23rd May2016

One Insta-Shot Away from Greatness: Greg Alexander

by admin

Greg AlexanderGreg Alexander is a 21 year old Philosophy honours student who, in his spare time, takes amazing photos which are then shared with his fellow Instagrammers. He has amassed a sizeable following on Instagram, with people wanting to see the photos he is captured. In this interview, he and I discuss, among other topics, his passion for photography and the value of Insta-meets.

Sandiswa Sondzaba (SS):

When did you start your photography? What brought about your interest in it?

Greg Alexander (GA):

I started mainly on my phone at the beginning of 2014. Towards the end of 2014, I got my first camera. Since then, I’ve been enjoying photography and developing as a photographer.


You’re currently doing your Honours in Philosophy. How do your studies help to inspire you, in terms of the craft?


I think that there is an element of creativity in Philosophy. Obviously, photography has a creative side to it. They link well together, in terms of creativity. But, I enjoy photography as a hobby and as a way to explore and meet new people. Photography has a lot of elements to it that I really enjoy though.


You tend to participate in quite a few Insta-meets. What do you find, is the value in participating in those Insta-meets?


Initially, the value of it was to explore parts of Jo’burg. I never really had the opportunity to wander around the city. The Insta-meets gave me the opportunity to explore the parts of the city I wanted to see. Through that, I went to parts of the city I never would have thought of going to. I also got to meet people I would not have normally crossed paths with.


You have quite a large Instagram following. How do you keep your followers interested?


The main thing to do is to not even think of doing it so that you can get followers. You should just do it because you enjoy it. You must just keep it up and keep trying to be creative and trying out new things. Mainly, do it for yourself. If you do it for yourself, then you get maximum enjoyment from what you do and usually followers come along from that.


Do you see this as being a career? Or is it more of a hobby?


It’s more of a hobby now. Possibly afterwards, it could become something I could earn money from and potentially pursue as a career path. For now, it’s just a hobby and it is just a nice way to express my creativity.


What are your favourite sorts of subjects?


I’d say cityscapes. And street photography; capturing people in the moment, capturing them as they go about their daily lives. What I like about cities, when compared to landscape photography, is that there is symmetry. There are straight lines.  Those are nice ways to line up shots. I also like capturing people in their busy day-to-day lives.


You’ve worked quite a bit in inner-city Johannesburg, through the Insta-meets. How did you negotiate your privilege when capturing people, as they go about their day-to-day lives?


What I find is that, this is a good question, you feel uncomfortable capturing people because you feel like you’re being disrespectful and that you’re intruding on their lives. The big thing is to actually get permission before capturing people. You shouldn’t just walk around and randomly take photos of people. You should always try to talk to them and find out their stories. Give people the opportunity to portray their own lives as they’d want them to be portrayed. The big thing is that, people loved to be photographed. That makes things a lot easier. As soon as they see you with a camera, they want you to take a photo of them.


Besides Johannesburg, which other cityscape would you love to capture?


I would love to capture cities in America. New York, Boston, Chicago. I follow many well-followed Instagrammers from those cities. The photos they create are incredible. I’d love to have the opportunity to produce the same thing.


You went to Berlin, I mean Munich, recently. How did being there inspire you, in terms of your photography?


It gave me a very different take on photography. What I enjoyed about being there was that I did a lot of night photography. We don’t really get to do that here because, obviously, it is not as safe to walk around at night. I had the same attitude. I went out to capture people in their environment. Obviously, you’re always going to have shots of people you haven’t spoken to. You won’t be able to speak to everyone and get their permission before taking shots of them. I did manage to speak to one or two people I captured. They were friendly enough but obviously, it was not easy because of the language barriers. But people were interested in knowing what I was doing and whether I was a tourist or not. It was a nice to take different kinds of photos. I mean, obviously, everyone working with cityscapes takes different photos when capturing different cityscapes. So it was different, and quite a nice contrast, doing that photography.


