Village Meeting & Convoy

Village Meeting


27th of August 2018

The next day, after a luxurious comfortable sleep all the backdrop noise of the forest, which is really rather loud. Still a little boggled at our accommodation, we followed suit, ate a delicious breakfast of cereals, toast and fruit. 

We then jumped at the opportunity to follow in the Toyota to a village meeting. The owner of the festival had set up a meeting with the locals that would be working the festival, it was here that they decided how much they would be charging for their duties. 

Such as the locals using their personal mokoro boats to taxi the customers from the parking area to the actual festival island. Anything they make is theirs to keep. The local women will be serving local food, whilst also working at the ticket station on the carpark side of the delta. 

Our host discussed this to the 40/50 locals that turned up, whilst my friend and I filmed and photographed. 

I gave my iPhone to a young boy, who I trained in it’s workings, and before too long, the little one was running around photographer of the year style, adapting to the functions of an iPhone freakishly quickly. 

The local lady then sung us a song in their choir which we filmed, and then we took a mokoro back to the farm. 

The Convoy 

On our final day, before our departure to the island, we decided to join Thomas in driving to Maun in order to show the stall owners which route their trucks would drive on set-up day. After a confusing hoo-har where my friend and I were hustled from vechile angrily to another, we set off with a 4 truck strong convoy. One mega large with an open back, containing a large water container, then two large 4x4’s. 

We sat in the Toyota with Thomas and filmed the anarchy that proceeded. Driving in immense skill skidding the sand in the appropriate way enough to propel the car forward enough to not sink. Then watch as these huge trucks did the same. 

We then reached the water, and had such a fun time jigging the vechiles through the water, watching as it title waves either sides, hanging out head and legs over the back whilst we watch the following truck dipping in and out of water. 

When on the isand, the stall owners, each mega friendly introduced themselves to us, and proceeded to mark their territory with tape. The tapped of sections added some life to the site. 

We then did our final mokoro back to the farm for our final supper. 

It was this evening we were told we would be moved onto the festival island 3 days early, as there were VI- VIP guests staying in the farm for the next two days. Having had our share of luxury, we were happy to move on…. 

…Or so we thought.. 

The Farm


26th of August 2018

We had no idea what to expect from our hosts, I was assuming perhaps a mildly fancy yurt on the festival site, kitted with hopefully a roll matt and a pillow. We followed our instructions to wait at a local cafe by the same name of the farm our hosts owned, upon arrival we were pleased to see familiarity on the menu, and hastily ordered two iced-coffees to cure us in the heat…and a Fanta orange for emergency sugar supplies (these became fundamental). 

As soon as we could order, a young chap asks if I am Sophie, of course I am, and he is Thomas. From this point we followed Thomas in his amazing 4x4 Toyota pick up, loaded our bags and ourselves and met the team: ET (as in phone-home), Thomas and Sega

We then proceeded to do, what I later realise is a safari drive - or at least a drive through some safari - off the tarmac main roads of Maun, off road onto the sand tracks: we then zipped in-between trees, various cattle, a few dogs and some chickens. Sadly no elephants stumbled across us, although we were pointed out to the mounds of fresh dung by such a creature. So close, yet so far it seemed.

I had never been in a ride as cool as this Toyota, nor through terrain quite like the safari. Our guides imparted some wisdom explaining various plants and animals and birds. We learned all about termite hills, and their epic dystopia like structures. 
We were then stunned further as Thomas drove the Toyota happily into the water; being from the city, this was other-worldy, and rather epic, in the shallow waters of the Delta’s edge cattle come to leisurely drink and bathe. We also saw an eagle from his hunting perch patiently awaiting to spy his pray. 

After an exciting fourty minute or so drive, through water and all, we arrived at a gate, and drove into the farm lands. Thomas then showed us to our room, a chalet on stilts. 

It was too much for James and I to handle, a luxurious resort room fit for royalty: we insisted Thomas must have us in the wrong place, but after being assured we were correct, we settled our things in the “Elephant Room’, of which a hole wall, and the higher parts of the ceiling were netted, so one could sleep gazing into the wild.

