About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

18 May 2008

Museum Africa

I love going to museums, and have been to many museums, in many different cities. Most museums have the same approach to presenting to the public, and it is usually the content that draws the public - like the Space Shuttle or Concorde (or many other original aeroplanes) at the Air and Space Museums in Washington DC, or the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Museum Africa, in Newtown, has one of the most interesting ideas, that is certainly unique amongst the museums I have visited. One of the main displays, is about the Treason Trial - a fore runner to the Rivonia Trial (see here for more details), where over 150 people, including well known figures such as Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli and Walter Sisulu, were charged with treason; and no one was convicted.

In the first part, (as far as I know), every defendant has a portrait (either photograph or drawn) and a small plaque giving some brief biographic details. But, here is the really interesting part - under each portrait, is a little red book, and the public is invited to write down comments and facts about that person. For some well known figures, there is actually no real information - just a lot of praise from the public - a sort of public, buut anonymous, thanks giving. But it is for some really lesser known figures, that commentary shines through. Even minute details, such as the name of the family dog, or how the person lived in their daily life. Some of the accounts are truly mesmerising. There are other parts to the display also - a discussion of what is meant by treason, a collage of press reports, photography from journalists, profiles on the lawyers and judges involved; etc. But it is the first part that truly shines.

The other parts of the museum are also interesting - there is a display of Gandhi's time in Johannesburg; a small display of South Africa's human past (Taung child etc) - a display I think should be really expanded; a display on the history of some of Gauteng's townships, a display of music in South Africa (no actual music played unfortunately) and then an amazing collection and display of photography and history of photography.

Museum Africa is a definite visit, if you have time in Gauteng - and since it is free entry, I don't see why there should be a reason not to.

Newtown and Downtown Johannesburg

So, I finally got to exploring downtown Johannesburg for a while on Saturday. I parked at a parkade on Rissik Street, and then walked to Newtown and back. as I have noted before, Jo'burg is quite a lively place, and although the traffic levels were low, there were still a lot of people around.

There are some really beautiful old colonial style buildings around - but, as can be expected from a city that is barely 100 odd years old, there aren't too many of them around. While, some buildings like the City Hall are restored and still functioning, one of the buildings on the corner is as good as demolished, while the Old Post Office is being restored.

Perhaps, the most interesting part of the Jo'burg trip, was the small, but vocal, demonstration against the recent xenophobic attacks. I am however a bit confused by the demonstration itself. I picked up one of the flyers which criticise the government for doing nothing (and in some ways, of flaming the attacks); while the songs being sung by the guys on the truck praised the ANC and the freedom movement. In the morning, the demonstration was being held outside the Beyers Naude square, outside the library (another grand old building - should go inside sometime) and later on in the afternoon, it moved to outside the Home Affairs offices. The crowd numbers didn't seem to have grown in the meantime though.

Newtown, one of the oldest parts of Jo'burg, has been recently redeveloped as a cultural area. There are a number of theatres, and cultural activities - and is quite a beautiful area with parks and statues (such as one of Brenda Fassie outside Bassline) littering area. For example, streets in the Newtown area have funky decorations like the one below.

One thing that did strike me as odd, was that there weren't as many people as I thought there should be. And perhaps, it is to do with the fact that it is not really a family area - after all, while there are museums, it is not really a place where kids can hang out - it is almost too much focus on the adults (theatres, clubs). That said, Newtown is fascinating, and I think more people should visit it.