It is a well-known fact that when naming their children, parents search for inspiration in the strangest of places. This should not always be encouraged, especially amongst those with lax ideas about spelling and no sense of just how good children are at creating rhymes. In my own case, a curious collision of events led to my being named after both Joanna Lumley and a Bob Marley song. Upon discovering that the song was not actually about a woman being hopeful in the morning, but about the troubled apartheid years in Johannesburg, I decided that poetic justice had to be done, and that I must see Johannesburg for myself.
Having been in the area on two previous occasions, but never really having seen the city itself (except during a hair-raising accidental dash across downtown in the dark on the way to the airport), I was keen to do some proper exploring.
The city centre is vibrant and bustling, but full of contrasts. The discount shop-fronts and pop-up market stalls lining the city streets mask the grandeur of the beautiful art deco apartment buildings above. Half-demolished buildings nestle close to shiny new high-rises, and beautiful historical buildings lie abandoned and empty. Yet the city is alive. Everywhere you turn there is life and colour and, above all, enterprise.
The scars of the past are still there, but this is a city that revels in those scars, lest they should be forgotten.
The future is looking brighter too. The Constitutional Courthouse is open to the public, even during sessions and debates, giving a wonderful air of openness to a country that was once so closed in. Here the past is remembered in every stone, with bricks from the old awaiting trial cells used to create the new building.
Outside the courtroom runs a long gallery filled with local art. Halfway down is a collection of self-portraits created by an HIV support group, along with their stories. These stories are the real hope in Johannesburg.
“These small spots is HIV. HIV is running in my blood. But if you see my outside you do not believe I’m HIV positive. Even in this group, you can never say the others are HIV. They are beautiful and strong.”