We were then shown the swimming pool area, the bar area, the eating area and chilling spaces. A true paradise nestled within the branches and wildlife of nature. We then proceeded to meet our hosts and their friends/festival team. 

Thomas then suggested he showed us the festival site, of which was accessible via a mokoro ride away. So in we jumped into a long metal thin boat, that glides peacefully through the knee or so deep water, with Lilly pads, grass and the sound of frogs everywhere. The ten minute ride was tranquil and stunning. My friend and I transfixed on the sheer beauty of the delta, astonished to find ourselves in this position. 

We arrived at the island where the festival is to be held: currently simple cleared bush on a small island surrounded by the delta. As we walk around Thomas paints a picture of where things will be, and we are introduced to Ben and Robert, the dedicated island security who have settled there for a week in a small camp.

Upon our return to the farm, we are offered to eat at our hosts table with them and their friends whom were all part organising the festival too. 

Here we mingled with the owners of the farm, the festival, we ate and laughed. Everyone was incredibly friendly, my friend and I felt hosted like royalty. 
We retired to our room after a few refreshing ciders, we tried to let It all settle in, excited for every forth coming stage of out journey. 

The Journey - Gabarone to Maun

25th of August 2018


I am awake, and I am inspired. 

At 5am, we left our Air BnB in Gabarone, the capitol of Botswana, on the South border of South Africa and made our way to the bus port station, which thankfully was quieter than the hectic hustle and bustle of puzzled chaos we checked out the day before. Consequently we could see our bus already sat, engine on, ready to go. We boarded, and I slept. 

Now I am awake and I want to document what I see on the road from South to North Botswana, through the Okavango Delta to Maun, the capitol city of the North. 

The land is barren and the tree’s are stark with the occasional green leafed champion standing taller than the rest. The earth is dry and dusty littered with rocks and scorched yellow: all lite with the romantic warm hue of the burning relentless sun. 

At occasional intervals the trees either side become enclosed in wiring, I assume to mark ownership of property and enclose the wildlife within. Where these wires disappear, the landscape remains mostly the same. 

Here and there are shacks made from corrugated iron for the roofs as well as for walls with their owners, farmers perhaps wrapped in various hemp scarfs: skin painted the darkest by the incessant sun light that beams even in winter, perched outside. Sometimes circular structures made from brick and thatched, big enough for perhaps, to sleep two.

The occasional wonderer can be spotted sat in the sheltering shade of a tree, accompanied often by an animal friend, a goat, or dog, or seen to be walking far in the distance, perhaps tending to land or cattle. 

In terms of animals, thus far I saw the gangly neck of an ostrich I thought could have been the trunk of an elephant. A few mules, and cows and chickens are plenty. Strangely there seem to be many albino cows, I wonder if this is a reproductive evolutionary reaction to the heat, in an attempt to keep the animal cooler. - (EDIT, turns out as a guide told me “No, that’s just their colour”  - ha).

The journey is lonesome, barely passing another. The ride itself is comfortable enough, stripped of luxuries, leaving only the bare necessities (including the use of a toilet, and much more impressionably - lack of arm rests). As we rattle down the progressively bumpy road, an overturned truck serves as a stark reminder of the dangers in driving surrounded by free-roaming wild-life. The mind wonders what sad fate caused this incident, perhaps a run in with a cow, or larger, a rhino even? Not unheard of in these parts. 

A pathway etched out in white chalk runs parallel to the tarmac road we ride upon. Here we can see plenty of cattle wondering to and fro. 

I’m listening to my playlist prepped for my next ‘Electric Dish’ podcast which is focused on chilled out, relaxing music, mostly from Africa. It’s truly warming my heart and I can’t wait to share it. 

People disembark at seemingly random hostile spots with no noticeable infrastructures. I wonder where they are going to and for why? For work? Farming? Family? They walk off, backs to the road into the obis of trees, wrapping scarfs around their head for heat protection as they go. 

On the way various excitements: slowing for a wild pack of dogs as the driver skilfully hoots his horn repeatedly and weaves between them. Most randomly, someone riding a horse. 

