Vehicular sightseeing: Newtown Drive-By

On Saturday I took a little driving tour of Newtown by way of Braamfontein. First came the sculpture of The Eland, which I nearly missed! Then as I approached the Nelson Mandela Bridge, pleased to have happened into the downtown hub-bub I’d observed on Friday from the M1 on our drive to Sasolburg, the Fire Walker! Just taking a serene stroll, perpetually in motion toward the bridge. It is much more striking in person than I thought it would be.

I think the Wooden Heads were my favorite publicly displayed art. The photo I snapped from my car window is not particularly good, and because they are dispersed around crosswalk intersections and small squares they really ought to be photographed in their context.

The 560 carved wooden heads dotted on plinths throughout the Newtown precinct reflect a sea of faces from Africa. The artists, Simon Guambe, Petrus Matsolo, Dan Guambe and Joe Matola, intended these heads to reflect African diversity. They symbolise how for the better part of the last century, Newtown was home to thousands of migrants from throughout Africa and the world.  —

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I located the Museum of Africa, the Sci-Bono Discovery CentreSAB World of Beer (yes, please), Bassline, Dance Factory, and The Market Theatre. I was tempted to park at The Market Theatre and walk around, but I have to confess that I didn’t feel comfortable. Though apparently there is a Newtown Heritage Trail.

There weren’t many people strolling on the street. Bustling store fronts on red dirt covered city streets with a few customers here and there. A wide sidewalk where a market crops up for the selling of men’s pants, t-shirts, shoes and various household items secured against tall brick walls of buildings. There didn’t seem to be any shady dealings going on, it was more just that the people on the streets seemed to be on a mission to socialize or on a mission to pop in and out of the little store fronts, none of which were any interest to me.

The whole thing kind of struck me as being the equivalent of meandering around the old industrial streets of Baltimore. You only do it if you know what you’re doing. So I stayed in my car and drove up and down the avenues. I’ll revisit Newtown for Arts on Main and Market on Main, which I hope to make it to this Sunday!

Then I headed over to Melville to check out the used book store I’d seen the prior when I went to dinner at The Loft. The owner hovered too much and didn’t have any inventory I was interested in so I snuck out when he was with another customer. On my way out of Melville, heading down 9th Street I parked just before Rustenburg Road. Sadly it was 12:55 when I arrived and the market closes at 1pm, so I missed the action – for now! In two Saturdays I will go to the Bamboo Market and report back.

Melville used bookstore, where James Dean and Science Fiction are alive and well.