Can you think of any photo of yours you love and why do you love that photo?


One of my favourite photos I have ever taken was last year in Newton. I was at an Insta-meet there. This was when the Insta-meets were very small and had very few participants. I was wandering down the one street on Mary Fitzgerald Square and I wasn’t feeling very inspired; thus, I hadn’t taken many photos that day. I was just walking with my camera and these two taxi drivers drove past and asked me to take a photo of them. I thought that was a very nice gesture. I managed to take, what I consider, to be a great photo of them. It was something unexpected and it was a nice gesture from them to want to take a photo of them. It just became one of my favourite photos.

02nd May2016

It’s All About the Magic

by admin

SophisticationHey everyone.

In this week’s edition of the blog we have two new contributors who have written for us. Danya Lipshitz explores how Western European arts and culture have influenced Maboneng- the new place du jour in Johannesburg. Julia Roberts reflects on the magic and challenges which have come with her move to Johannesburg. Mamelodi Marakalala tries to unpack an encounter between a female protagonist and a homeless guy who has his untold story. Finally, Noluthando Jevu celebrates black girl magic and discusses the need for increasing visibility of black women in Hollywood.

Here’s to making this week magical.

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team.

02nd May2016

The South African Urban Culture

by admin

Venetian Masks

Venetian Masks, Venice, Italy

Glass MenagerieThe Glass Menagerie on Promotion at a Theatre, Barcelona, Spain

Western European culture is the cynosure of the world’s cultural scene. From the elegant beauty of the Venetian masks, to the Spanish architecture produced by craftsmen such as Antonio Gaudi, Western Europe is both aesthetically and ethnically appealing.

South Africa’s own urban scene has recently become the forefront of contemporary culture, bringing to life the essence of South African beauty. This new-found culture relies heavily on the various ethnicities found within our own country, but also proves to have been inspired by the Western European scene.

South African Venetian MaskSouth African variant of the Venetian Mask

Streets of MabonengThe Streets of Maboneng


Main Street LifeMain Street Life

Maboneng, one such area that epitomizes Johannesburg’s cultural renaissance, focusses heavily on local art and the urban scene. The street began as “Arts on Main”, and has since evolved into a menagerie of shops and eateries with a bustling, eclectic weekly Sunday market.

Here, one can amble through the new South Africa, gawking at a multicultural melting pot. Witness a few men give free guitar lessons, asking only donations in return; hear the slap of withered fingers against skin-covered drums as an old man does his rendition of his favourite Bob Marley song; and meander through the streets, sipping a coconut encased cocktail whilst talking to the stranger beside you about his incredible fashion sense.

Maboneng, meaning “place of light”, could not have a more fitting title, as it is just one of many oases of urban culture, recently constructed, and nestled among the dilapidated buildings of old Johannesburg. The area is home to two new developments, the younger of which is called Main Street Life.

Main Street Life is a 1970’s industrial structure and is the base for various developing establishments. The top floor of this building is taken up by the 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel – a place in which art, interior design and architecture elegantly conflate as each individually designed room represents one of the past twelve decades of Johannesburg’s history.

Just as the very essence of Europe is mediated to tourists via the artistic architecture, smells from small eateries and various accents, so too does Maboneng – and other such urban streets – mediate the essence of South Africa through the mesh of the new urban culture.

Just another reason to be proudly South African!


02nd May2016

Journey into the Unknown

by admin


I remember packing my bags with great anticipation for what the future I was heading to held. It was a dream come true for me to be crowned with the glory of studying at University of The Witwatersrand. My arrival in the city of gold was not as golden and glorious as it had seemed in my dreams and thoughts. The pain that pierced half of my heart was knowing just how helpless I was because my mother was not around anymore. She was four hours away from me and I did not want her to know how the life of this city is not as fine as I had always imagined. My goal is just to get a degree and to make everyone around me proud.