A small village with circular clay looking houses with thatched roofs. On a few occasions, actual small villages, a collection of concrete buildings, plastered flat and painted the colour of the earth, a sandy orange. I can see small children wondering with a half deflated ball, youths gathered sat by the side of a house, and adults equally perched in the shade of a tree or in front of their homes.  These small communities perhaps have no more than fifty official structures, and the larger perhaps up too two hundred, each with it’s own corrugated shack communities on the periphery of the sturdier structures. Cars are few and scarce here. Some places such as the mini city of ‘Kange’ are more built up with stores and communities, advertisement, such as: ‘Liquerarma - For The Good Times’ in these places we stop multiple times for people hopping on and off in various areas.

A slightly less charming aspect of the journey is with the various groups of people embarking and disembarking from one community to another, comes a variety of sales pitches: “here here, try my billtong, and pay me”, “gimme money” as they parade a box of chewing gums and bananas under your face with sheer insistence you give them money for their offering, no matter how much you protest, and regardless of if you even have money or not. The least pleasurable of corse, is when they to ask my male companion if: firstly I am his girlfriend, and then regardless of the answer, pursue me with the same insistence, often demanding my non-existant phone number and or a picture with me.

“I am African, I am big, perhaps I can take her for a test ride” , “She very pretty maybe I can have a go  to” … for example. 

The terrain is as flat as they eye can see, and for hours all the eye could see is this terrain of  tree’s and then patches of no trees. As the journey progressed, the day got longer and the sun got hotter, the bus temperature rose to near unbearable when stationary. When moving, one could open the window and have nice, but aggressive breeze to cool the sweltering temperatures. 

Nine hours in, the hottest it’s reached, the bus breaks down. A lady turns and says to us 

“You are lost in the land” then with a cheeky glare “There are Lions around” - fantastic delivery she had, really gave us the desired creeps. 

Having only so far seen an ostrich as far as anything out the ordinary, seeing a lion doesn’t concern me, but melting in into the fabrics of the bus concerns me. Nevertheless, what’s a delayed 10 hour coach ride… We’re off again after twenty minutes or so of a customer crawling under the bus. No worries. 

The sand turns form yellows to dark oranges and the trees from scarce to thick in density. The road becomes newly tarmacked and it’s yellow lines become more vivid. The trees grow taller and more lushus, it’s clear this never ending bush must be approaching a city. 

The first signs of water appear approximately half an hour out of Maun, and then disappear again for the remainder of the journey. 

Let us not forget the obscure ‘Foot and Mouth Checkpoint’ procedure, where they empty the coach of luggage and passengers,  to merely ask if you have shoes in your bag, no search as you just shake you head say no, then to return your bag, after which you must stand on a moist cloth on the floor… anti-bacteria? I’m not sure how effective the search point is, but all I know is I had no cow hooves on me. 

Another short ride, more of the same, and we arrive at the Maun bus station. 

Old Bridge Backpackers

Botswana - Maun 

25th of August 2018

Old Backpackers

What a tranquil and stunning treat. 

As we leave the taxi we took from the bus station, via the enormous ‘Chappies’ supermarket where we brought orange juice and crisps, my friend - endless biltong… we are greeted with a helpful smiling face in the reception of a wooden shack under a large thatched roof. 

To the other side is a bespoke bar up-cycled from tree stumps and miscellaneous natural materials. It’s the most people I’ve seen so far in one place drinking beer, a pool table, a tiny swimming pool with children paddling. 

After a small panic where it seemed I had left my purse in the taxi, we found our cash, and booked their only available room - the double suit. 

It’s the view that makes the difference here, just on the periphery of the bars edge, there’s a huge water reserve. Little boats with motors are parked just no the shore, but most beautifully, there are cows and donkeys paddling in the water, each calmly drinking beside one another. The water is surrounded by exotic trees, such as long lanky palms, dosey dangling willows who’s leaves just hang and tickle the waters edge. 

The last rays of sunlight just highlight the scene with a beautiful golden yellow glow and I feel finally relaxed and tranquil as though I may have walked into a paradise. 

We are shown to our ‘room’: a stunning shack, enclosed in a fence of private sticks, a private view to a segment of the water and it’s inhabitants. Inside a cosy bed, but most luxuriously, a private shower and toilet beneath nothing more than the shelter of trees. I immediately couldn’t wait to bath under the sun and trees in the morning. A treat indeed.

