The ruins of Joburg aren’t ‘art’, they’re simply horrific


The ruins of Joburg aren’t ‘art’, they’re simply horrific

Romanticising the decline of the city by calling it something else or elevating it to something it's not is an insult to the people who have to live there, and racist, says ISMAIL LAGARDIEN.

A RECENT essay on the love-hate relationship people have with Johannesburg took me back to a brief period in the mid-1980s when a group of us — engagé journalists, thespians, musicians, artists (I should add reprobates) — trawled the art world and creative spaces in and around the city.

At some point (there were several points, actually), there was a collective cooing over wire cars or soft-drink cans cut up and repurposed. This “township art” was greeted with oohs and aahs, and with words like “lovely” and “amazing”. I found it all quite surprising and a little amusing.

My initial thoughts — admittedly unsophisticated and probably uneducated — were probably offensive: What’s with these white people? We made wire cars, or box carts, in the townships because we could not afford toys. Also, when “Groovy” soft drinks arrived in the early 1970s we turned aluminium cans into cups by scraping off one end on a rock,  connected two of them with  string or fishing line and used them as telephones. Several years later, any canned drink would be called “a Groovy”. Some of us used Groovy cans to store marbles or as cups...

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