Little beats a week-end in the bush. Spent 4 nights in the Kruger National Park in early August at a bush camp called Talamati in the central area of the Park, west of the big main camp Satara. August is the best time for the Kruger Park as it is dry and game congregates around the water holes, plus the grass tends to be lower and the bush not as dense. And lots of general game there was. Kruger does not offer the massive herds that Game Parks further north in Africa do, but the variety and biodiversity is one of the best in the world. And Kruger is not just about the game, the bird watching and the flora but also about that peace and quiet in the camps or even simply sitting at a water hole and waiting to see what will transpire. Time takes on a different dimension and it was a big shock coming back to the ‘big smoke’ of Jozi. And yes I did some stargazing – beautiful clear nights and saw Saggitarius clearly above us.
‘Craighall Park Township, which forms the northern boundary of the Johannesburg Municipality, is one of the beauty spots of the Rand. .. The business man finds in the exhilarating air a peace and calmness, which are part of the place, a restorative to the nerves.’
No, this is not part of a 21st Century marketing drive for Liz at Lancaster Guest House, but rather comes from The Transvaal Leader 10 March 1911 (p. 8 c.7) where Craighall Park is advertised as a rural escape from the hustle and bustle of the town. The idyllic atmosphere of out-of-town is couched wholly in the language of the English picturesque – no harsh dry Highveld here, but rather pure idealized English countryside with all the accompanying activities of boating, fishing, country strolls, and that most English of pastimes, picnicking:
‘… broken stretches of water which have been caught and collected by the surrounding hills, glisten in the sunlight. Craighall being [sic:is] particularly fortunate in possessing an abundant supply. The lake itself is a fine sheet, where boating can be had in the most favourable circumstances. There are any number of boats to be had. In the vicinity are to be found numerous shady nooks, leafy trees, patches of verdant green, and miniature waterfalls, restful and cooling to the eye; while the place suggest ideal spots for walks and picnicking. Fishing, too, is a pastime that can be indulged in owing to the lake having been stocked with carp. …’
This discourse of Englishness is entirely understandable given the historical context of the founding of the township of Craighall Park. William Grey Rattray (died July 1928) purchased the estate (which included present-day Craighall, Craighall Park and Blairgowrie) in 1891. This was only 6 years after the proclamation of both Johannesburg’s gold diggings and of the original adjacent townships that were later to make up the southern part of Johannesburg CBD. Originally part of the larger farmland Klipfontein no. 479, District Pretoria, Rattray named this estate after his home in Craighall, Blairgowrie, Perthshire Scotland. [Blairgowrie is the name of the suburb adjacent to Craighall Park on the north.] (David Rattray of The Zulu War battlefields fame, was the granson of William)
Although 229 acre-plots were made available for sale by 99 year leasehold in Craighall in 1902 [post the South African War], and 300 plots (of the 600 surveyed), by freehold in Craighall Park in 1911 [post Union], the suburbs of Craighall and Craighall Park were initially seen to be too far out of town to be fully viable. In addition, Craighall Park in 1911 was about an hour’s drive from the city centre and fell just outside the tram service which ran to Parktown North, the adjacent suburb to the south.
Initially outside the municipal boundary and so avoiding municipal taxes, Craighall Park came under the jurisdiction of the Craighall Health Committee when Johannesburg was established as a city in 1928. The 3 suburbs of Craighall, Craighall Park and Blairgowrie were incorporated into the municipal area of Johannesburg in 1938 and improvements such as the tarring of roads and installation of street lights only occurred after the Second World War. The original house comprising part of Liz at Lancaster’s guest house dates to 1948. Liz and her then husband bought the property from the original owner in 1971. For the changes in the buildings of Liz at Lancaster see future blog.