We settled in our rooms, applauded the mosquito net, then visited the bar to order some food. Here we spent a happy evening in the company of other, eating, drinking beer and failing at pool. The sun over the calm water was stunnig as was the evening and the stars reflected in the water. We retired to our private viewing deck, and shared a random cigar. 

Tomorrow was to be the big day, the traveling ends and the business begins. What a calming and beautiful last evening. 


Gabarone to Maun 

25th of August 2018


After a short and extremely sweet stay in Jo-burg: visiting the creative all-inclusive area of Maboneng, and the historically rich Soweto, finishing off with a stunning jazz concert in the equivalent of South Africa’s ‘Jazz cafe - London’, we had to start to make our way to our final destination: Maun, North Botswana. 

In order to get to Maun, one must take a 6 hour bus ride from Johannesburg to Gabarone: the capitol city of Botswana located on the South border of Botswana and South Africa. So that we did (it must be said, after missing our first coach due to bad hangovers mixed with bad traffic - whoops). The event started at the shiny Jo-Burg bus port and upon a shiny double-decker we boarded. It was much to my excitement the front seats up top were un-occupied, so a scenic and comfortable journey we had indeed. 

Upon researching Gabarone, we found it rather humorous to read on the official website, their description for the capitol city: 

“Depending on your perspective, low-key Gabarone (or Gabs as it’s known to it’s friend) is either terribly unexciting or one of Africa’s more tranquil capitol cities. There aren’t that many concrete reasons to come there - it’s a world of government ministries, shopping malls and a seemingly endless urban sprawl - and most travellers can fly to Maun, or cross overland elsewhere. Yet it can be an interesting place to take the pulse of the nation.” 

Coupling this with the Google knowledge that THE most visited tourist destinations in Gabarone was - a statue monument of three dudes. 

…we were rather looking forward to experiencing this place for ourselves and to see what all the terribly uninteresting fuss was about. Being our rather hilarious selves, we thought the experience would be a laugh… would be a ‘funny’ kind of crap. 

We were wrong. 

Upon entering Botswana, you proceed down an American style free-way, and on either side, industrial sites pop up, and a massive mall to the left. A little further and one can see… exactly the same, “urban sprawl” and - another mall. We stop 15 minutes or so in from the border at a ‘Shell’ petrol station, disembark to find our Air BnB host waiting to give us a ride to the place. 

We continue to drive through urban sprawl, looking like a mini version of Dubai, but certainly not impressive in anyway. Our accommodation is located in ‘Block 10’ (seemingly all the housing areas are named by soulless numbers). The majority of homing sections we could see where gated communities, each home with it’s own fortress off remote control gates (triggered from inside the car of course), complete with electrified fences upon the high walls. 

Although it didn’t seem to look dangerous to us, there was no shortage in safety warnings, such as not to walk anywhere after dark, to make sure your taxi’s legit, to not follow anyone anywhere. 

After settling, our host dropped us off for some food… in a mall, this one called Airport Junction. Here we ate a mildly satisfying meal in a commercial corporate business, surrounded by Wimpys and Nandos. Rather sad at the reality, we accepted a ride home, as our host picked us back up and drove us the 5 minute ride to the enclosure. 

After settling in, we wanted to go out to look at the stars, however: it was here upon trying to leave our room, we made the unfortunate discovery we were in fact locked in, and the door had broken from the inside! On top of this, as we had just entered Botswana in the evening, and therefore didn’t have a local sim yet - we had no phone, no contact.

Refusing to panic, we decided to calmly wait for our host, who had said she would pop by in the morning to offer us a lift, and so an uneasy sleep proceeded. On top of this, my friend and I were incredibly un-happy with the toilet that had no door… That’s too close for comfort. 

After a watch of Harry Potter from the hardrive, as you guessed it, there was no wifi, and a sleep… the morning came about, and quite unable to believe the situation we both set to work attempting to open this door, but to no avail. 

