#MyJoburg is... vibrant: Our best interviews of 2023

24 Jan 2024
Our #MyJoburg interview series is a window into the city through the eyes of a local. We've quizzed creatives and trailblazers of all sorts, from Joburg's most interesting artists, entrepreneurs, and thinkers to party queens and drag performers. In these interviews, we always ask for three words that define Joburg... the word cloud below is the result of 27 Q&As published in 2023. 
#MyJoburg: An ode to our magical, brutal, electric, surprising, fast-paced, vibrant city.

This paints a glorious portrait of the city we love. Joburg is vibrant and ever-evolving, and we learn something new about this city through every person we talk to. Joburgers are a loveable bunch, difficult to define but easy to know. Melusi Mhlungu, We Are Bizarre founder and the man with a plan at Jozi My Jozi, says, "I don't know how to explain it, but if you are abroad, and you meet someone from South Africa, you can immediately tell if they are from Joburg or not. We have THAT THING." According to Kate Liquorish, actress and creator of Joburg Eats, what makes someone a Joburger is "inviting you round for something and meaning it".
Melusi Mhlungu with Joburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, ushering in a fresh chapter for our city. Read about the important work Jozi My Jozi is spearheading here. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket. 

For others, like prolific painter Thabang Lehobye, it's simple: "A good old braai and golden sunsets" is what makes Joburg tick. But don't let this fool you into believing his perspective on the city is one-dimensional, it's anything but... one of the most nuanced we've encountered yet. "This city, with its relentless pace and diverse tapestry of experiences, has instilled in me resilience, determination and an unwavering pursuit of my dreams. It's a place where I've learnt the value of adaptability and the power of reinvention, just like the ever-evolving urban landscape it embodies," Lehobye says. Reflecting on the city, DJ and journalist Charles Leonard – whose excellent podcast This is Joburg is highly recommended – called to mind the words of New York Times correspondent Lynsey Chutel: "Shame Joburg, she's not pretty... but she's a beauty."
Thabang Lehobye paints Joburg with love. "Johannesburg, as a city for art and artists, embodies the notion that creativity can flourish in the face of adversity." Photo: Lizamore & Associates.

For legendary graffiti artist Rasty Knayles, what makes someone a Joburger is "loving Joburg". He describes himself as "a helpless slave to Joburg’s intoxicating elixir of contrasts and contradictions". This city is complex, and everyone's relationship with it is unique, but we are continually heartened by those who choose to keep on loving it despite its challenges. Author Ted Botha echoes this, "For me, there’s something special about someone who loves the city so totally and says so, despite all the bad publicity the city gets."

Our #MyJoburg series is a rich and growing resource for anyone interested in seeing the city through fresh eyes. Dip into the full #MyJoburg archive here, or keep reading for some of our favourite excerpts from the interviews we published in 2023. 

What makes someone a Joburger?

Someone who has a great sense of humour, and wild enthusiasm for small things. Someone brave, who likes challenges, has a certain amount of grit, who can pull themselves out of a crater-sized pothole and quickly make a warning sign out of a cereal box to save other people from doing the same thing. – Photographer, Caroline Suzman

A love for the city and the too-frequent use of the words "Lekker, Neh, Howzit bru." – Halaal Goods Market founder, Fehmida "Fehmz" Jordaan

The accent, and their penchant for conversation. – Fashion royal and queen of vintage luxury, Catherine Gaeyla

Hard work. – Visual artist and co-founder of USURPA Gallery, Kay Kay Ribane

An open mind, an open heart and open eyes. – Founder of OpenStudios.Joburg, Sara Hallatt
Xolisile Ngubane strikes a pose for Caroline Suzman's series, I Declare I Am Here. Photo: Supplied.
For Caroline Suzman, "The layered and eclectic architecture, the colourful and crazy things that you can come across at any given moment, and the cultural diversity" make Joburg an interesting city for photography. Photo: Caroline Suzman.

One thing no one would expect to hear about Joburg?

Joburg is super efficient. Public service delivery may sometimes hinder us. But Joburgers themselves know how to get things done. – Travel blogger and digital creator, Liza Perold

A big part of the soul that makes Johannesburg is our queer community. Also, our ball culture is leaps and bounds above any other South African space I've seen. – Drag performer, ADAM 'The Glamour Clown'

Not to say all is well, but I think it's home to people from all walks of life and it can accommodate all these different levels of inequality in our society. People here just make it work, even with very limited resources. – Pattern and product designer, Glorinah Khutso Mabaso
What makes someone a Joburger? ADAM 'The Glamour Clown' says, "Their compulsion to recommend going to Pantry by Marble even though it's too expensive." Photo: Supplied.

Your number-one tip for a first-time visitor to Joburg?

Make friends, they will show you the real Joburg. – Founder of the Back to the City Festival, Osmic Menoe

It looks scary but it has soul, if you're vigilant you'll have the best time. – Head of events at Until Until, Amahle-Imvelo “Jaxx” Jaxa
​​​​​Not everyone is your friend but also not everyone is your enemy. – Cultural curator and storyteller, Hector Mgiba
For Jaxa, the ability to drive in the chaos of the city and not flinch when taxi drivers stop to pick up passengers
For Amahle-Imvelo “Jaxx” Jaxa, the ability to drive in the chaos of the city and not flinch when taxi drivers stop to pick up passengers is the sign of being a Joburger. We agree! Photo: Rosebank District. 

What do you love about Joburg?

The potential to realise one’s dreams. There is also the right mix of individuals that either stay or visit the city that will assist with this. The conversations that happen within my friendship circles are ideas that manifest in different pockets of the city or the world. – Artist and founder of BKhz Gallery, Banele Khoza

The connections you can make from just one outing. There’s always someone to connect with. – Media entrepreneur, Olwethu Leshabane

The sense of home, the idea that something is always happening and that whatever it is, it's always exciting. – Content creator and co-owner of SiSi The Collection, Yasmin Furmie

Our people. We have some of the best people in the world. – Creative powerhouse behind Jozi My Jozi, Melusi Mhlungu
"Joburg has a unique, individual style that isn’t replicated elsewhere... there are many groups with vastly different styles, and the creativity is evident." – Yasmin Furmie. Photo: Yasmin Furmie.

Smile! You're in Joburg

There's so much to love about Joburg, and these are some of the extra-special places and experiences that were highlighted by our amazing cast of interviewees. From experiencing one of our epic thunderstorms to watching the golden sun set over the city from on high, or walking through the jacarandas in bloom at sunrise, the Joburg joys are endless.

The city's lively graffiti scene brings colour to bustling streets, and our markets are unmatched: the Dunusa markets are the City Centre's best shopping open secret, and the rough-and-ready Kwa Mai Mai Market reflects a true sense of unfiltered South African street food culture. We've got drag brunches and VNJ balls, exquisite green spaces... The Wilds is one of our favourite art-filled parks that blends sweeping city views with pristine nature. Our artist studios have a long history intertwined with the city, and visiting them is a great way to support Joburg artists. We could go on, but we think you get the picture.

For more, read all of our #MyJoburg interviews over the years here.



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