Johannesburg, South Africa is the place I was born and raised and it defines me to my core. Its tactile senses run deep and will remain with me always. I have walked, played, protested and driven most of its streets well. From the tree lined, suburban streets of my childhood, where the sweet smell of jasmine takes me back in an instant and the haunting sounds of the Manyano ladies signing church songs in the distance formed the soundtrack of every late Sunday afternoon.

 

The grittiness of Yeoville and Rockey Street, of my youth, where Jo’burg’s eclectic gathered in freedom for good music and liberal thoughts in an apartheid era, Mahlatini and the Mahotella Queens forming the soundtrack. Bok Street, where my art school campus was situated and where we would skip class to play pool at the dingy Maxime Hotel.

 

Kotze, Pretorius, Kapteijn and Twist Streets in Hillbrow - where I sat with friends and journalists, drinking way too much bad coffee and smoking Marlboro Lights (because they were banned) at Café Wiene, figuring out the complex and complicated country we lived in. Where we would buy roasted chicken and Portuguese rolls at Fontana Deli at 2 a.m. after a night of clubbing. These are the same streets I took to with friends, the night we heard Mandela was released. Streets of hope, promise and optimism. It is the city that taught me about life. Where I was born, went to school, university, got my heart broken, met the love of my life, started my career as a journalist, got married and gave birth to my son. 

Copyright © Colleen Thompson, 2020.
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