After 45 minutes, our lovely host came to our rescue, and with bated breath we passed her the keys through the (electrified) window, and crossed our fingers as she attempted to open it from the other side. Success. We were free. 

Relieved we had regained all our human rights, mainly the ability to move… we embarked on finding out about the next part of our journey, from Gabarone to Maun, after a frustrating run around, and much mis-information, we had walked for a couple of hours and found the bus port, where we were told no booking is required, and we merely turn up before six am to board the ten hour bus. In an attempt to feel some security in our movements of the 6am coach, we decided to find it’s specific docking station in the chaos of the bus port. 

The bus port was the only sign of life we saw our entire time in Gabarone, the hectic chaos of street vendors, locals grafters, anyone and everyone in the city who was trying to earn a buc seemed to be here. The messy puzzle of vehicles: like a horizontal Jenga of buses and taxis: noisy as hell and filled to the brim. It reminded me somewhat of the hectic-ness of the bazaars in Morocco. 

Once we found where the bus would be however (through no signs, but word of mouth), we decided it was time to visit the no.1 tourist destination: The Three statues. After a further thirty minute walk (we walked specifically to kill time) we arrived. 

Terribly uninteresting indeed. A nice statue it must be said, three tribal chiefs, with six information boards mapping the history of Botswana and it’s independence. Read in around two minutes. We wondered what the hell people do her sin Gabs…. 

With that we returned to a Mall…and we drank. 

Gabarone was some what soul sucking in its relentless “endless urban sprawl” and stringent lack of character or personality - whereby city had popped out of nothing but baron land perhaps as an economical reaction to it’s location between South Africa and the rest of Africa… Lacking in culture and civilisation even. Not even a cinema. 

Indeed we couldn’t wait to leave, and left at 5:30am.  


South Africa - Johannesburg

22nd of August 2018.

En route to the Southern part of Jo-burg: the historical township of Soweto. Historical because during apartheid, the government created the ‘all-black’ settlements as part of their racist ruling. Therefore it has a rich history of political un-just and poverty, but also of immense and wonderful creative and musical expression: Soweto music being one of the most celebrated genres from South Africa. 

It took a 15 minute Uber from the centre of Jo-burg, and on the ride towards, shanty towns stretched as far as the eye could see. Metal shacks no bigger than most westerners bathrooms. Certainly too hot in the summer, and I’d imagine too cold in the winter. 

Upon entering the centre road - Vilakazi Street, I exited the taxi to be immediately greeted by the usual flock of locals offering various things for local currency. It was here I was treated to a performance: a five part harmony in amazing Soweto fashion complete with rhythmic clapping and body slapping. Impressive I handed over the destined amount, and in happiness they sung again and said we may take a video if we pleased. As an ethnomusicologist I leaped at the chance and shot a small segment of their welcome song. I then handed them a little more, for the talent was totally worth it. 

It didn’t end there. We arrived as light was thinning, the assumed hoard of tourists slimmed to simply us thus we became prime bate and became bombarded by locals attempting (poorly) the same singing act they witnessed us enjoying. Alternatively offering a variety of imaginative things that might earn them money. Sadly at this point I had really given all my change to the lucky harmonic fellows - whom I still believe deserved it from their fabulously rehearsed compositions. 

This barricade of humans made it difficult to walk the main street and look at the remaining stalls. We paused outside the iconic ‘Mandela House’ - although perhaps relieved  it was closed -  we had visited the Apartheid Museum and really had our fill of all things Mandela. 

A little further down the street, merely one block on the opposite corner stood Desmond Tutu’s house. Again we didn’t get too close as the entrance was closed anyway at this time, and the fear of being haggled by the homeless overcame and we retreated into a café. After a delicious cocktail we attempted to explore a little more, but after 5 feet my companion had lost all remaining money in his wallet to an efficient beggar who asked to swap 70 pence in English money for all the South African contents of his wallet. 

After this we decided perhaps in the darkness, there really is no-where to safely explore among the un-lite shanti streets, we decided we should remain in the confinements of the bar, and perhaps exploring further would require a tour guide. 

