When did you realise you were really good at DIY? When I was a little girl and I helped my dad build a rabbit hutch in the garden. When was the last time you felt over-the-moon happy? When Nataniël liked one of my Instagram posts. How did you meet your bestie, Marianne? It was way back when I was in Standard 6 [Grade 8]. I met her in the line at the tuck shop and we’ve been best friends ever since. When was the last time you ate something really weird? I ate the inside of a sea urchin because Marianne dared me to. It was gross and delicious at the same time. What was the first New Year’s resolution you ever made? Two years ago I made a resolution to learn how to make a spreadsheet because I’m not very good with technology. What was the last New Year’s resolution you broke? I tried to not eat sweeties and chocolates for a whole year but obviously that didn’t go so well. What was the first thing you wanted to be when you grew up? An air hostess. When was the last time you threw a dinner party? I threw a dinner party for Halloween and Marianne and her siblings came. They’re a little bit weird. Who was the first person you had a crush on? Marius. I met him in pottery class. When was the last time you let that bun down? I let it down at night when I am sleeping. Obviously. When did you first realise you had fans? When someone hugged me when I was in the queue at Checkers. I got a real fright. When did you last have a coffee at vida? Oh, okay... I’m drinking one right now. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Well, just this year I had a dream come true when I published my first book, SuzelleDIY: The Book. You know anyone can do DIY. It’s so easy, you just need a bit of inspiration.
This is Marianne’s favourite food trick. Basically, it’s a poodle carved out of a cauliflower. Maybe you love poodles? Maybe you love cauliflower? Well, if you do, here is a fun and decorative idea to please all the animal lovers at your next party.
You will need: A head of cauliflower A small sharp knife Mustard seeds Some toothpicks And your creativity…
Method: 1. Start by carving a little head out of a cauliflower floret. Cut a little mouth into the cauliflower stem with your knife. 2. Make the body using two slightly bigger florets – you can carve little leg pompoms if you like. 3. Make a little tail from a tiny floret, and secure all the pieces with toothpicks. 4. Use two mustard seeds for his eyes. Cut little slits and wedge them in. 5. You can be endlessly creative with your poodle designs – no two poodles look the same! Why not try making broccoli poodles too?
SuzelleDIY: The Book (Human & Rousseau) is available from all good book shopsTweet
A week is not ideal for making a movie. Do you think it restricted you, or did it help you focus? Yeah, it was restrictive as you always on the wrong side of the clock but it also provides a new focus and determination to tell the best story we could tell under the conditions we were faced with. You’ve won awards and praise for Thina Sobabili. Did you also turn a decent enough profit to make your next film, or is it going to be another struggle for funds? It’s always going to be a struggle to make the film independently - Thina Sobabili was the school fees that we needed to pay in order to understand the system and how to move within it. To best answer the first part of this question, it took more than money to make the first film. You’ve said next are 'a tragic love story' and 'a traditional vendetta fist-fighting film'. Which will be first, or have you changed your plan? The tragic love story will be the first to be made, then the boxing film. What does the local film industry need most at the moment? Exhibitors that are Afro-centric in their programing. You’re new on the board of the Jozi Film Festival. What would you like to do there to help local filmmakers? Share my experience as a filmmaker who’s made a film and got it out to the rest of the world. Is there a director who influenced your style? I think I’m still trying to really understand and define my style, without any influences. The star-struck question: have you met any personal heroes doing the festival circuit overseas? Yeah, a whole host of them. All that did was affirm that I’m on the right path and I can make it in this game. Are you famous yet? Fame is a drug I want no part of, so I hope I never get famous. Instead, I hope my work receives notoriety.
