Day three was all about imbibing a spot of Johannesburg’s kultcha, in keeping with the spirit (arf!) of the Smirnoff Be There initiative to step outside of one’s usual everyday experiences. Accordingly we visited Museum Africa in Newtown, where an exhibition called “Space: Currencies in Contemporary African Art” was taking place.
It was reassuring to find that contemporary art in Johannesburg (as in London) can be totally impenetrable, and that the pieces are accompanied by equally bamboozling explanations:
The exhibition title alludes to and embodies the two notions of space and pace, which signify sites or contexts and tempos or energies that are part of societal make up. Space is wherein ideas are negotiated and meaning produced through various human activities and social practices.
Somewhere along the way during the day’s activities we encountered a demonstration by the striking South Africa Municipal Workers’ Union, whose Zulu-informed chanting could show UK industrial actioners a thing or two:
After seeing some pretty breathtaking street graffitti in the area we went for lunch, where I sampled what I think was my only genuine South African dish of the trip (shame on me). It was called Bobotie, and wasn’t a million miles away from good olde English Shepherd’s Pie, except it uses egg instead of mashed potato as a topping. With the addition of a delicious, tangy chutney, it was noms o’clock.
After lunch it was time to hit the very pretty area of 7th Avenue in Melville, something of a hipster hotspot. This was confirmed when I saw laidback creative-looking types lounging with their laptops in the local cafes. We browsed a few shops, with Niall and Jonny (from Irish music mag AU) investing in some new trainers. Then we went to a nearby bar to meet some of the city’s musical talent.
Jozi are the country’s most popular homegrown rap group, and a couple of their members stopped by for a chat. I performed filming duties for Darragh’s interview, and they seemed like confident yet humble guys, keen to get their music to as many folk as possible. When asked what one song people should listen to to get a taste of their style, they said “Muthaland” from their first album – so here it is:
What I find interesting about “Muthaland” is that it sounds a lot better if you listen to it without the video, which is a bit heavy on hackneyed American-influenced hip-hop visuals.
The evening saw us going to a bar and meeting the chaps from BLK JKS, who were all approximately 75,000 times cooler than any of us, but nice with it. Later we went to a party they were holding in a loft-style club, but to be honest by that point I was flagging worse than a flag with an insignia of a flag on it. I was comforted somewhat in the knowledge that those around me were as well, and so didn’t feel too bad about hopping in the minibus and heading back to the hotel.
Oh, I forgot to mention in my last entry that our bodyguard that night – Leo – has previously guarded the bodies of the likes of 50 Cent and John Legend. That made us feel pretty special. Unfortunately I can’t share the libellous gossip we managed to get out of him regarding one of those two artists.