Disappointing a little, but not really. It was to be expected, one can’t turn up in a shanty town and expect easy access to whatever we want to see. Still, my very being in the historically rich area, had an energy and a warmth well worth visiting, and I’ll forever be grateful I had the opportunity to step foot there at all. Every time I listen to Soweto vinyl, the warmth of their air will come to me again. 

The Maboneng District

South Africa - Johannesburg 

21st of August 2018.


Upon disembarking the plane from Heathrow London and, reclaiming our baggage (which threatened to be lost before taking off: the plane realised they had the wrong luggage truck), we took our first steps on South African soil and left Johannesburg airport. 

We did exactly what was strongly suggested and called for an Uber. Eight-thousand miles across the face of the globe, and corporate conglomerates ‘Uber’ still own the land. Nevertheless the familiarity and highest promise of safety sat fine and comfortable with me. 

We called for a ride, and after the confusion of being on two separate floors of the airport carpark, we were on our way to our first Air Bnb - another cooperation I am happy to welcome on my travels. The ease and flexibility of Air BnB means that I neither have to worry about the condition, comfort or hospitality of backpacker hostels, nor worry about the safety of our belongings, or finally that we must spend big money on hotel rooms. Air Bnb makes for a perfect in between, and it turns out, available at the same backpacking prices. 

We drive through Johannesburg, or Joburg as it’s known to locals and such. Nothing remarkable stands out, the usual economic infrastructures, bordering on industrial looking, billboards with cooperate advertising everywhere, large freeways with dark steaming cars.

A turn here and turn there and we bustle into local streets. Suddenly the somewhat western and developed sights begin to depict the juxtaposition: poverty. Our Uber drives through roads of derelict buildings with broken windows, mounds of trash, tire fires with the homeless keeping warm around them. Those on the street look tired, worn, in old dirty clothes, they look at the Uber as it passes and my nerves raise a little. At this point, our otherwise silent driver asks if we are staying here, I check the map, that dreaded final destination dot nearly completely obscured by our vehicle dot…  and with hesitation reply yes - indeed the address was correct. He then said… 

“Very dangerous… you can see with your own eyes, very dangerous”. Eyes fully maxed, pupils expanded in shock and fear, eyebrows raised, my friend and I both make a silent wish for safety. 

As we drove a further two blocks or so South, a contrast as dramatic as as imaginable happened. As one building with no windows or doors leaves my sight, the next is the opposite. Buildings were well crafted, painted, maintained, as though entering the quirky segment of Brick Lane or Shorditch. Cafes and bars and coffee shops  made from shipping containers, and an entire road seemingly in uniform, painted chalk black, many with creative, well kept, murals decorating, and graffiti tag areas. With a sigh of relief, it was on this road we found our Air Bnb which resided in a large ‘creative community’ with spaces rented to artistic merit, or to locals for Air BnB business.

The next day we decided to do the recommended walking tour of Maboneng. It was here the contrast was explained: this jump from the dangerous hostile, homeless streets to the  North - to the artistic, friendly, up and coming welcoming streets.

Here the story was told… 

A gentleman by the name of Jonathan Litman - a student from South Africa who decided to save up in order to travel and see the world. He studied different cities and how they dealt with community, poverty and homelessness. He then returned to Jo-burg with an idea based on the local tradition - the spirit of ‘Ubunti’ - meaning ‘humanity - I Am Because We Are.’ 

He started with his first project in 2009 the ‘Market on Mains’ where he converted a huge warehouse into a food market and creative space for artists to independently sell their goods, attracting thousands each weekend and quickly becoming the busiest place to visit on a Sunday: the day of the farmers market. This allowed him to continue to invest and to equally find investors interested in his model that seemed to be working.

He privately invested in affordable social housing in this new idea of a non-gated, non-dangerous community, where people could walk freely on the streets, and where creatives could “work, live and play” in the same place. Here it was explained that many people travel a minimum of an hour and half to get from their homes to their work placement due to the economy not accounting for affordable housing within the economic centre. 

He designed these homes to be inclusive to middle and lower classes, all while keeping them affordable: such the up cycling and conversion of storage containers into small liveable homes. 