Last year was one of the first years in which I have had a genuine sense of ‘time’s winged chariot hurrying near’. I feel this way not in terms of my personal ageing, although I do keep finding strange long hairs in places where fashion magazines tell me women should definitely be hairless. No, I mean in terms of a strong impression that the future is overwhelming the present while we’re still in it. ‘Whatever do you mean by that?’ I hear you clamour. I mean that I can’t think of any other year in which I became so acutely aware that stuff we would once have considered the realm of science fiction is now real. If I had to explain my case at a debating tournament, I would simply offer one piece of evidence. ‘A robot killed a man,’ I’d say, and drop the mic. Because, yes, dear readers, that happened in our lifetime, and a mere seven months ago. A robot at a Volkswagen production plant in Germany crushed a worker to death in late June. To quote from the Associated Press report at the time: ‘The machine grabbed and pushed him against a metal plate.’ That’s obviously sinister enough, but then there’s a part in the report that really chilled my blood: ‘The type of robot that crushed the employee is usually kept in a cage.’ Please take a moment as you sip your coffee to reflect on that statement. It was printed as an innocuous detail of the article, even though it should obviously have been surrounded by those emojis of hollow-eyed faces screaming soundlessly. The robot had to be kept in a cage. And then it killed someone. It’s now half a year down the line, and I still can’t stop talking about it. ‘You know what this means?’ I hiss. ‘This is the beginning of The Singularity: when machines become cleverer than us, and murder us all.’ I’ll admit, I’ve known for some time this was coming. I’m pretty sure that even my ancient BlackBerry, which spontaneously reboots every fifteen minutes and loses all my WhatsApps, might be cleverer than me already. I know that any pocket calculator is cleverer than me. The only device I think I might be able to outsmart in a death-battle is my GPS, because that fool can’t even pronounce Buitengracht Street. Oh sure, there have been plenty of ways in which we’ve harnessed technology for the greater good in 2015. There was that dude who had a penis transplant, and is now a father. People figured out that we could use drones to deliver humanitarian aid, and not just to kill people. Scientists have started 3-D printing body parts like they’re Chinese T-shirts. Engineers are making cars that will basically run on dreams and starlight. That’s all wonderful news, and I’m happy for everyone involved. But should these magical innovations make us drop our guard against a potential robot uprising? No, I say. It’s obviously going to be stressful to keep our eyes peeled for signs of machines developing independent consciousness and a burning sense of resentment, but we owe it to all humanity to stay alert. Watch your devices keenly for signs of autonomous thought. Did your iPod Shuffle predict a little too closely what tune you were in the mood for? Did your popcorn fail to burn when you left it in the microwave too long, because the microwave anticipated your error and compensated for it? In these small ways our gadgets build our dependency – and our trust.Tweet
There is a mathematical curve called the Koch snowflake, one of the earliest fractals described, that fascinated Simon Beck as a kid in Somerset, England. Many years later it would become a cornerstone of what put him on the map – geometric designs that can be the size of eight soccer fields, drawn by trudging through snowy landscapes in snow shoes. The walk can be 30 kilometres long and a design can take 12 hours of work, weather permitting.
About the process: do you have a design first and then scout for a suitable canvas, or do you pic a spot and then create something that fits? The second option. But a lot of the time nowadays I am making a drawing for someone else in an area I don't know, so usually they choose a spot where the public will see it and I do the best I can in the space I am given I always think that creating art that cannot last takes a certain attitude not everyone has. Is it more about expressing yourself than about creating a legacy? The key is to get the photos. Photos are what one keeps. When you are working, would you say it's more engineering or more art, or a bit of both? Engineering drawing. All the art is done indoors. There is something fascinating about making geometric order on organic flow (nature). What is your philosophical take on the relationship between your work and its environment? A uniform area of featureless snow is a boring part of the natural environment. And an ideal place to make a drawing. So I am filling in where nature has left a gap. You've started working on beaches as well. Does that mean you're equally happy in blazing sun than in snow? That makes it sound hotter than reality. Heat and sunburn are just as much a problem when drawing in the daytime on snow. It is usually breezy on the beach and hot weather is not usual in Britain. Do you use special equipment to make sure you don't stray off lines and so on? No. It would be good to have a mast somewhere and a laser to point a dot on the snow and follow the dot, but that would involve a lot of practical problems and expense> Your home base, Arc2000, has a strange name. Is it a town, a ski lodge or a base camp? It is part of the resort of LEs ARcs. It isn't unusual for French ski resorts to include a figure representing the altitude into the name of part of a resort, but is appears to be something only the French do as far as I know.
Have a look at Simon Beck: Snow Art, a book with photographs of Simon’s best work over ten years. Follow him on Facebook for updates on his projects.
When was the last time you received a postcard? And do you remember how it felt to find that glossy, multicoloured note from an exotic destination among the bland accounts and junk mail in your postbox? (Incidentally, postcards first emerged in Austria around 1869 as a cheap and quick means of communication.) We asked a few local designers to send us a personally designed postcard from their home province and tell us what inspired their art.
