides in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, Johannesburg will always be his first home, a place about which he has made films and historical exhibitions. A well-known author, his books include Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred (2007), Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa (1994) and Lost and Found in Johannesburg (2014). His upcoming book is The Pink Line: The World’s Queer Frontiers. Venice of the South is an extract from Mark’s book, Lost and Found in Johannesburg (2014).
In 1993 my working-class parents scraped together enough rands and cents to send me, their Soweto-born first child of three, to high school in Berea.
Before we became the Rainbow Nation in 1994, Berea and Hillbrow were known as places where people of all races, nationalities and creeds could get together to do seemingly ordinary things – like eat, dance and talk to each other away from the crucifying gaze of racist rule.
For the young, the formerly exiled and returnees to the ‘motherland’ these parts of the city represented freedom. Nearby was Rockey Street, where Jah Seed and The Admiral spun reggae dancehall tunes to a thick cloud of the ’erb at House of Tandoor. From restaurants serving injera to the sounds of Fela Kuti booming from Japanese sports cars, the promise of a new South Africa had us all on a high.
Lerato Tshabalala is an author, podcast host, editor, digital content creator, and creative director who tells stories for a living. A graduate of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she studied Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA. She is tied to Johannesburg because it’s the only place she knows of where a 39-year-old unmarried, childless black woman born in a three-roomed house to a teenage mother in apartheid. South Africa, can still dream.
Most mornings at 5am you could find Nelson Mandela taking a walk around his suburb in Joburg.
It was remarkable for two reasons. The first was simply that the world’s most famous political prisoner, after 27 years mostly on Robben Island, was free to just take a walk. The second was that the walks took place in his adoptive suburb of Houghton.
Since the early days of this mining town done good, Houghton was where the wealthy and entitled made their homes. The suburb under apartheid was a place of racial exclusivity, and living there was a symbol of immense status.
Mandela’s moving in was one of those gestures he made that turned many decades of painful racial distortion on its head.
His choice of Houghton was characteristic, much like his decision to speak to his jailers in their native Afrikaans, to understand them so he could encourage them to understand him.
Toby Shapshak’s best job in a long career was shadowing Nelson Mandela as a young reporter. Joburg born and bred, he is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine, and a Forbes.com and Financial Mail columnist. He has an abiding passion and interest in how Africa innovates best and his TED Global talk on this topic earned him a feature in the New York Times.
He is waiting patiently for the green light on an island near Joe Slovo Drive in Berea, inner Jozi flatland. He is waiting so that he and the cars facing east of the city can compete for lanes.
He is clad in blue overalls, at least I think that was their original colour. The pair has probably not seen the inside of a washing machine. It’s also not kind to the nostrils.
Let us call him Tshepo. To many residents of Johannesburg, people like him have no name. Invisible even though they are so visible on Johannesburg’s streets, in its suburbs and even outside its swanky estates.
‘Are you tired. Can I offer you some little help,’ I ask Tshepo. Taking off his earphones, but still not revealing his face that is covered by a woollen balaclava, he politely declines.
Edward Tsumele is an award-winning arts journalist whose work over the past 20 years has been published in mainstream publications both in South Africa and abroad. A Wits Journalism and Media Studies graduate, he is the founding editor and publisher of the Johannesburg arts publication CityLife Arts. Edward has been associated with Johannesburg for close to 30 years, both as a student and a media professional, and is as much at ease on the streets of Jozi as he is with the suits in the northern suburbs.
It’s dusk in Newtown. The cars on the M1 winding around the city appear as a train of many carriages, lights blinking on as the sun slowly sinks. I park my car.
As the daylight weakens the streets teem with people swarming towards taxi ranks and bus stops, starting to form queues, vendors packing up the day’s wares, pedestrians doing awkward dances across the streets in the face of oncoming traffic and against the signalling green light for cars.
Everyone looks to be on their way out of the city. Trying to catch taxis, buses, trains, to travel out of this place and be spat back into those other places, the suburbs and townships beyond the landscape that froze sometime in the 1970s.