As Rattray developed Craighall, and with his Scottish background, he named the streets after famous Scottish families, hence Talbrager, Douglas and so on. The streets of Craighall Park were named after English ducal families, such as Somerset, Buckingham, Lancaster, etc. Buckingham Avenue [one below Lancaster] in Craighall Park was one of the main roads off Jan Smuts, itself one of the original roads to Pretoria. History has it that in order for the ox-wagons to manage the steep hills in this area, the road curved to follow the gradients of the hill. Presumably some of the subsequent roads like Lancaster and Rutland were built to follow the same curve as Buckingham which explains why these roads start at the Parktown North side of the suburb (in the south) and curve round to meet Jan Smuts much further north. Craighall Park is such a confusing suburb largely because the roads do not follow the traditional grid pattern.
The recreational aspect of Craighall Park is evident in the number of hotels which were found in this suburb in the early days. Rattray farmed the land of his newly founded estate but he also dammed the Braamfontein Spruit to make the Craighall Lake. In 1905 the first advertisement appeared for the Craighall Park Hotel (which was apparently Rattray’s original home). This advert referred to the hotel as an ideal recreational spot for city dwellers. Mr Sam Kruger who owned a boot factory and then later the Craighall Park Hotel (where the Colony Centre is today) gave his name to Kruger St – a sole exception to the English ducal heritage of Craighall Park !!
Interestingly, when Liz at Lancaster applied for consent use to run a Guest House,(according to municipal bye-law), the title deeds had to be changed as they included a clause which stipulated that: ‘no hotel restaurant or hotel business or any tea room’ could be carried on without the consent of owners of 4 other property owners in Craighall Park. After investigation it transpired that this stipulation had nothing to do with protecting the non-commercial nature of the suburban neighbourhood , but related to historical title deeds of hoteliers who were protecting their commercial rights !! Incidentally I was also not allowed to have a slaughter pole or cattle kraal on my property !
It’s Women’s Day in South Africa this Sunday 9th August. It marks the day in 1956 when 20,000 women, in an extraordinary brave, resolute and powerful show of protest, marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the extension of the pass laws to women. Although I am sorry to be missing commemorative celebrations here in Joburg, I am very excited to be getting a 5 day break in the Kruger Park. Will upload further blogs next week when I return next week.
702 Talk Show host Jenny Crwys-Williams, had several conversations and interviews last week around the state of the Barbican building, a heritage resource in the Central CBD of Joburg. Since leaving Wits University in 2005, where in my latter years I headed up a newly-established post-graduate division of Heritage, Tourism and Cultural Management Studies, (what a mouthful), I have conducted research work into various aspects of Johannesburg’s heritage. Working for developers and conservation architects, one of my various contracts was to research the history of the Barbican.
The grand old lady, eccentric and weather beaten, stands on the corner of President St (no 89) and Rissik St. Occupying a highly significant position in relation to the early Market Square of the town, it was part of the original township of Randjieslaagte which formed the core of Johannesburg. Randjieslaagte was a triangular piece of land left over after the surrounding farms of Langlaagte, Turffontein, Braamfontein and Doornfontein had been surveyed in 1886. Owned by the Government, plots in Randjieslaagte were sold off by preferent rights (rather than freehold). T.W. Beckett (who was later to establish a large beverage wholesale company) was the largest buyer of land around Market Square, paying £1065 for the preferent rights on a block of 5 stands fronting market square. His purchase almost certainly included the stand where the Barbican was later to be built, for the first record in the history of the transfer of title deeds, shows that the building was transferred from Johannesburg Mining District to T.W. Beckett in 1921 (ie when preferent rights were changed to freehold rights). T.W. Beckett transferred it to Lease Properties in 1940. Prior to the Barbican being built in 1930 the site was occupied by a fruiterer in a small wood and iron building (South African Builder 1931) . The above plan of early Johannesburg, (showing Randjieslaagte in relation to the surrounding farms and the position of the Barbican on the north-east corner of the early Market Square of the town), comes from Musiker (Concise Historical Dictionary of Greater Johannesburg, 2000). Designed for H.G. Heimann in 1929 by Obel and Obel, the Barbican was completed in 1931 when presumably Heimann leased the property from T.W. Beckett.