My favourite memory of growing up there is the summer holidays. There are many sleepy, little beach stops that are pretty laid-back and rural. Not much to do but spend the whole day at the beach with friends and family. The coastline is also fairly untouched and wild in places. Not seeing another person after hiking for three hours can be surprisingly nice. My inspiration was travelling around the province: stopping in small towns for the best biltong, travelling upcountry for school sports, taking different routes back to university. I also have family in the interior, so I got to see all the corners. The best thing about East London is no one wants to travel there much. It’s pretty underrated, and I think that’s swell. Fun fact: My town is nicknamed ‘Slummies’. I can’t recall how it got that name and it’s probably only known to locals, but we wear it proudly for some odd reason. If you’re ever there, explore the Wild Coast. Studio Muti
My favourite memory is having friends over on the farm for fun activities like swimming in the mud dams, riding the tractor, milking cows, and playing hide-and-seek in the mealie fields. Then eating a proper farm lunch to get enough energy to play again. My inspiration was the landscape of the Free State: the beautiful rolling colours and sparse, quaint farmhouses that decorate the fields of cattle and wheat. My postcard captures the serenity of the province. The best thing about my province: everything is slower than in the cities. People stop at your house at 11 a.m. on a Monday just for a coffee – no need to make appointments. Fun fact: Bothaville is the mealie capital of South Africa. If you’re ever in my hometown, get a vetkoek at Tant Sarie’s bakery. Studio Muti
My favourite memory is the view of the mountains from Lion’s Head in the early morning. The light is beautiful and when the air is clear there is no place like it on earth (except San Francisco – the same quality to the light there.) This is enchanting for an artist. My inspiration? Everyone thinks Cape Town is postcard perfect. Not in my experience. The weather is seldom fair here. Gale-force winds blowing sand in your face. Extreme temperatures. Rain. It is a challenging environment. In the sunny tree-lined streets of the ‘burbs there is one world and then there is another world: the one most Capetonians live in. Is their world suitable for a postcard? The best things about Cape Town are sunny, sandy beaches and beautiful babes. Hey, I bought the dream. Suckered. Fun fact: Sometimes a green flash is visible as the sun is setting and the light refracts off the sea. Has anyone seen it? Old-timers have told me about it. But they also babble about mermaids and stuff (happening) late at night. If you’re ever in Cape Town, you should… That’s a secret I can’t share. Sorry. Mark McLaughlin
My favourite memory is my mum taking my brother and me for a swim in the Mooi River. Strictly speaking we weren’t allowed to swim there, but cruising down that river was the ultimate rush for six-year-old me. My inspiration was the landscape of the North West. You really had to keep yourself entertained as a kid, so the fields and animals were our playground. The best thing about Potch is the tightly knit community. Even as a kid, I had the sense that people were genuinely interested and cared about one another. When I went back there to study, that was confirmed. Fun fact: Potchefstroom served as the first capital for the South African Republic. If you go there, do cocktails at River Cafe, because they make an insane mojito. Visit the North-West University Botanical Garden, a rad place for a picnic, and the art gallery there has some great exhibitions. Studio Muti
We had a swimming pool at the house where I grew up. I remember great, sunny Durban days – freshly cut grass, playing Marco Polo with friends, Lilos, swimming all day until our toes bled from scraping the bottom of the pool, underwater handstand competitions, ice lollies, swimming until dark (and then being scared of ‘Jaws’ in the deep end). Having lived in London for a few years, I can appreciate how good we had it. My inspiration was Durban’s promenade: it’s a chilled place to cycle, skateboard, jog or go for a stroll. Everyone gets along and the scene is very vibrant. It reminds me of fun times at the beach on hot summer days. The best thing about Durban is the weather and the chilled vibe. It is also a truly African city. Check out The Chairman jazz bar – where Africa meets New York. Fun fact: Religious groups sacrifice chickens on the beach. I once heard a rooster crowing in the bushes near the promenade – it must have escaped! Sean Crozier