The City Gold has all the lights that could penetrate even into an island that is in the middle of nowhere. Looking from a balcony at night, you can see how the lights make this place look so alive but inside there is a lot of darkness. Perhaps darker than the pits of hell. One arrives in this city and one starts to realise that the streets of this city are not entirely paved with gold. Love is rare to be found in the hearts of everyone who has been condemned by the rough living of this place. It is in this city that One gets to understand the real meaning of  the “survival of the fittest”.

There are people who call this city home and I wonder if their lives are just normal like our lives back in the villages. It breaks my heart to open the fridge and find nothing in it knowing that it is almost impossible to get a degree with an empty stomach. Friends are few and far between and my family thinks life in this city is heaven. It is not the same as back at home- you could get out of your house and take a walk with a stranger without fear of getting mugged.

Streets are filled with smoke from the braai stands of young men trying to make a living out of braaing chicken gizzards. Blind women and men- oh what is wrong with this place- sit on bridges singing for money, whilst the sun hits the centre of their heads so hard or are they not getting government grants?

Opportunistic men have filled the streets and always have something to say to young women like “Come, I give you house, I give you nice nice.” Murder is a norm and people do not get traumatized when they hear a gunshot because gunshots that take away the lives of the innocent and guilty have become part of their everyday life. People wouldn’t care if someone beat you up and took your phone; they merely take a glance and move on because they too fear for their lives.

Young girls are always roaming the streets with their waists and thighs on display for everyone to see. Dirty young lost bodies that have been emptied of life are never rare to find, they are always sitting on pavements injecting substances into their veins. You go out to buy bread at night and witness young women selling their bodies and people sleeping on the floors of the streets in lieu of beds.

Life in this Johannesburg is almost predictable. You know where to go if you want to get mugged. You know where to go if you want to see someone getting stabbed and you definitely know that when the paper in your pocket has been torn and left you broke you will find mercy in no one’s heart to share a plate with you.

Coming into this City was a journey into the Unknown but now I know that life in this city makes one stronger.

24th Aug2015

Protect Our Children

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Lerato Gcilitshane brings awareness to an ever-growing societal issue that increasingly affects more and more young and innocent children.

When children are born, families rejoice and the world celebrates. It is often said that children are the biggest gift that any family could ever be blessed with. It therefore puzzles me how any individual who inhabits this earth could even consider laying a single finger on an innocent child. It is even a greater shame and disappointment when young children themselves resort to sexually abusing one of their own.

This is following an incident that occurred on Monday, the 17th of August, wherein two young girls were allegedly raped by older boys attending the same school during school hours. News24 reported that two girls were sexually molested by six boys who were all between the ages of 7 and 9 at rape in Vosloorus, Johannesburg. It was also reported that an immediate investigation was launched and that the Education Department was still awaiting a medical examination report.

Upon hearing this shocking news, Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, made a joint decision with the school governing body and all other parties involved in the incident to offer counselling for both victims as well as their respective families. A disciplinary hearing is also said to follow, where the alleged rapists’ fates will be determined.

It is certainly not my position to conclude whether or not the alleged perpetrators are criminals or not as they are extremely young. However, I can conclude that what they did was a criminal offense and is deserving of some form of severe punishment. For me, the saddest part about this unfortunate event is that this incident could have possibly been caused by peer pressure or a childish experiment.

Nonetheless, child rape is not something that should be taken lightly no matter who or how old the perpetrators are. The Child Maltreatment Information Sheet reported that: “Child abuse is on the rapid increase in South Africa, with a child being raped every three minutes.” This is unfortunate as parents can no longer trust that their children will be safe anywhere beyond their own supervision as child molestation is rapidly growing into a global epidemic.

It is deeply saddening that two more girls from our so-called emerging society are going to have to live with the physical (not forgetting the possibility that they may have contracted HIV/AIDS), and emotional scars of being violated at such a tender age. This means that two more girls are possibly going to grow up being filled with large amounts of anger and hatred towards their rapists and possess some sort of distrust towards men in general. Moreover, two more girls have been unfairly robbed of a very precious part of their womanhood; a part that most girls cherish and hold onto at their own discretion.