The original plans of the building show that it was 42m high, square in plan, with eleven levels. These levels comprised a ground floor with nine floors above and a studio in the towers forming a tenth floor. (Accompanying 1931 photo of the Barbican from Museum Africa). There were 4 shops on the ground floor protected by a canopy with a lobby off President St and a lobby off Rissik St, both leading to stairs up the next floor. There was a restaurant with kitchen on the first floor, facing onto Rissik and President St. Farber (The Star 27 July 2006) writes that that when the building was first built, and ‘going to town’ was a big outing, people frequented the shops at ground floor level and ‘children would be given treats at the sweet shop while gas fires warmed the building’s interior.’ A grand staircase (still visible through the boardings) led up to the restaurant at first floor level where those who worked in the offices as well as visitors to town would have eaten. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors comprised offices, waiting rooms and workshops ( a waiting room and workshop per 2 offices) while floors 5 to 9 allowed for 9 offices per floor. The tenth floor comprised, on the south side, a large photographer’s studio with waiting room, dressing room, workshop and dark room and on the north side a caretaker’s bedroom and living room , with the ubiquitous ‘boys room’ and shower built above. An open roof garden (called a verandah on the plan) separates the southern studio from the caretaker’s flatlet. The contractors were Messrs F.Allwright and Co and the tender price was £30,000. (South African Builder 1931: 51) The building was erected in two stages marked by the lower portion (ground and the first 4 floors) faced in stone and the upper portion (floors five to faced in plaster).
Although Johannesburg architecture post War had tended to follow the English trends of post-Edwardian architecture, the Barbican along with Astor Mansions, (shown in accomanying photograph, source: Chipkin’s Johannebsurg Style 1993), signalled a time when Johannesburg began to look towards America. The name ‘Astor’, for example, referred to an extremely wealthy American family who made their money in New York real estate. The choice of name deliberately linked Astor Mansions to the grand apartment buildings and skyscrapers of Manhattan. Chipkin (Johannesburg Style 1993: 85) writes that ‘both [Barbican and Astor Mansions] belong emotionally, if not chronologically, to the optimistic period of the 1920s. Both epitomise Johannesburg’s competitive, hybrid environment.’ The Barbican was built to challenge the height of the Victorian spire of the Palace Building, previously Johannesburg’s highest structure But the Barbican was soon overtaken by Astor Mansions at eleven stories, also designed by Obel and Obel. Astor Mansions was also intended to be 10 stories high but when it was realized that the Barbican would dominate the Johannesburg skyline, Obel and Obel were instructed to increase the height of Astor Mansions. Shades of the 21st Century competition between the Michelangelo dome and Sandton City’s additional pyramid, to dominate the Sandton sky line !!
Alterations were made to the interior of the Barbican over the years to cater for the changing business needs. In 1949 Maison Gwen’s hairdressing salon occupied space on the first floor and by 1984 the Rendezvous Escort Agency occupied the third floor. In the 1980s the Barbican was already recognized as a ‘gloriously grotesque landmark’. It was selected by Roger Boden of Wits’ Town and Regional Planning Department to be included in a double page spread in The Star of May 4th 1981 of a piece entitled ‘Translating Precious Heritage into Special Beauty’. The building has been mothballed since 1990.
South African Mutual Life Assurance (Old Mutual) bought the property in 1995. In the early 2000s the Barbican was illegally occupied by homeless people and a lot of damage was done to the internal structure. Owning more than 40 buildings at one stage in the inner city, Old Mutual sold off about 28 of them between about 2001 and 2005. Whilst there have been continuous references to the upgrading of the building, nothing has yet materialized. The Property Magazine (June 2006) notes ‘the building is undergoing a R120 million refurbishment and will open as an upmarket members-only private club with a car showroom, a gym and a cigar and champagne bar. Reports say it is due for completion at the end of 2007.’ Nothing has come of this to date. Sadly the longer it remains unused the more dilapidated the building will become – demolition by dereliction. A sorry state of affairs. If Old Mutual was indeed committed to restoring Johannesburg’s history, and if it was always unable, due to costs, to restore this heritage resource for what is called adaptive re-use, one wonders why it bought the building in the first place? Although its headquarters are in a ‘neo- neo- classical’ office park in Sandton, Old Mutual’s has offices adjacent to the vacant land surrounding the Barbican.