Considering the previous state of the area, many buildings Jonathan Litman attempted to acquire for renovation were practically given to him. A further knock on effect is that owners of otherwise derelict buildings returned, to renovate their properties in the same way Litman was doing, as they can see the area becoming welcoming, and desirable and they finally deemed it worth it.

To ensure that families could function in the community, he went ahead a built a children’s school, and a large supermarket. As well as this he took the street vendors working out on the streets in their make-shift shacks, and built their businesses into the outside of the school, thus making their trade legitimate and professional and inclusive for all. 

He then commissioned famous artists from around the world to paint murals on the buildings. Such as famous and important cultural and historical figures of independent South Africa: painted with pride and talent, such as the largest mural of Nelson Mandela in South Africa can be found climbing the side of a social housing project, activist and renowned singer Chaka Khan looks down over the cafes from the top side of a gallery. As well as this, one large homing community has been turned into a beautiful vertical garden enhancing the overall image of the buildings, and creating good for the environment.

In this way he started to privately fund his own community: renovating homes in the derelict buildings, but also creative spaces such as: art studios, galleries, cafes, an independent cinema, a community theatre.

He continues to make it sustainable, for everyone, by ensuring that the projects are run by at least 60% locals and 40% to internationals. He said, very importantly, said no to co-operate franchises: such as denying a Starbucks application in the belief that this would ruin the entire point, and make it unsustainable for the locals. 

As artists traveled the world to paint the buildings in the Maboneng district, more artists became attracted to the idea, to the area, to open personal studios in the spaces, to actually live there, and to invest. All of whom take an oath to adhere to the strict rules of keeping it inclusive, creative and social. 

Furthermore, Jonathan Litman quite literally cleaned up the streets, taking previous dumping grounds, and therefore breading grounds for trouble…he disposed of all the communities rubbish, flattened the floors around those areas and created them into designated ‘tagging’ spots for graffiti artists: the result, is that no-one litters there and instead create art. 

It’s attracted other charitable programmes and international NGO’s too, such as the Tony Hawks Foundation that currently has three ‘learn and skate’ projects in the world: one based in the heart of Maboneng whereby children can go after school and for every hour of school work they complete that can learn to skate for one hour thus keeping kids entertained, educated and off the streets. 

This is the definition of a grassroots campaign. Perhaps even a grassroots gentrification - the good type we don’t hear about anymore.

At no point have the government invested money into any of this now thriving area, it has all been from the community and private investors. There are opportunities for people to open their businesses independently, practise their art, and live with their family where they work for affordable prices. 

The plan is to extent the community North and South until the district stretches for many blocks, and will / is certainly helping to create an economy for the all. It’s all about integration of everyone, regardless of age, colour, religion, class… a place where those who want a chance, can get one. An inclusive area where people drink coffees outside cafes together, share home-made pizzas, explore galleries and book shops. It is a safe space that with the likes of Uber have made accessible and easy to access too, therefore creating many many daily visitors. It is the only place in all of our Africa trip, we were advised we COULD walk the streets in safety. 

Maboneng stands colourful, creative, loud and proud. It is quite simply a fantastic model of a system that can function for the many not for the few: an all-inclusive community built upon creativity and void of any Government of co-operate self interests. 

I was stunned to learn how this artistic hive had come about, stemming from one guys selfless dream, and clever approach. Thought through in order to keep it sustainable and in order to grow and expand. It’s magnificent really. I can’t wait to re-visit Maboneng and see how it’s grown along with it’s lovely community. 


8th of September EDIT: 

I have returned from Botswana, and due to our flight leaving from Jo-burg airport, we are in the exact same building as we last stayed, in the centre of the Maboneng district, and this time, there is a film festival. 

Certainly here I am seeing by far the trendiest looking people I have seen this whole trip, reminiscent of walking the streets of London during fashion week, everyone looking so smart and dapper. 

There are events on everywhere, people walking from one to the other, as though we were not in the middle of crime ridden South Africa, where it is a gamble of life and death to not ‘uber’ even three minutes in any other area except the Maboneng district. 

The scenes are so fresh and vibrant and incredibly artistic, it’s overwhelming. The district could be transported to any developed city in Europe, make sense, but then also still look authentically better, because let’s face it… these people have some serious style.