We need to start being more proactive as a community and allow these children’s voices to be heard. In our fight for change, liberation and solidarity, we need to include child sexual abuse and fight for these innocent children.

14th Oct2013

e-toll in South Africa: are they necessary?

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Joan Madiba looks at the issue of e-tolls in South Africa.

jm1Following unrest of the proposed e-toll, the Presidency on Wednesday has confirmed that Jacob Zuma has indeed signed this into law.  While some people suspected that e-tolls would not be an issue until after next years elections so as to not impact the ruling party’s campaign, Zuma signed the e-toll into law despite warning from other member of the ANC. “The Act will provide for the electronic tolling of the country’s roads. Government and ANC sources said that, though the Bill was unpopular among the ANC’s own Gauteng membership and its alliance partner COSATU, in the long run, not signing the Bill would have been more costly.” Mac Maharaj, the spokesperson of the ANC, has also emphasized that the signed e-toll allows the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) to implement tolling in Gauteng.

Despite this there has also been a recent court battle in the Supreme Court of  Appeal in South Africa where the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) attempted to stop tolling on Gauteng roads.. The court was told that legislation allowed SANRAL to explore options other than tolling to fund Gauteng’s freeways. It also heard that SANRAL should, therefore, have kept an open mind about the matter, despite the Cabinet’s approval of electronic tolling. OUTA eventually lost the case as the Judge rejected their appeal to a previous case to fight e-tolls. Despite this loss, OUTA vow to not give up the fight against tolling with members meeting to establish what their next step would be.

Nonetheless, as expected e-tolls is incredibly unpopular amongst many including oppositional parties and unions like COSATU.  The Democratic alliance took the opportunity to further their election campaign by erecting billboards along the roads that will be tolled. These boards read “E- tolls. Proudly brought to you by the ANC” much to the disdain of the ANC.

The public has also raised their concerns of the e-tolls, questioning the necessity of tolling major roads. Their concerns link directly to how the toll fees will impact their pocket.

As e-tolls slowly emerges as a reality, we the South African public, we will have to wait and see how it unfolds.


25th Apr2012

Don’t pass me by

by admin

Last month, I celebrated my first anniversary in silence as the memory of having a gun put against my back re-entered my thoughts and left me cold. Our relationship began, ironically, on the day the rest of the country was enjoying their freedom on Human Rights Day while mine was stolen from me on the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge. Because of the many feet that trod on the bridge which belong to the good people of the New South Africa, I had hope so fear passed me by. Minutes later, I quickly discovered the only thing those feet were united in were the diverse ways in which they all turned a blind eye to the gun that hugged my back and the intoxicated young man that held it. An older man approached and again, a rush of hope overcame me…and quickly vanished with his: “excuse me, you’re blocking my way”. My heart sank. The society of the New South Africa that stands together against crime was, at that moment, merely passing me by…

“What would you do?” is a powerfully provocative programme that shows the world what the ordinary people of America would do if they were in the presence of a child being abducted, a woman being thrashed by her boyfriend in public or maybe teenagers stealing a car. This ‘Candid Camera of Ethics’ reveals that their society is full of evil which good men and women just walk past and ignore. Shame on America, the West has no morals. Oh no but wait…

Our own government is splashing millions of rands into campaigns that aim to eradicate the abuse of women and children or to buy more rape kits which are merely means to try salvaging spilt milk. Wearing a t-shirt that says “I am against violence and the abuse of women and children”, and then telling a young girl with a gun pressed against her to excuse you because she’s blocking your way is hypocritical and darkly humorous of you.

Honestly, you can spare me your 20c that you donate with every McDonald’s meal you buy (which is used to fight against crime) if you’re going to just pass me by when the real crime is happening under your nose. Spare me your intellectual speeches about getting criminals off the streets if you’re going to increase the volume on your TV to hide the screams of the lady next door screaming for help while her husband beats her unconscious in front of her children.

