The Flying Cows of Jozi Walks offer eye-opening experiences and often spark an interest in the wider relevance of the inner city perspective. An interest that is shared by many others and reflected in their writings, art work and tour-guiding initiatives.
On this page Josine shares the books, tour organisations, links and quotes that for her inspire and enrich the perspective offered by these urban walks.
Hidden Joburg by Paul Duncan & Alain Proust
The beautiful photographs in this book of Johannesburg behind some of its impressive facades show how worthwhile it is to open doors, to be curious and take that extra step into an unknown environment.
Some of the photographed interiors were made especially available for the photographers but most of these are open to us all.
Joburg Spaces & Places 2.0 by Gerald Garner
I discovered the allure of urban walking when I moved into the Johannesburg inner city almost four years ago.
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.
Gerald Garner’s book was my bible in those early days. It provides a clear overview of the urban landmarks with photos and easy maps, helping me to plot my route and get back on track when I got lost.
His book Ten Ahead provides a more in-depth read on the history of the first years of urban regeneration in Johannesburg CBD. This book is out of print and with the developments in town over the past years I think we should encourage Gerald to add a new book to his oeuvre.
Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London by Lauren Elkin
‘Flâneuse – feminine form of flâneur, an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities’
Lauren Elkin is an American who loves Paris like I love Johannesburg. In her book she not only describes her own urban walking but also writes about famous ‘flâneuses’ in Paris, London and New York. This includes the writers Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and George Sand, artist Sophie Calle and war correspondent Martha Gelhorn. With their histories she touches on feminism, migration, freedom and home. Some of her quotes that spoke to me:
“Sometimes I walk because I have things on my mind, and walking helps me sort them out. Solvitur ambulando, as they say.”
“The city turns you on, gets you going, moving, wanting, engaging. The city is life itself.”
Wanderlust, A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors – home, car, gym, office, shops – disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.”
“And here’s one compelling argument for the superiority of urban walking: understanding cities matters, because they’re the place where many of our problems will ultimately be solved.”
Antony Osler, Zen teacher
“But we are asked to stop for a moment, to pay attention, to put down our arguments and our fixed positions and to open our eyes. There we will find our world in all its glorious ordinariness. We will stand in each others’ shoes and be willing to be surprised. We will look after the person in front of us and the person across the street, we will stop at the traffic light, we will tell our children stories, and we will lift our voices in song“ – Antony Osler
Since 2010, Antony & Margie Osler, their Stoepzen farm in the Karoo and Antony’s books (Stoep Zen, Zen Dust and Mzansi Zen) offer me restorative retreats from the bustling urban life and the inspiration to return to it and make it better.
The Overview Effect
In 1992 I wrote my space law thesis on Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space. My introduction stated that from a legal perspective this technology presented a challenge: on Earth we apply state sovereignty and borders but those are concepts that can’t be detected from Outer Space: images reflect only one Earth. That is when I first became fascinated by the so-called Overview Effect. As the official website states:
“Throughout the previous five decades of manned spaceflight, astronauts and cosmonauts have reported that their direct perception of space, and the Earth hanging in it, produced unexpected emotional reactions and intellectual, perspective, perceptual and paradigm shifts.
These shifts naturally included a greater and more accurate sense of the reality of the universe and the nature of the Earth as a planet in space. But it often included new or intensified insights into how this re-contextualizing from “life in the world” to “life on a planet” changed their understanding of many other aspects of life, from the environment to politics to resources, energy and humanitarian issues in general.”
More info: http://www.overviewinstitute.org
Theory U: Leading From the Future As It Emerges
For me the best theories and models are those that capture what I’ve already experienced and applied in real life. They help me make sense of what I’ve been through and better explain it to others. I recognised Theory U as the process I’ve been through first finding my place in South Africa followed by the process of opening up to the inner city perspective.
“Building upon two decades of action research at MIT, Theory U shows how individuals, teams, organizations and large systems can build the essential leadership capacities needed to address the root causes of today’s social, environmental, and spiritual challenges. In essence, Theory U shows how to update the operating code in our societal systems through a shift in consciousness from ego-system to eco-system awareness.”
More info: www.presencing.org
Johannesburg walking tours
The biggest draw card for me was the visit to iconic Ponte Tower inside and out, which offered great views over greater Johannesburg and an understanding of life in this building.
“Dlala Nje was founded in October 2012 and is an organisation that aims to to challenge perceptions and to create opportunities. They do this through running inner-city immersions and experiences in some of our city’s most misunderstood areas; Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville and Johannesburg’s CBD.
These immersions and walks currently fully fund the running of a community center aimed at providing a safe learning environment for children from underprivileged backgrounds.”
Gerald Garner offers various travel and tourism services and products related to Johannesburg. This includes three books, Spaces & Places 2.0 – JoburgPlaces which is an updated and expanded version of Spaces & Places – Johannesburg (guide to the city’s hidden gems) and Johannesburg Ten Ahead (focusing on ten years of inner-city regeneration).
Most popular of Gerald’s offerings are his inner-city walking tours, most of which start and end at City Central Food Hall and Event Space at 85 Commissioner Street where Joburg Places operates the Uptown Braai Eatery & Bar.
In September 2017 I walked with Sifiso in Brixton for the first time. I’ve already booked a second walk to delve a bit deeper into the rich history of this multi-racial suburb. The Roving Bantu restaurant is a great place to start and end your walk.
“Tours with a difference in and around Jozi with stories, anecdotes, historical background and off the beaten track experiences. Tours can be suggested or tailor-made to suite anyone’s request. Wherever you want to go, whenever you want to go and whatever you want to see, the Roving Bantu can organise
Sifiso Ntuli is the Roving Bantu. A walking explosion of stories, facts. information, anecdotes: real and imaginary. ”
More info: Roving Bantu on Facebook. Contact details: SMS 083 235 3076 and email firstname.lastname@example.org
My very first encounters and walks in Johannesburg CBD were with the extraordinary Jo Buitendach. Her knowledge and love for the city planted the first seeds of an enduring fascination.
“Past Experiences is the Joburg Inner Cities Original Walking tour company, started in 2009. They are foremost passionate Joburg lovers! They love our city, graffiti, the communities we work in every day, Joburg’s history, present and bright, bright future!
They specialise in walking tours of the city, bespoke experiences, graffiti tours, school tours based on the curriculum, public speaking on Joburg, corporate tours and specialised art, history and urban tours.”