Jozi, city of wander, city of wonder
I discovered the allure of urban walking when I moved into the Johannesburg inner city almost four years ago. Ever since I have loved wandering in town with no goal or destination in mind, witnessing the sights, sounds and special encounters that for me spell Jozi.
Initially I cautiously navigated the block around my apartment building, but with every walk my curiosity grew, as did my feelings of safety, and now I venture further and deeper into this bustling city. A city that reflects and condenses the contradictions at play in the country, and maybe in the world, today: where you can drink your rooftop champagne with a view of overcrowded migrant hostels.
How I experience my walks can be equally contradictory: sometimes they offer the anonymity I seek, other times I unexpectedly find the sense of community that I also long for, like when a car guard calls me over to share the neighbourhood news. Some observations of city life break my heart and have me smarting from the unfairness of life: a homeless man carefully preparing his pavement bed. Others, like a passer-by guiding schoolchildren safely across a busy road, bring a long lasting smile to my face and confirm my belief that people can and do make life worthwhile.
It’s in absorbing these extremes and trying to make sense of them that I find how deeply these urban walks grow my heart and my horizon.
Josine Overdevest – 4 June 2017