Welcome To Jozi, Ya Peasant

By Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik
The enduring symbol of Jozi for me has always been Hyde Park Corner. When I was a lightie it was the exclusive preserve of blue rinses who lunched at the café that dominated the centre of the atrium. That great antechamber held Poms, Italians, French, Poles, Swiss, Portuguese, Lebanese, Greeks and scores more snobs of indeterminate extraction. A snootier collection of bad apples collected from the disparate nations of Europe you’d be hard pressed to find back then. And I would know, coming from that stock. Hiding out, they were. Not refugees, oh god no – just hiding. From the vagaries and ravages of a Europe they no longer understood, from a smouldering black Africa held barely in check by the iron fist of Afrikaner determination, lots of hot lead sent chaotically into the dark world by scared white boys, and many a shallow grave. Fled to the land of ostriches in order to faithfully mimic them, the scatterlings of Europe. Each of them adding a little more confusion to a multicultural Babel that is Africa’s New York City.

Now? Well, now it’s different, but just as bad – the rinse tannies and their liver-spotted geriatric beaus may have died out, literally, but before they vacated their chosen thrones they passed the baton on to a less erudite but wealthier bunch of air-kissing oxygen thieves who are similarly seeking subterranean solace. Barely two kilometres from that fabled corner of consumerism, people are living under the bridges, sleeping in boxes, plotting to rob the rich to feed the poor in the time-honoured fashion. Mind you, that's any city, really.

It was always a symbol of the hauteur of Jozi to me, Hyde Park – it was a microcosm of the wealth that ruled. Hushed tones are the norm when there’s lots of cash around, and so it is today. The money still rules, and by god it will wear what it wants, even if it means lilac. The diamonds are still as huge as they were in the 1980’s, dahling. See you at the Club, dahling. You look ever so lovely in lilac. Don't I just, dahling?

Melrose Arch, Fourways, Lonehill, Bryntirion, whatever, wherever. In Jozi, there’s always another place being built, another new rash of development being touted as the next big thing, the next place to be. Always one step ahead, is Jozi. One step ahead of common sense, that is. Mock Tudor-Greco-Roman-Tuscan-Afronova architecture? Ostentatious fluted columns? Bold modernist statements in concrete and glass? Homogenous gated estates in which you can lose yourself, and I mean really lose yourself? Welcome to Jozi, ya peasant. It’s the global pioneer of cutting-edge rootless architectural cacophony and they’re going up faster than you can say ‘cement mixer’.

But then Joburgers are renowned for their love of kitsch, aren’t they? Granted, there is a lot of money (and fast European sports cars) in the rarified atmosphere of 011, but money can’t buy you love and it sure as shit doesn’t buy you sense. Gold lamé? Pink jumpsuits? Morgan Fairchild hair? Danny K bling lameness? Pantsi, pantsi, pantsi – you won’t see us wearing that kak down in Durbs, even at the goddamned July! Hell, no. OK, maybe, but not under normal circumstances. God, I’m glad I live in Durban. Cultural backwater it may well be on occasion, avoided by the supposed ‘big name’ performers of screen and stage, certainly. But Jozi it is not. And I can live with that.

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