Entrepreneurial property developers often promote urban living and a more cutting edge life style to society’s creatives and avant garde. Brian Green (cited in The Sunday Times Metro 15 Aug 2004) who developed the trendy 44 Stanley Ave complex in Milpark says: ‘I can see the absolute possibility and romance on the building, although it is dilapidated. It stands alone, uncluttered, and this only adds to its beauty’. He compares the dilapidation of the Barbican to the war damaged buildings he saw in cities in the Middle East, East Africa and the former Yugoslavia when he was a cameraman. An ironic inditement on Old Mutual’s commitment to inner city regeneration.
The public space which the Barbican now looks down on, formed part of the first Market Square in Johannesburg. The market building was demolished in 1915 after the construction of the City Hall (1912-1914) and subsequently the market moved to Newtown in the present day Museum Africa until 1974 when it moved to City Deep. This Market Square was to set the tone for the ‘spirit’ of Johannesburg up to the present day. Chipkin (Johannesburg Style 1993:15) notes: ‘From the outset the Victorian town … was a product of predominantly secular forces, and this was reflected in the town layout. Unlike Boer settlements built around their kerkplase – representing the relative cohesion of small Calvinist farming communities – Johannesburg was laid out around a central trading square, and church sites for a diverse population were relegated to random street corners in the town plan.’ While the Market Square remained the most important city square, it gradually became the nub of the administrative centre with the financial centre to south of the western part of the square.
A future blog will talk about the Barbican in the context of Dorothee Kreuzfeld’s 2004 ‘painting in public’ programme – an intervention with selected buildings and spaces in the inner city of Johannesburg.
A further blog will look at the Rissik St Post Office (1897) , another disgraceful example of demolition by dereliction, this time by the City of Johannesburg.
Am very excited as I’m off to the Kruger Park this coming week-end, leaving the guesthouse in the very capable hands of Zac, Catherine and Thandi. My locum Olga, who moves in with her husband Dick, takes over my daily tasks and role in the running of the guest house. I can barely wait for the early morning steaming coffee and rusks sitting at a waterhole, the silence broken only by the bush bird calls or the snort of a nervous impala; the warm dry dusty bushveld air; the sounds of the hippos grunting at night and, if they are in the area, the deep primal roar of a lion, or that eery sound of a hyena ‘whooping’; the evenings around the fire having a braai or even better a ‘potjie’ (Andrew, my elder son, makes a mean potjie stew). And of course away from the constant reflected glow of urban electricity, the night skies in the bushveld are just extraordinary.
There are several aids to help a novice negotiate around the night sky.
The Planetarium at Wits (founded in the late 1950s) has weekly shows on a Thursday at 7pm, on Friday at 8pm and Saturday afternoon at 3 pm. Also starting in September there is a course of 4 introductory lectures on reading the Southern Skies. (Cost: R160pp) Go to www.planetarium.co.za .
The resident astronomer at Maropeng (the information centre at the Cradle of Humankind) is running several stargazing evenings (firstname.lastname@example.org) The dates of the Stargazing events for the rest of the year are:
August 8 – Celebration of International Year of Astronomy
August 22 – Explore the Milky Way
September 19 – Jupiter and Galileo
September 26 – You are here: a brief journey through the time and space of our universe
October 17 – Living amongst the stars
November 14 – An introduction to our summer skies
A Sol Kerzner Hotel, AloeRidge out in the Cradle combines ‘Astronomy and Gastronomy’ where you can ‘Dine with Stars’ (great lines!). According to the website, the average meal cost is R130 per person and R100 for the star show. www.aloeridge.com
For those who have laptops there is a fabulous programme which is the night sky equivalent of Google Earth. Download it from www.stellarium.org. You can take your laptop outside and orient the sky on your screen to your position, insert the drawn lines and then ‘read’ all the constellations. It is amazing.
