There are a thousand pocket worlds in Johannesburg, rubbing up against each other. The students and arts scene in Brixton and Braamfontein, the black hipster hang-out of Newtown around the Market Theatre and Café Sophiatown, the suits and shiny cars in Bank City by the Diamond Building. Hillbrow has always been a separate animal. The twin towers of High Point used to be the most desirable blocks in the most cosmopolitan neighbourhood with restaurants and bars and clubs. When my dad was considering divorce in the 70s, he planned to buy an apartment here as the perfect swinging bachelor pad. That was before Hillbrow turned bohemian: sex and drugs and rocking disco soul thanks to the likes of Brenda Fassie, the madonna of the townships, who hung out here, got high here, made love here, in the middle of the hip multi-racial scene of artists and musicians and gays and lesbians in the 80s and 90s. Now it’s the place people bring their hopes, packed up in amashangaan, the ubiquitous cheap plastic rattan suitcases used by refugees and immigrants from small towns in the rural areas, looking for work, looking to break in. Low income, high aspirations.
more from Lauren Beukes at Granta here.