Culture Memories: a year in South Africa

Here we are! Last weekend, I celebrated my one year anniversary in Cape Town, South Africa. As I prepare my departure in a little bit more than a month from now, I am remembering all the experiences that I have had the chance to live. What will I remember? What store, museum, event, has shaped my stay? and why? Here is a few notes I am going to take back with me and that I am happy to share with you.

The intensity of District 6 Museum

District 6 Museum is my favorite museum in Cape Town. It tells the story of District 6, an area that represents the story and struggle of Apartheid. It is an important place for the local community as well as a go-to spot for tourists who are interested in the local and national history. District 6 Museum embodies why I like museums. It is a community project which is made by and for the community. It has a symbolic importance for the locals and play a big role in remembering the past and celebrating the life of the people of South-Africa. In terms of curation, it looks old and dusty but it is a fascinating place. It is very intense, full of emotions, of lives-lived. It is a museum of the people. District 6 Museum is one of these places that will forever stay in your mind.

District 6 Museum, 5A Albertus St &, Buitenkant St, Zonnebloem, Cape Town, 8000.

Visiting the Apartheid Museum

In the heart of Johannesburg, the Apartheid Museum is a must-see for any South-Africans as well as anybody who spends some time in South Africa.  It is the place to visit if you’re interested in Apartheid history or in contemporary South Africa as it will help you understand South Africa today, its successes and current struggles. It might be a very emotional visit – Apartheid history can be – and a very dense one: there are a lot of text to read (a lot!) which might make the visit tiring. It is one of these museum where the content is so powerful, it does not need much more to it. The experience as a whole can be quite draining. However, it is captivating – and when I say captivating, I mean it: I have spent more than five hours there. A must-see!

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At the Apartheid Museum. Credit: Maxime Laprade.

Aparthei Museum, Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd, Johannesburg, 2001. 

Having a drink during First Thursday

This is typically Cape Town. It has now spread to Johannesburg but started in the Mother City a few years ago. Every first Thursday of each month, galleries, museums, culural and art institutions in the city centre open their doors for free until late at night. People wonder around, enjoying art and culture while having a drink. It is now even more a party than it is about art but it involves people who would never go to an art gallery otherwise. It is a cultural event and even if one might look at one painting only and then go for a few drinks, at least, he/she looked at art for a few minutes and that might have never happened otherwise. First Thursday is all about democratizing art and culture and in some ways, it does it job quite well.

Every first Thursday of each month, in Cape Town and Johannesburg. 

Wondering around Collectors Treasury 

In the heart of Johannesburg, you’ll find this amazing bookstore. Several floors, thousands of books. There’re more books than you will ever read in your life. And it’s a mess! Well, it’s sort of organized in sections, but it still took me an hour to find the fashion section (I am into fashion books) – so, it is kind of a mess. They have books about e-ve-ry-thing: art, cooking recipes, novels … and in every form: old books, recently published ones, in different languages, different editions, etc. As you wonder around the different floors, you can feel the obsessions of these two collectors who put this incredible collection together. You can also feel the love they have for their items, a love that is so strong that they got lost in it, in a wonderful way.

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Collectors Treasury, Johannesburg. Credit: Maxime Laprade

Collectors Treasury, CTP House, 244 Commissioner St, City and Suburban, Johannesburg, 2001.

A Sunday at the Hout Bay Harbour Market

Again, this is a typical Cape Town activity. On weekends, when the sun is up, you can go to several markets around the city. The Hout Bay Harbour Market is my favorite. Street food, a band playing music, one or two galleries to visit, some shops selling locally made products, a hipster/family vibe mixed together but always chilled. It is how culture is lived in Cape Town and I have to say: it is the best!

Hout Bay Harbour Market, 31 Harbour Rd, Hout Bay, Cape Town, 7872.

Street Art in Joburg

Joburg street art scene is booming. It’s everywhere. Not much tourist choose to walk in Joburg. I think it’s a mistake. You can feel the incredible vibes of the city when you walk and cherry on the top, admire some nice artworks. See by yourself. (apologies to the artists for not mentioning their names as I don’t know them)

Maxime

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