And then of course if you are really serious to find your own stars with a full blown telescope, you can go for the miraculous device called a Celestron Skyscout. This is a small handheld device with GPS technology which when you, point and click at a star, identifies the star and gives audio and text information about the star/constellation, etc. One’s own private planetarium.
Note: Rusks are chunks of dry biscuit – very South African, and tasting way better than they sound! And a potjie (meaning little pot)is another South African speciality – a stew made in a 3 legged heavy cast iron pot and cooked very slowly (like all day) over the coals.
Johannesburg CBD has seen upheavals and disruptions this week with striking SAMWU workers overturning rubbish bins and scattering the trash on the streets. While the strike for low wages is legitimate, there has been severe criticism of the unruly behaviour of some strikers. Redi Direko, one of 702’s talk show hosts, used words to the effect that those who were overturning rubbish bins were ill-disciplined, immature, irresponsible hooligans. A visiting American guest staying at Liz at Lancaster who has been doing research work on Hector Pieterson Museum specifically and Soweto more generally, needed to work at Museum Africa. This required him to negotiate striking workers collecting in Mary Fitzgerald Square in the thick of the strike action. The challenges of academic research!
Project 2010 no 145, a newsletter sent electronically every week, included this comment on the current SAMWU nationwide strike:
‘South Africa is back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Just two weeks after the National Union of Mineworkers ended a national strike which threatened to seriously disrupt several key 2010 construction projects, workers are at it again. Tens of thousands of SA Municipal Workers’ Union workers have taken to the streets to vent their rage over wages and working conditions. Footage of the protests are being flashed around the world, once again raising the question whether South Africa is capable of hosting a successful and peaceful 2010 World Cup. The answer is a resounding yes but, at the same time, we are not doing ourselves any favours. And, of course, it seems the strikers and unions are capitalising on the fact that they hold the trump card if the tournament is threatened in any way. Striking is a legal and legitimate way for workers to dispute issues with management, even when there is a secondary effect on others. However, we need to acknowledge the fact that the 2010 World Cup is looming fast. ’It is an event heavily dependent on the provision of transport, hospitality and the staffing and maintenance of sporting venues. When this country goes on show next year, the world should see an effective country. Not a strikers’ paradise where nothing happens on time,’ The Times noted in an editorial. At the end of the day, the World Cup will go ahead and we can take some comfort in the fact that we are not the only country forced to deal with labour disputes ahead of a mega sporting event. In 1998, host nation France was nearly crippled by a national transport strike on the eve of the World Cup. At some point over the next few months, the surge of excitement over the looming World Cup will unite tens of millions of South Africans – backed by an entire continent and hundreds of millions of other people around the planet wishing this nation to succeed. No doubt, this will counter industrial action or any other challenge thrown at us. The sooner the better.’
Wages at the lower end of the the scale for the Muncipal workes are around R5000 per month. Negotiations are still deadlocked.
Yesterday, Joburger’s took to the streets in force: 702’s Walk the Talk saw 50,000 people enter the various events: 5km, 8km, 21 km and 30 km. For those doing the 30km race it was bitterly cold (0°) at the race start at 7.30 am, but temperatures warmed up during the day to a high of 16°. A U.K. participant wearing shorts was interviewed saying that he did not know that Africa ever got cold and all he had packed were T shirts and shorts !!! (So those of you coming from overseas, be warned – check the weather before you come. There is a direct link to local Gauteng weather forecast on my website www.lizatlancaster.co.za). At the 702 event, traffic was very congested at the start and the finish, but once on the road, walkers enjoyed a festive atmosphere, with those taking part saying what a great spirit and vibe there was and how good it was to get out en-masse on suburban roads and contribute to a community of Jozi walkers.