I remember the culture was like that of a small town – walking to school barefoot, knowing everyone in the streets, playing tennis every weekend, going to school sports days and church fêtes. The only thing missing was white picket fences. My inspiration was historical landmarks and points of interest in Pretoria, as well as its botanical and aviary characteristics. The best thing about Pretoria is the jacaranda trees that turn the city purple in spring! I remember collecting jacaranda flowers as confetti for my aunt’s wedding. Fun fact: Pretoria was the home of the world’s largest soccer ball. As soccer fever hit South Africa in 2010, this ball was placed on top of the iconic Telkom tower. The ball was 24 metres across and eight storeys high. If you’re visiting, go to Tings an’ Times for live music, chilli poppers and Bar One samoosas!Studio Muti
As a concept the art-fashion collab is nothing new. At its most basic it’s a conversation; a variation of something we engage in every day. In fact, you might even be doing it right now, paging through this magazine. That’s not to say it doesn’t yield some interesting results. On the contrary, there is a rich and fascinating history between art and fashion. Yves Saint Laurent did it with the Mondrian dress, and Raf Simons and artist Sterling Ruby with their bleached denim. And then there’s our own NOT X Chris Saunders, a cross-cultural collaboration between Johannesburg-based photographer Chris Saunders and New York-based fashion designer Jenny Lai, spanning several disciplines, including moving images, photography, and garment creation. So, if this history is to teach us anything, it is that when art meets fashion there is an embracing of the collaborative spirit. And, it’s this spirit I can’t help but feel is at the heart of some of Cape Town’s most exciting art-fashion mash-ups. Online there is Skattie and Miss Moss, two fashion blogs initiated by Malibongwe Tyilo and Diana Moss respectively, that have branched out to include local art and culture projects. Their approach, while highlighting the importance of the digital media realm, has also shown us just how exciting collaboration across the creative boundaries can be. Then there are those mash-ups where doing what you love with the one you love have blossomed into collaboration at its most intimate. Two cases in point are Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen of AKJP, and Kat van Duinen and Kelly John Gough. We find out what makes their collaborative spirits tick.
How did you guys meet? Keith cast me in his debut collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Cape Town. We quickly became close friends and started dating. What made you decide to work together? We worked together on a shirt collaboration in 2013 – Keith designed the shirt and I made the print. A few months later, he asked me to design a collection for Spring/Summer 2014. Initially, I was supposed to introduce womenswear and do prints, but we ended up working together on every part of the collection. We didn’t plan on continuing to work together – it just happened because we shared a studio and got on really well.Who is your greatest influence? Our inspiration shifts and evolves with each collection. A single person who has consistently influenced the way we think about design is Camilla Nickerson – a fashion editor at American Vogue. We’ve always been drawn to the calm, grounded and relaxed mood of her editorials.How would you describe your collaboration? We work together on every aspect of a collection. We have a joint vision and, as a duo, we bring this to life through creative direction, hard work and using our individual strengths to make the collaboration a unique one…. We both did not expect to end up sharing a label.How do you view creativity? I think the more you do, the more you can do. I only know how to make things by actually making things. I try not to fuss too much about having great ideas as I usually end up getting ideas in the process of creating.What are your side projects? I have a full-time art career and Keith enjoys doing occasional interior design work. (Keith is trained in industrial design and has recently renovated the AKJP Collective store in Cape Town’s Kloof Street.)What’s the best thing that has happened to you as a team? Being scouted by Vogue Italia to exhibit our Spring/Summer 2016 collection in Dubai was quite spectacular. It was really good for our team morale to be part of the ‘Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience’.Anything quirky that we don’t know about you? Keith has his own special language that he invented when he was a child. I get to hear it all day in-studio.What are you working on at the moment? I’m focusing on my art career while Keith is overseeing production for summer.What does the future hold for you? We’re planning to introduce collections by emerging designers to the AKJP Collective store.