Fortunately, I escaped unscathed because a young man decided not to keep quiet and pass me by. But listen, you can turn a blind eye to the evils that surround you or better yet excuse yourself from the reality of a young woman almost being gunned down or raped in public. It’s okay, I mean it’s none of your business. Until your daughter who took the taxi in the morning to school turns into a rape victim or your sister, your mother, your girlfriend screams for help…and the very people we so highly praise of having ubuntu just pass her by. All I’m saying is evil triumphs when good men do nothing. There is nothing golden about silence!

Tanyani Daku


05th Mar2012

A first for Wits Media Studies!

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Joyce Omwoha, a PhD candidate in the Department of Media Studies, reports on the international Media Studies conference that took place at the University of the Witwatersrand last week.

The first ever international Media Studies conference organized and facilitated by the Wits Department of Media Studies in collaboration with the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan and the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) at the University of Westminster was held from 27-29 February 2012 at the Professional Development Hub, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The theme of the conference was Beyond Normative Approaches: Everyday Media Culture in Africa. The conference was not only international by virtue of attendance (around sixty speakers from 17 countries in Africa, United States and Europe) but also through the perspectives drawn upon in the presentations which proved that Media Studies paradigms are being used worldwide.

Prof. Tawana Kupe, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand, gave a powerful keynote address titled Betwixt the Normative & the Emergent Critical in Understanding African Media Cultures. He acknowledged that ‘beyond normative approaches’ was a provocative theme which came right in time when the four theories of the press are still alive in Africa. In his address, he urged scholars to rethink notions of democracy and development in Africa; to have carefully nuanced critiques of the shaping and influences of ever-present structuring forces in media and communications; to ensure that textual and discourse analysis is sensitive to language, narrative and symbolic dynamics and; to develop audience reception studies that navigate the intricacies of African media landscapes and social dynamics.

Apart from our great academics in the Wits Media Studies Department (Drs. Sarah Chiumbu, Dina Ligaga, Wendy Willems, Last Moyo and Mehita Iqani), I was excited to personally meet a number of great Media Studies scholars who I have read and acknowledged as contributors to the field of Media Studies: Prof. Keyan Tomaselli, Prof. Herman Wasserman and Dr. Winston Mano. Participants in this conference were drawn from the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Kenya, Belgium, Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Senegal, Norway, Canada and South Africa. I noticed that not all the participants were academics but the conference also attracted some journalists, researchers and media producers.

The presentations carried intellectually invigorating content which attracted thought-provoking questions. There was humor, there were tears, and some dramatic moments arose from the different presentations. Participants treated the audience to a range of catchy topics, creative slides, short videos, pictures, music – all to show how media trends have evolved over time. Highlights were the moments when presenters transformed themselves into the personas of their case studies and performed – not like academics – but like the characters I usually see in theatres. Jendele Hungbo, a PhD candidate at WISER, presented a paper entitled Resistance and Civic Activism in Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Music. His theatrics of presentation were revealed when instead of only projecting the songs he was drawing from in his work, he sang them and encouraged the audience to sing along. This is what I call audience participation!

I had a nice chat and hang out with three PhD candidates from the University of Michigan who attended along with four professors from the same university. I particularly enjoyed my conversation with Timeka Williams who has just begun her PhD. She gave a fascinating presentation on tracing intersections of religion and romance in transnational black media. Her interest in cinema has made her study black entertainment with particular reference to Tyler Perry’s films. She said that her experience in Africa has been fascinating because she had never imagined visiting the continent.  She learned about the conference from Prof. Paddy Scannell of the University of Michigan and decided to send in an abstract. She congratulated the Wits Department of Media Studies for having organized quite an engaging conference. She noted that of all the conferences she had been to, this was the best because of the small group present which enabled her to speak to different people and share ideas with them; unlike the big conferences where you only get to identify a few people to relate to.