Having missed the opening on the 4th July of Arts On Main I moseyed off to visit it last week-end. Located in Main Street at the corner of Bertha St, the only giveaway from the street of this newly renovated industrial space, is the pavement upgrades. The 1911 building was originally part of the D.F. Corlett yard and offices. A building contractor and past Mayor of Johannesburg, Corlett’s name on the façade gable facing Bertha St, bears testimony to his historical presence in this area of town. Leaving the street one enters a courtyard filled with olive and lemon trees around which are clustered various exhibition spaces, artists’ studios, fashion studios, and an eaterie called The Canteen (open for breakfast, lunch and supper) .
As I arrived mid afternoon on Saturday and as it is still very early days, most of the spacesWhen were closed. But this gave me a chance to chat to Jonathan Liebman the property developer (Propertuity). Son of Nirox Foundation Developer, Benji Liebman (another blog posting needed there), Jonathan has envisioned a space which will contribute to the regeneration of this part of town. He has assembled a formidable array of tenants. David Krut will open a second print studio and an art bookshop and Bailey African History Archives has a space. In keeping with the avant-garde and cutting edge nature of this development, the Goodman Gallery would like to see their gallery space as a project space where younger artists can be shown. The industrial proportions will afford the relocated Seippel Gallery the space to show large installations and Goethe on Main intend to foster alternative projects and young artists who have not yet been accepted into the stables of established galleries. But perhaps the ‘anchor tenant’ of this exciting new initiative is William Kentridge who has rented a large space for his studio. He won’t have far to walk to check out the hanging of the ‘Kentridge tapestries’ which will form the opening exhibition of Goodman’s in this space.
Giles restaurant and pub (4 blocks from Liz at Lancaster at corner Grafton and Buckingham Aves in Craighall Park) has become the latest meeting spot to unwind on a Friday after the week’s work. Cars line the streets in all directions (from lunch time onwards) and the pub and deck are packed with patrons overflowing onto the pavement areas. Great vibe and great wateringhole. 011 442-4056
Kim Miller, assistant professor of women’s studies and art history at Wheaton College in the States, is currently researching visual representations of women political activists in South Africa both during and after the struggle against apartheid. When in Johannesburg on her research trips, Kim stays at Liz at Lancaster Guest House. Wanting to track down the little known monument to Lilian Ngoyi, I accompanied Kim and en ex-Wits colleague and friend of mine, Barbara Buntman, to Soweto last week to find Lilian Ngoyi’s house in Kkungu St. Abey Pheega, a tour guide and transport provider, took us to ‘the house with the sewing machine’.
Lilian Ngoyi, one of the many extraordinary women who stood up against apartheid legislation, has the record of being the person who spent the longest period of time under house arrest. First banned in 1961 at the age of 50, she remained under house arrest (the banning was lifted between 1972 and 1975), until she died in March 1980. Although she died 2 months before her current banning order was due to expire, she would almost certainly have been rebanned under a further 5 year order. Ngoyi first made her mark as a unionist and went on to become the first woman member of the ANC national executive. President of the Federation of South African Women and vice-president of the ANC Women’s League she was one of four women – along with Sophie Williams, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa – who led the march of 20, 000 women to the Union Buildings on August 9, 1956 to protest against the extension of apartheid’s pass laws to African women. The plaque outside her house, now occupied by her daughter Memory and her grandchild, includes the following: ‘Her friend and comrade in the ANC, Hilda Bernstein wrote: “For 18 years this beautiful and brilliant woman spent her time in a tiny house, silenced, trying to earn money by doing sewing”.’
It is appropriate therefore that the subject of the memorial to Ngoyi is a sewing machine with the representation of an ANC Women’s League dress in the making. Constructed entirely out of painted car parts by the artist Stephen Maqashela, it is sadly in poor condition and requires some restoration work in the peeling paint work.
This memorial formed part of the Sunday Times heritage project which aimed to develop a number of memorials to some of the remarkable people and events of the 20th Century. For more on this project go to: www.sundaytimes.co.za/heritage
Even though she was getting ready to travel across to Pretoria, Memory invited us in and generously spoke to Kim about her memories of growing up in the house and as Lilian’s daughter. Memory has altered the exterior of the ‘elephant house’ (made of concrete with a curved roof resembling an elephant’s back) and modernized and extended the interior sitting room area.