I get out of the car, reluctantly leaving my warm cocoon, steeling myself for the still frosty air of an autumn evening.
Laurice Taitz-Buntman was born in the small town of Benoni, and so forever fated to yearn for the city life Joburg promises. An African Literature graduate, she is the publisher and editor of Johannesburg in Your Pocket City Guide and has spent much time both as a newspaper journalist, editor and writer trying to make sense of Johannesburg. She fiercely believes that cities have the power and responsibility to transform people’s lives for the better and is willing to go to battle to defend this view.
The Wilds, just off Joe Slovo Drive in Upper Houghton, is one of Joburg's most magical places. It's more than just a park. In addition to it's 16 hectares of indigenous vegetation it also has easy cobbled walkways leading to spectacular views of the city, public art and a weekly line-up of events and activities. Thanks to a group of über Joburgers it has had a recent rejuvenation.
I Love You I Hate You talk at The Rand Club, date TBC
I Love You I Hate You talk at David Krut Bookstore, date TBC
An Intimate Talk The Stack, 29 November 2019, 14h00 Private Event
TBWA \ Africa Conference 31 October 2019, 09h00 Private Event
FNB Art Joburg Sandton Convention Centre, 13-15 September 2019
Limmud Johannesburg 2019 18 August 2019, 15h30
Love Jozi founder Bradley Kirshenbaum has translated I love you I hate you into a 40 minute talk. It’s a fast-paced, visually driven presentation that tells a story not only about Johannesburg, but also about design, and how this city became the muse of Love Jozi. It has an added personal element about Bradley's background that is not included in the book.
It was first presented a year before the book's release at Creativate, a design and technology conference at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, on 28 July 2018.
The talk is fast, fun, quirky, and inspiring. E-mail Bradley directly for more information.
You can hear the talk at some of these events.
In 2009 we made a t-shirt with 'NO ONE READS YOUR BLOG' written across the chest, as if someone angrily scrawled it with a ballpoint pen. The message was anti-web and anti-everything yet it unexpectedly became our bestseller for that year. For whatever reason, people thought it was funny enough to buy.
It was tagged onto our Online Range, and the rest of the range's messages were ironic and funny too.
We were reminded of it as we reawaken our weblog to connect more with our followers. It will be the space where we share and expand on our book that is currently in production. It's been a labour of love for designer Bradley Kirshenbaum and everyone is thrilled that it's about to be born.
I love you I hate you is a book about Johannesburg told in two parts.
The first is told through design. It is the story of Love Jozi so far, a catalogue of more than 100 t-shirt graphics. We revisited our image archive from the past 15 years to narrate a tale of the city. T-shirts have always been the core product of the brand, and each range has emerged from a specific context. The book is illustrated by rich visuals which show how Johannesburg became our muse, inspiring bold designs and new ways of looking.
The second part is told through a collection of short essays by contributing writers. We invited 34 Joburg thinkers, doers and observers to start a conversation with each t-shirt range. This collection spells out a complicated relationship with the city. The result explores Johannesburg in fresh ways and takes the reader down unexpected paths, grappling with a complex place that inspires competing emotions of love and hate.
Our collaboration with the book's 34 contributors marks the culmination of 15 years of designing t-shirts spurred on by an urge to figure out this crazy city.
Title: I love you I hate you
Author: Love Jozi
Concept/Design: Bradley Kirshenbaum
Editor: Laurice Taitz-Buntman
Contributors: Nickolaus Bauer, Gerard Bester, Milisuthando Bongela, Sarah Britten, Greg Bowes, Nechama Brodie, Clinton Chauke, Louise Darko, Mark Gevisser, DJ Grant, Russell Grant, Ferial Haffajee, Louise Hildebrand, Ufrieda Ho, Aspasia Karras, Matthew Krause, Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine, Charles Leonard, Adrian Loveland, Brian Kent McKechnie, Sylvia McKeown, Niq Mhlongo, Alphonse Nahimana, Leigh Ogilvie, Toby Shapshak, Gus Silber, Kwanele Sosibo, Laurice Taitz-Buntman, Josef Talotta, Lerato Tshabalala, Edward Tsumele, Trevor Waller, Nomfundo Xulu-Lentsoane, and Tanya Zack
Publisher: Love Jozi
Genre: Design; Travel; Africana
Price: R440 inc. VAT
Specifications: Pages: 304; Binding: Paperback; Size: 170 x 245mm; Spine: 20mm; Weight: 940gm
Contact for details on book-dealer and corporate discounts.