The conference highlights included the conference reception at the Professional Development Hub, a conference dinner at Narina Trogon restaurant, the roundtable which wrapped up the conference on the final day, and the launch of the book Radio in Africa which was edited by Prof. Liz Gunner, Dr. Dumisani Moyo and Dr. Dina Ligaga, who were also present at the conference. Although I did not manage to get an autograph from any of them, I am glad I got a copy of the book. The roundtable was chaired by Prof. Paddy Scannell and speakers were Prof. Keyan Tomaselli from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Dr. Winston Mano from the University of Westminster. Prof. Tomaselli was the conference rapporteur and gave a summary of the proceedings. Dr. Mano acknowledged the range of topics that were discussed and suggested a need for multidisciplinary approaches and integrated comparative studies. Prof. Scannell wrapped up the session by acknowledging the works of Stuart Hall on encoding and decoding which continue to function as a way of thinking of media as a product received and decoded in real life.

I am already looking forward to the next conference which I hope will be planned for early 2013. I recommend tours for conference participants – if not in Johannesburg then around Wits where international visitors can visit the Wits Planetarium, the Blind Pig (postgraduate bar), Wits University Press, and the Origins Centre.  I wish to thank the conference organizers and sponsors who made travel for some of the African participants easier. I am indeed proud to have been part of a successful first!

More photos from the conference can be viewed on the exPress imPress Facebook page.


01st Oct2010

A day to remember

by admin

Jozi a city of crime and bad news only? Victorine Ntambo problematises the usual stereotypes about our city.

Ever heard of TEARS OF JOY? I write this note because I just want to shout out to South Africa, to Africa and to the world at large. There is love and care in South Africa and there are still some very good people among us.

This is my story.

Just after 7:30am on a chilly morning, I left my house for school. Traffic was a little slow on the M1 south of Johannesburg and I noticed a taxi driver trying to reach out to me. At first I thought of ignoring him but his persistence drew my attention. After a failed attempt to stop me, the driver took the Melrose off-ramp. Then almost immediately, I decided to stop and check out the direction at which the car was pointing.

To my surprise I had a flat tyre. Flat tyre? I bet you, I could not even notice the difference as I drove. Typical as with most women, I picked up my phone to call my husband trying at the same time to think of the closest filling station. On raising my head, I noticed a white BMW had its hazards lights on. It was parked about two hundred metres in front of me and there came a gentleman walking towards me. So many questions went through my curious mind. Did I park at the wrong demarcation? I looked around. Do I know him? I did not remember. Did he and the taxi driver arrange something? I was not sure. How did he know I’m in trouble? Because I just got out of the car now. Is he also having a fractured tyre? …

Bear with me for my details but as a black foreign woman living in South Africa, it occurred to me like a dream to find out that this man is approaching me to take the load off. Mr. Chris Newland (I later found out his name), a white man in either his late 30s or early 40s offered to help. I light-heartedly tried to resist but this neatly dressed gentleman with an appealing smell diligently rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He did not care about his well-ironed pair of trousers. Immediately, he did what some people do for money. In fifteen minutes, he had finished the work and my car was drivable again. “What do you do to appreciate such effort?”, I thought. I thanked him, took his details and we parted ways. All of a sudden, Christ remembered he was late for work. He turned down my offer to drive him to his car, making sure I took off as he watched, smiled and waved goodbye. Honestly, I felt like I had just fallen in-love again. It felt like a flat tyre is not a burden anyway. I smiled all along as I set out for my day.

Long after this incident, I decided to shout out this gesture for the world to know that there are still some good people in our midst. There are some people who look out and draw your attention to danger, who will risk their lives and that of their car on the highway, go down on their knees, roll up their sleeves and be late for work just to help a person they do not know. A person who before then did not deserve their favour and a person they might never meet again.

SIYABONGA, Mr. Newman.


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