How did you guys meet? We met in 2010 after I saw one of Kelly’s artworks, ‘The End’, and was mesmerized by it. I struggled to decipher Kelly’s name in the piece’s signature, but eventually I sought him out to buy it. The rest, as they say, is history! What made you decide to work together? There is something electric, powerful and passionate about the joining together of two creatives. Kat: I was captivated by ‘The End’, a particularly haunting piece. Kelly: I was enchanted by her creativity and love of life. We are each other’s ultimate muses: we inspire, inspirit and energise one another. Who are you influenced by? Artists such as Egon Schiele, Malcolm Liepke, Sean Cheetham, the zeitgeist, the people I interact with, especially the Van Duinen family, and Kat is inspired by the continent of Africa and the desire to make dressing elegantly accessible. How would you describe the collaboration? The collaboration will be wearable art, garments and accessories influenced by and featuring Kelly’s artwork, lines and silhouettes, shapes and handiwork. It will be a mix of one-off, striking pieces and democratic, easy-to-wear items all bearing our creative trademarks. How do you view creativity? Kelly: I believe creativity is part of what it means to be human – it is something intrinsic in all of us as children, yet something society seems to squeeze out of us slowly but surely as we become consumed by everyday mundanity. Everyone has the capacity for creativity – that’s the beauty of it; creativity is fundamentally personal and subjective. But it needs to be practised and made habit in order to flourish. Kat: I cannot imagine myself not being creative; whether I was in the fashion industry or not. For me, creativity is a personal expression of beauty; a subjective seeking and refining of ideals. I see creativity in nature, objects, clothing, colours, lines, shadows – anything, even spreadsheets! The moment we are pushing boundaries and being exploratory – in whatever discipline – we are being creative. What are your side projects? Our side projects are numerous, but never detached from the main focuses of art and fashion. We’re a busy family, have the fashion boutiques, two seasonal ready-to-wear collections per year, plus Kelly’s regular exhibitions (solo and group) and private commissions throughout the year. We’re always looking to push our ideas and creations, conceptualise and action new pieces that add to our repertoire, and we’re are always looking to learn and develop our crafts. What’s the best thing that has happened to you? Kelly: ‘Going to The Rest farm in the Sneeuberg Mountains, and our upcoming collab, which is in the making.’ Kat: ‘Showing at SA Fashion Week 2014, surrounded by my team and all the people who mattered most, plus celebrating with them for the whole weekend afterwards!’ Anything quirky that we don’t know about you? Kelly is the quirk! Well, we both are. We are both quantum mechanicists. Kelly loves cooking (and is very good at it!), and I’m a gym addict. What are you working on at the moment? Our upcoming collaborative fashion collection, plus the opening of Kat’s first Johannesburg store in eclectic Newtown, as well as some private commissions for me. What does the future hold for you? Anything and everything! But always growth, laughter, creativity and a whole lot of risk, followed by reward!
I bet you’ve never really given much thought as to how the humble vending machine operates. It’s probably only when it doesn’t deliver the cool drink you’re craving that you actually might pay some attention as to how the hulking deliverer of refreshments works – approximately two seconds before you deliver a swift kick into its side. Ponder with me for a moment… How does the machine know how much money was inserted? How does it understand that you actually put in coins, not random scraps of metal? Then, how does it deliver the smallest number of coins required for your change, or conversely a heavy, pocketful of coppers when there are no larger denominations left? The answers lie in solving a set of algorithms. Oh, exciting! It sounds as though we’re about to talk about maths. Algorithms are all for nutting out problems as they run through a sequence of steps to arrive at a solution, which may happen to be a thirst-quenching beverage, queuing up the next song that’s going to get you turkey-jiving in your seat, or they may even help you to find your lurrrrve. In fact, you’ll quickly see that they appear everywhere.
We humans have been trying to sort out problems for some time now, and as we became more sophisticated, the problems we wanted to solve started getting curlier too. Moving from thinkers in Ancient Greece, stroking their chins as to how they could resolve fractions to the lowest common denominator, we flick through our abacus to the Middle East where an immensely talented Persian named Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī is credited with coining the terms ‘algebra’ and ‘algorithm’ during his adventures in maths in the ninth century, before finally arriving in the 1930s where we find Alan Turing hypothesising on his concept of ‘Universal Machines’. Turing and his peers reached the conclusion that even if they were to write their equations – no matter how small – on all the paper they could source from an entire forest, they would still run out of space, plus they’d get ridiculous writer’s cramp! Turns out Turing was onto something with this Universal Machine idea, as the concept is largely recognised as the forbearer to modern computers. If you’re keen to learn more about Turing, have a gander of The Imitation Game. It’s got secrets, sex, spies and the solving of simultaneous equations – so saucy!
