Graffiti in Johannesburg

What I love most about living in South Africa is that it has taught me, more than any other place I’ve ever lived, to step out of my comfort zone.

You might not believe this, but I’m really not all that adventurous. I love to hang out in my suburban bubble. I most love the days when I don’t have to leave the house.

Which is why getting me out the door to do something a) new, b) not interesting at first glance, and perhaps even c) strenuous is actually quite the feat. Kudos to my friend Bing who succeeded on both fronts last week when inviting me to come along with her on a guided tour to see street art and graffiti in the Braamfontein and Newtown areas of Johannesburg. We were having coffee in the morning (the promise of a cappuccino is the one thing I always gladly leave my house for) and I was going to spend the rest of the day catching up on the gazillion things a blogger does every day (and a husband typically has absolutely no understanding of), but then she tempted me with the prospect of spending the rest of the day with her, and, I admit, an opportunity for cool pictures for my blog. Although honestly, more blogging material is the last thing I need at the moment, what with three hundred plus leopard pictures to sort and a history of Botswana to write.

 

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the entire graffiti album

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the entire graffiti album

And, graffiti, of all things? Not a topic I typically lose any sleep over. In fact, it is rather something I find annoying. I do not understand, at all, the urge to express yourself on someone else’s wall while looking over your shoulder in case a person of authority might come to chase you away or arrest you. Come to think of it, that is possibly the very last thing I would ever want to do in my life. I grant you, however, that the graffiti artist might say the same thing about writing a blog and publishing it for the world to see.

My curiosity won. And the fact that with the kids still in Germany I had no good excuse whatsoever to have to return home.

So you could have found me yesterday traipsing through downtown Joburg for three hours, carefully avoiding the crumbling asphalt and crazy traffic, at one point barely arresting my foot in midair before disappearing into a wide open manhole, blisters rapidly growing in shoes that were totally inappropriate for that kind of a hike (but very appropriate for sipping a cup of coffee).

 

The Nelson Mandela Bridge is one of my favorite places in Joburg.

 

Metrorail trains as seen from the Nelson Mandela Bridge
The other thing that was totally inappropriate for this particular activity was my little old camera, which I had absentmindedly shoved in my purse that morning, thank God I must say, but still not nearly what I would have wanted to capture all those awesome colors, especially since the battery teetered on the edge of dying any moment. I don’t typically leave my house with our good DSLR camera slung over my shoulder, just on the odd chance that something worth photographing will pop up, but I’m beginning to think I should do precisely that. As it is, you’ll have to contend with my sub-par photography of all the great graffiti we were treated to, but the good news is, Bing, who is the better photographer in any case, has them all on her blog.

I can highly recommend Past Experiences. Our tour guides Jo and Tania not only vowed us with their huge knowledge of the graffiti scene and their passion for the inner city of Johannesburg, they also provided something interesting to look at besides the graffiti:

 

Our guide Jo with Past Experiences