This new collection has a different stance. The Trashy Range has been brewing for a few years, inspired by both our love and our fury. Messy streets, municipal strikes, weekend aftermaths and the informal recyclers whose routes are the backdrop to the story.
Like many developing countries, South Africa's waste management system is dependent on informal recyclers. They are difficult to miss in Johannesburg. Pushing and pulling hundreds of kilograms, they make a living by collecting, sorting and selling our trash. From their daily routes they know the city's streets intimately. They also understand recycling and the difference between paper and plastic better than your average citizen.
The recyclers are as iconic as our trees and towers, which is why we wanted to make a series of t-shirts representing them. We asked three of Joburg's top graphic designers – David Tshabalala, Phindile Thengeni and Sphiwe Giba – for their interpretations of these humble heroes.
After many kilometers on Johannesburg's harsh roads, they arrive at a "Cash for Scrap" centre where their day's collections are weighed and sold. We collaborated with photographer Brooklyn Jové Pakathi to shoot David, Phindile and Sphiwe modeling their t-shirts at one such depot in downtown Jozi.
As part of our Recycling Johannesburg series, we collaborated with graphic and textile designer Sphiwe Giba. Originally from Tsakane in Ekurhuleni, Sphiwe worked in the advertising and design industries before forming his own company, Juxtapoz. In 2014 he was a Design Indaba Emerging Creative, and a City of Joburg Sculpture Design recipient. His body of work and clean design style shows his true understanding of finding creative solutions for brands, events and homeware.
As part of our Recycling Johannesburg series, we collaborated with designer Phindile Thengeni, a Free State born, Joburg based visual artist. Phindile has a real rebellious streak which paves her way of living. She uses design, photography and fashion styling as her artistic outlets, and regularly exhibits using Instagram instabitions. Phindile is a restless creative, and spent 2016 studying culinary arts to reinvent herself as an upcoming chef.
As part of our Recycling Johannesburg series, we collaborated with designer David Tshabalala, co-founder of creative collective Suketchi. Originally from Harrismith in the Free State, David is now a great addition to the Jozi design scene. His illustration style is pop-inspired and influenced by 90s fashion and colours. He was one of Mail & Guardian's Young South Africans in 2015, and a Design Indaba Emerging Creative in 2014, amongst his other accolades.
"Can you please make us a huge Love Jozi Skyline out of hundreds of books?"
"Um... yes, why not...".
Ask us nicely and we will do anything. Especially if it's at Turbine Hall and conceptualised by Breinstorm.
The 7 metre installation was built in 8 hours using 1600 books donated by participating publishers at the SA Book Fair.
We cheated only twice with some fine plywood renditions of the towers. Photos by Phumi Kunene from David Krut Publishers.
Like any big city, the Johannesburg skyline has its definitive landmarks. But unlike any other metropolis, you can't visit or pose directly under these icons because access isn't allowed.
The Hillbrow and Brixton Towers stand proud in Johannesburg, beaming out the identity and badge of the city. They provide a backdrop to our story. Shrouded with mystery, they suggest a hint of deceit and the forbidden, once close, now faraway; a con of the eye.
Love Jozi's 16th t-shirt range focuses on these elusive monuments, going closer to reveal what was once concealed, touching the abstract, rendering emblems. The designs not only attack, but revamp the established and stereotypical representation of Johannesburg’s industrial shrines, going where others dare not go, bringing the untouchable nearer to the t-shirt wearer.
Love Jozi collaborated with photojournalist and visual artist Dean Hutton to shoot this range.