Once computers shimmied onto the scene, we were off as they became talented at crunching through each incremental calculating step accurately, and a whole lot faster than we measly humans could do. I can vouch for the mad algorithmic solving skills of computers, as my day job has me creating computer models of ocean waves to create design conditions for engineering projects. The software is rooted in a mass of equations that’d give me a stroke if I had to calculate them by hand. It’s a little ironic that to better understand ourselves now, we may have to dive deep into our evolutionary past. Innovative research being undertaken by Dr Jean-Baka Domelevo Entfellner, in association with the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI), is assisting in SANBI’s studies on human genetics on underlying disease, specifically in African populations. This could hopefully provide clues to potential treatments or even cures in the future. I’ll let the doctor provide a brief explanation of the process: ‘… (we) extract sequences of DNA from biological samples, then apply algorithms to assist us in describing the process that led to the evolutionary history of today’s species.’
I’m certainly not one to heckle folk that willingly dive deep into algorithms, but you’ve got to admit, it’s a tad nerdy. Here’s my take: I think that ‘nerds’ are some of the coolest people you’re likely to meet as they’re so passionately involved in their ‘thing’, whether it is learning the elfin language in Lord of the Rings to knowing the specs of every Citi Golf model released in South Africa. That passion is infectious and inspiring. Maths nerds are a breed of their own, though. Yoh. For example, this clique has a rather quirky sense of humour. Check out the names of these famous algorithmic problems: Burnt Pancake Sorting, the Travelling Salesman Problem, Pollard’s Kangaroo and the Stable Marriage Problem.
What’s the most important algorithm in the world today? I’d love to say it’s some beautifully altruistic software that’s going to rid society of its ills until we’re all holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’. But it’s arguably the Google search algorithm for a multitude of reasons. With 3,5 billion Google searches every day, it’s difficult to grasp the influence that the search engine's page ranking has on our decision-making and purchases. And you just use it to search for cats. I hope that you’re already aware that Facebook runs algorithms to filter the news you see from your ‘friends’ – be grateful that you’re only getting hit with 50% of your minty Uncle’s rants, but don’t forget to talk to your friends in the real world to make sure you’re not missing anything important. Then, say you’re ready to take it to the next level (even beyond making the relationship ‘Facebook official’) and find true love, well, algorithms have got this most romantic of notions covered too. The online soulmate matching business is cashing in with the industry reportedly worth $2 billion. The big players in the dating game rave about the accuracy of their compatibility algorithms, and with good reason too. One recent study found that more than a third of new marriages in the US begin online.
If there’s one aspect of human endeavour that algorithms can’t challenge us on, I would have thought it was creativity. Not that creative industries and art would be free of algorithms – plenty of pop musicians use auto-tune, and Abobe’s Design Suite featuring Photoshop or Illustrator are everywhere – but I didn’t know that Pixar has an algorithm that helps animate their movies; computer-based fractal is actually popular; and that Google has code that turns your photos into surrealist fantasies or nightmares, depending on which LSD you had for breakfast. Algorithms are assisting artists, or actually creating the art, in a large variety of ways. Heck, there are collectors getting into bidding frenzies over sought-after strings of pure computer code being sold as art – I told you these people were ‘quirky’. As I write, Google has shaken up and greatly aroused the computer community as they’re set to provide significant sections of their deep-learning code as open source, which means that anybody can grab the code for free. Deep-learning is perhaps the next major step in algorithm development as it looks to simulate the problem-solving processes undertaken by the human brain. This is where the really wild, futuristic projects can come alive – self-driving vehicles, algorithmic product and building design, machine learning, eradication of diseases and artificial intelligence – concepts that have the potential to bring radical changes to our everyday life and even how we as humans see our place in the world.
In a conversation with Professor Antoine Bagula of the University of Cape Town’s Department of Computer Science, he was optimistic that the development of algorithms will boost knowledge acquisition in many fields and maybe help bridge the scientific and economic divide between developed and developing countries, as the latter can take advantage of improved algorithms to leapfrog into previously untapped scientific areas and economies. It’s remarkable to think that something that began as a possible method to assist with fractions has evolved into a problem-solving technique that now delivers us our correct change, facilitates our online friendships and love life, acts as our personal DJ, guides so many of our purchases and may eventually lead to the creation of a computer that is a replication of our brain.
