The countdown to my sojourn to London has accelerated. In 15 days time I will be heading out to conquer a city that is rather different to the one I was brought up in. For one, I am looking forward to feeling safe whilst walking along the sidewalk or through the parks. You see, bad things sometimes happen to good people and unfortunately here in Johannesburg, some of us have become a little bit set in an “us and them” mentality. Them being people who hurt others and are therefore feared. The other thing about London I’m excited to explore is English architecture, which is older than that of Johannesburg. I’ve heard that their newer designs are also phenomenal.
Not that Johannesburg doesn’t have marvelous structures, old and new. Expeditions throughout Jozi have left me breathless – in a good way. A recent Johannesburg-ian find of mine is the new Wits Art Museum. It is situated on University Corner, Corner Bertha (extension of Jan Smuts Avenue) and Jorissen Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The exterior is pristine with darkly glossed tiles and ceiling to floor windows that draw you in. The gallery has been created by merging three separate buildings. This conjoined vessel makes for a pleasant canvas on which each piece is allowed to breathe. The play of light (natural and artificial) is as much a talking point as the works are. There are a couple of strategically placed ottomans that invite one to contemplate art, life (although some will argue that art is the meaning of life but anyway) and anything else that might be troubling you. I type this with conviction as we landed on the Wits Art Museum’s doorstep with trouble on our minds.
We had been ‘on edge’ for a full month due to the fact that my partner’s uncle had been tragically murdered at a store in one of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. In one month our base point for emotional stability had reached rock bottom. We were weary and insecure. Being out of our comfort zones seemed to be risky and all strangers had become a threat. Our nervousness had not deteriorated on this particular afternoon. We had first attempted to visit the Kingston Frost Park in the heart of Brixton.
Now some people might think that milling around Brixton is probably not a good idea with regards to safety. Others would see Brixton as a town that is being reclaimed by its residents. The people of Brixton have become vocal in how they want their town to be run, they are attempting to stamp out crime and vandalism and decay. It was onto this string of hope that I was clinging and had initiated this experience.
Upon arrival at the Kingston Frost Park, we started the hunt for the community-made wall mosaic. My partner’s nervousness immediately escalated one, because of our preconceived notions surrounding Brixton and two, because of the sheer amount of people that were present. In an attempt to break the stereotypical barrier, and trying to overcome our own recent experience with the murder of a close family member, I explained to him that there was no need to be on edge, that in fact we were the outsiders and that the members of this community were probably more wary of us than us of them.
It was too much, too soon, and he was not convinced. I urged him down the well-kept path, past a beautifully maintained succulent patch, and towards the general, relaxed masses. The point that made me realise that I had to turn back was when two young boys bolted towards us. In hindsight, they were young mischievous boys who were going to run up behind their friend (who was walking ahead of us) and give her a fright. The fright, instead, was placed upon us. I guided my stumbling and rambling partner (who is actually a hulk of a man) back to the car and just drove and drove until we pulled up to the just-over-a-month-old Wits Art Museum. I was so anxious that my strong man was hurting and clearly had so much to work through with regards to the trauma of his uncle’s death. I suggested that we just pop into the gallery in an attempt to quiet our souls.
And the Wits Art Museum did just that.
The curators quietly introduced themselves to us and recommended the best route around the gallery. We quietly ambled, taking in the magnificent works.
Just a short time in the gallery made a world of difference to our dispositions. It was one of those gifts that helps you get through a trying minute, and as long as you can survive a minute at a time, you’re going to be ok.
No flash photography is allowed in the gallery, but you are allowed to take pictures. I have a couple of my favorites to share with you.
Some of the works pictured here are from:
Gerhard Marx, Michael MacGarry, David Goldblatt and Jackson Hlungwane.
For more information http://www.wits.ac.za/witsartmuseum/15930/home.html
Visit the Wits Art Museum, it might just be exactly what your busy mind needs.
Art = Ha’pea-ness