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Dear World, Meet Johannesburg.

FutureJhb

I meet a lot of people, who on hearing that I chose to go back to my beloved Jozi over staying in Cape Town, gasp at disbelief and horror. ‘But why?? It’s so beautiful’, they remind me in a panicked tone.
Yes Cape Town is incredible. Its beauty is unlike anything in the world. It is creative and beautiful and offers a great lifestyle. And maybe one day I will retire there.

But, you know, Johannesburg is just as great. It is tough, sexy, and alive. It is progressive and even, beautiful.

This article by Misha caught my attention, because I felt it addressed exactly what I want the world and South Africa to know about the city that I love.

As a Joburger, I stopped feeling the need to defend my city to other South Africans and the world at large. It’s all there. All of its richness, golden energy and delights. It’s skylines,  it’s nature, it’s ever-changing landscape, it’s energy and its technology. It’s there to defend it self without saying a word.

Maybe it’s time you got to know the real Johannesburg.

by Misha of Brandslut

When I travel to new cities I can’t help but consider the PR and brand machines behind them. New York, Paris, Vancouver and, well, any Scandinavian city are right up there with the best of them. And don’t for a second think that the positive PR is all organic; beaucoup de cash is spent by city tourism departments on generating awareness, creating new news, profiling hip new places, securing movie locations etc. My thought thread always leads to the same place: Johannesburg needs better PR.

If I had a Rand for every time I’ve promoted Jozi to a stranger I wouldn’t have to work. I caught myself doing it on a flight from Cape Town last week with an elderly couple from Raleigh, North Carolina. That conversation prompted me to write this; it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I left Johannesburg a year ago.

But before I get into the stuff that makes Johannesburg awesome, I need to say this:

You see, what’s worse for me than ignorant foreigners is ignorant South Africans. Enter *that* Capetonian. You know the one, the one who hot-foots it out of Johannesburg faster than a Mitchell’s Plain gangsta in a new Opel Astra OPC. The one who goes to Midrand for a meeting and declares Johannesburg a shit-hole. The one who once visited a relative in Kempton Park and decided Johannesburg is ugly. The one who’s never been to Johannesburg but could never live there.

This person is Johannesburg’s worst enemy. But I’m not here to sling mud; I’m here to say that we all have a role to play in promoting this incredible country in which we live. And that means talking up cities and places other than Cape Town – she needs no help, having won nature’s lottery. Johannesburg on the other hand needs a leg up, and it’s up to us to give her one. That includes you, Capetonians.

One of the most memorable conversations I’ve had was around a dinner table in Gloucester Road, London with dear friends of mine Clare and Omar. She’s British, he’s Pakistani, and they have a knack for throwing dinner parties of epic proportions and bringing together people from all over the world. After too many cigars and fine Tequila one night I found myself having a debate with a Mexican and a Pakistani over which city was more amazing; Mexico City, Lahore or Johannesburg. We weren’t finding some sick pleasure in recounting horror stories about crime and poverty, we were PRing our native cities.

Crime. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t exist in Johannesburg. It does. As it exists the world over. I’ve had one experience with crime. Fortunately for my brother and I we came out on the lucky end of what I fear could have been an awful encounter in an alleyway trying to access a hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Oh, and that was in Cincinnati, Ohio. Every city has ruin, dangerous bits and no-go zones. So, no-go there! And for God’s sake don’t venture there in your khaki safari attire with your camera slung around your neck. You don’t do that in New York or in London, so don’t do it in Johannesburg – it’s not a safari.

I was born in the Johannesburg General Hospital in the 80s and grew up in Benoni. Somewhere between the mine dumps, Bunny Park and the East Rand Mall a love for the place was born. Instead of it waning as we moved overseas for my father’s work, it grew. In 2010 I was finally reunited with my birthplace and it exceeded every expectation I had of it. Here are some of the reasons I love Johannesburg, some of the reasons I’d encourage any visitor to spend some time there and not simply pass through en route to Cape Town or the Kruger National Park. I heart Jozi because of…

Its art and culture (The Soweto Theatre)

Its art and culture (The Soweto Theatre)

Its Jacarandas

Its Jacarandas

Its street fashion (I See a Different You)

Its street fashion (I See a Different You)

Its museums (Apartheid Museum)

Its museums (Apartheid Museum)

Its FNB Stadium

Its FNB Stadium

Its music (44 Stanley)

Its music (44 Stanley)

Its trails (Delta Park)

Its trails (Delta Park)

Its electric storms

Its electric storms

Its coffee culture (Father Coffee)

Its coffee culture (Father Coffee)

Its park life (Emmarentia)

Its park life (Emmarentia)

Its food culture (Forum Homini)

Its food culture (Forum Homini)

Its forests

Its forests

Its Gautrain

Its Gautrain

Its inner-city (Maboneng Precinct)

Its inner-city (Maboneng Precinct)

Its big business (Sandton)

Its big business (Sandton)

Its wide open spaces (Monaghan Farm)

Its wide open spaces (Monaghan Farm)

Its markets (Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein)

Its markets (Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein)

Its Nelson Mandela Bridge

Its Nelson Mandela Bridge

Its golf courses (Royal Johannesburg)

Its golf courses (Royal Johannesburg)

Its nightlife and bar culture (The San Bar)

Its nightlife and bar culture (The San Bar)

Its history (Vilakazi Street)

Its history (Vilakazi Street)

4th Avenue Parkhurst (The Wolfpack)

4th Avenue Parkhurst (The Wolfpack)

Its sunsets and skyline

Its sunsets and skyline

This article originally appeared on Brandslut.

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Future Joburg

Shaakira Chohan is a Professional Architect with a Masters degree in Architecture who is inspired and passionate about cities and urban design.
PrArch | MArch(prof) | BAS(Hons | BAS

  • Sean Dayton

    I’m a Capetonian just on the other side of a 6-month stay in Joz and it was awesome! Progressive, vibey, great atmosphere, loads of trees and beautiful places. Capetonians who constantly talk dirt about the place are embarrassing themselves – South Africans from all cities should try live in another SA city for at least a few months.

  • Ingrid Reinten

    Jozi is fantastic … my kind of place

  • Jenny Adams

    I first read this article on Brandslut – I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I lived in Joburg last year and coming from London had complete fears that I would just have to put up with a cultural hole in my life for a while. Pleased to say my preconceptions were entirely shattered and I now genuinely think Johannesburg is one of the greatest cities with some fantastic hidden gems and buzzing spaces. Getting other people to see this is the hardest thing – despite all the incredible stories I have shared with my friends most still can’t get past the city’s long-standing reputation. Hopefully in time these biases can be broken down.

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