You know you’re finally a grown-up when you can leave a party at the right time, in your own way, with grace and charm, and without looking back. None of these describes me. I avoid parties because I don’t know how to leave them. Obviously, I do leave parties – otherwise I’d still be dancing to Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ in Heidi Tydlesley’s parents’ garage in Durban, wearing white Instinct drawstring pants and a shark’s tooth round my neck – but I tend to leave them in one of two ways: either at the very end, long after I’ve outstayed my welcome and shamed myself by searching through the kitchen for more booze while making a half-hearted pass at someone’s sister, or halfway through the evening, when I’ve ghosted. I’ve also heard ghosting referred to as ‘ninja-bombing’, and it’s my particular speciality. Unless I’m embarrassingly drunk, I’m useless at parties. I don’t know what to say or how to say it, and I become convinced that I’m ruining the night for everyone else, as though I’m a small mobile hotspot of ennui and boredom, and out of sheer good citizenship I should leave. But I then become unnaturally tense and anxious at the prospect of announcing my departure. This is obviously due to an unbeatable combination of bizarre narcissism and gross insecurity – if I leave now, my weird thinking goes, the host or hostess will be so devastated that I’ve left, they’ll instantly hate me and never invite me back. It’s not as if I have so many friends I can just blithely roam the city, alienating the ones I have. Obviously the rational solution, the one that will make everyone happy, is to leave without saying goodbye, so that my exact time of departure is obscured and the next day through everyone’s hangovers and hazy heads I’ll have left a general impression of having been present most of the evening, without having ruined it. I have some carefully calibrated techniques. If I have a coat or a bag with me, I’ll shuttle them out to the car in brief sorties, making sure that people see me arriving back each time looking as though I’d just popped out for a smoke or to buy drugs. I’ll then rub my hands together as though in anticipation of a long evening of glorious partying ahead, and do some impromptu on-the-spot grooving as though I’ve been still for too long and the dance floor is calling with a wild, low voice that cannot be resisted by so ardent a party animal as I. Then I’ll slip into conversation with someone. Generally this is the best conversation of my evening: there’s something about knowing I’m about to leave that makes me more pleasant to be around. Then I’ll say I’m going to get another drink. Can I get them a drink? I’ll make my way in an eccentric orbit through the party like Pluto – half planet within the solar system, half outcast something else – offering to fetch drinks for everyone. Then I’ll ease into the kitchen, nip out the back, jump the wall, clamber up the neighbour’s drainpipe and run to safety across the rooftops. I’ve never crawled my way to freedom through a sewerage pipe like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption, but as long as I’m not wearing my new trousers, that option is never off the table. It has, of course, been pointed out by friends that no-one cares when I leave a party; it’s only the sneaking and ghosting that annoys them, but that’s easy for them to say. They don’t have to be me.Tweet
It’s one thing realising your passion and purpose, but quite another actually pursuing them and making a success of it all. People may feel these pursuits are not feasible, that their dreams are too big, or that they are just that… dreams. A while ago, I quit my day job and started my very own social enterprise company. Zazi, which means ‘know yourself’ in Xhosa, was an organisation that aimed to change the narrative of the township in the form of a youth magazine by the youth. And although Zazi was only around for two years, it made an impact, and many of the teenagers who were a part of it have since left high school and are now pursuing careers in journalism. It was a great initiative until my funds ran out, and I realised my father wasn’t Sol Kerzner and I had to eat and pay the bills. But there are a select few who manage to not only pursue their dreams but also chase after them with such passion and ambition, they’re finding fame and fortune along the way.
