Posted by: Steve Coplan | July 16, 2006

Hometown

The New York Times has an article today extolling the virtues of Johannesburg as a tourist destination. Don’t believe a word of it.

Actually, it’s not that all that misleading and does set the appropriate set of expectations. Johannesburg is a flat, featureless place with only the weather to recommend it and mine dump tailings to break the monotony of the landscape, the article notes. The city is, however, becoming the New York of Africa and the dynamo of change in South Africa. Much of that change, as the article also notes, is happening outside of the “bland, suburban nodes” where I grew up and where it’s still not all that welcome. On the flip side, Johannesburg itself has become an African city, where twenty years ago it could have been mistaken for Cleveland (without the lake of course since Johannesburg is the largest city not on a body of water). The transformation of Johannesburg has obviously not gone smoothly and was a pretty violent place to start with (I knew plenty of people who carried guns growing up), but if Michael Wines is to be believed some of the city’s energy can now be sampled without encountering mortal danger and as the World Cup 2010 approaches should become increasingly easier.
Definitely worth a look is Joao Silva’s slideshow. Silva was one for the four members of the Bang Bang Club – a group of photojournalists that documented apartheid’s darkest days along with Greg Marinovich. A short documentary on another member of the club was nominated for an Academy Award.

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