Indie publishing house Fourthwall Books expands on its literary archive of Johannesburg’s architectural memory this month with two new releases that tell the stories of some of the city’s most remarkable structures: the notorious Egoli Gas plant in the formerly industrial Milpark, and an anthology of photos and essays of the skyscrapers of Johannesburg.
In The Johannesburg Gasworks, Monika Läuferts le Roux and Judith Mavunganidze, the tales of the mysterious gasworks structures are collected together in a fascinating, and rare, look at the site. Essays by authors like Clive Chipkin and Alex Opper are presented alongside photographs by Sally Gaule and David Southwood. The buildings have captured the imagination of the city with legends of perilous by sinkholes, ghosts and even buried treasure.
In Up Up: Stories of Johannesburg’s Highrises, published by German imprint Hatje Cantz, reportage and historical images and plans accompany linear black-and-white photography, some by young Market Photo Workshop graduate Mpho Mokgadi. Mokgadi’s images, which at times look like they date back to Johannesburg’s beginnings, create an overwhelming sense of the buildings’ historical presence in the city, like statues watching over the streets.
“I moved to Joburg two years ago, so I’m still in the process of discovering it,” the Tshwane-raised Mokgadi told #Trending. “I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Joburg. There’s a building called the Sun Hotel, which is beautiful on the outside but, when I went inside, it was empty and disconnected from everything around it.
“Everyone thinks Joburg is this glamorous place, but it’s dark and empty, and people make use of these buildings that the municipality doesn’t care about any more.” In a week where much of middle Johannesburg will be celebrating the launch of the spectacularly gregarious and inappropriate Mall of Africa, the books are a reminder of a city that survives against all odds.
UP UP... One of Joburg’s many soaring structures