One such person is Roy Potterill who is not only living his dream but has also created a movement in the social media sphere that has seen others follow in his footsteps, ie making a living from taking pictures in the most exotic places and sharing them with the world. After eight years in the screen-printing business, Roy took the leap to tell unique and original stories for brands as a professional Instagrammer. ‘It all started at the beginning of 2011 while visiting my family in New Zealand; it was a few months after Instagram was launched. Being an early adopter, I got stuck right in! Having no background in photography, the camera on my iPhone 4 was the perfect start.’ Roy met his now business partner Thoban Jappie (@thobanj) via the Instagram platform, after he bought an image from Roy’s first exhibition called Thumbnail. Soon after that Mobile Media Mob, a content agency specialising in visual communication, was formed. ‘We conceptualise, produce, and broadcast unique visual content for brands like Red Bull, South African Tourism and SAB, to name a few,’ says Roy. Although like many professional Instagrammers, Roy still struggles with being undervalued and people thinking that what he does in not a real job, he admits it has its perks. ‘I have seen the world through opportunities Instagram has afforded me. I get to travel a couple of times a year; and most people aren’t that fortunate,’ he says. You can’t talk about influencers or prominent Instagrammers without @GarethPon coming to mind. Although Gareth works as a creative consultant, photographer and film-maker, he’s popularly known for his collaborations with brands as an influencer. Gareth’s main focus at the moment is guiding brands to creatively maximise the use of Instagram and help them to understand the platform and its community. With an incredible 258 000 followers on Instagram, you would never say it all started as a way for him to escape into another creative medium. But Gareth says he began using Instagram purely as another platform to post content, and as an escape from his usual film production. ‘It gripped me the most when I discovered its international potential and that it had a huge focus on community.’ Two years down the line, he is one of the most talked about and followed Instagrammers in the country. While a lot of agencies are taking on influencers to boost their brands, they may forget that most of these individuals are full-time creatives (photographers, film-makers, writers, content creators, etc.) who just so happen to have a large following on Instagram. ‘It’s often underplayed and devalued, so the challenge is definitely being able to present the value that we bring,’ says Gareth. It’s a career path that many would like to follow simply because of how cool and exciting it may seem, but Gareth says anyone wanting to pursue a career in ‘doing Instagram’ should always remember nothing in life ever comes easy. ‘Find your unique strain of creativity; tell a story that only you can tell; take some chances and pursue them wholeheartedly. Also don’t be a fake or try to be somebody you’re not.’
With the rise of ‘generation content’, more and more people are becoming fascinated with all kinds of social commentary and, seemingly, if you do it right, that’s where the money is at. Take Caspar Lee, for instance. According to an article on Times Live, Casper (21) is making an average of R5-million a year through his Dicasp (Director Caspar) channel on YouTube. And this is five years after he started making videos in his home in Knysna for fun. Although his first two channels flopped, the vlogger (yes, it’s a thing) now has over two million subscribers to his channel. Scoff all you want but we dare you to watch a clip of him making chilli chocolate and not see why teens would like him. In the article, Caspar says that once he started collaborating with other international vloggers of his size, his following shot through the roof. ‘It was like a graph that curved upwards and kept going. Once you get to a certain stage, you just catapult.’ It’s hard to believe that he once thought if he could just get his numbers to at least 1 000 subscribers it would be good enough to show his parents that all the hours he had put in after school were worth it. ‘Parents don’t understand how healthy the internet can be. It’s not evil. We shouldn’t avoid it. Everyday something is happening in the YouTube world. I don’t think people will ever be able to tame it.’ And, of course, with all this activity going on in cyber space there will always be a risk – as with any other business – and with that comes the new role of digital risk officers (DROs). Although this is a fairly new career path, many companies in the digital space are considering having someone to monitor and secure their digital business. In an article on cio.com titled ‘The Rise of the Digital Risk Officer’, Gartner United States analyst Paul Proctor forecasts that most digitally inclined businesses will require the services of a digital risk officer by 2017. ‘DROs will require a mix of business acumen and understanding, and sufficient technical knowledge to assess and make recommendations for appropriately addressing digital business risk.’ So, if you’re somewhat business savvy in the IT realm already and want a slight change in your career path, this might be something to look into. As the world changes and technology advances more and more, new careers and business opportunities present themselves. While doing this piece I came across an article about some of the weirdest jobs out there at the moment and I couldn’t help but laugh when I found out that one can be a professional cuddler. Yes… as in someone who gets hired to be a snuggle partner for relaxation or therapeutic purposes, because apparently some people don’t get enough human touch in their day-to-day interactions. Yes, snuggle partners exist y’all! But as tempting and easy-going as being a professional cuddler sounds, I think sticking to my day job will do me just fine.
Not only has technology given us the likes of Instagramming and vlogging as new careers, it’s also changing the way we look for and find jobs. Yes, you can upload your professional history on LinkedIn and get access to thousands of job ads online, but some employers are taking it a step further and asking potential employees to demonstrate their skills using social media. Visual artist Tiger Maremela (left) was asked to do just this when he interviewed for a job with the social-media-driven marketing company Webfluential. The task? To show them just how digitally savvy he was by creating a campaign that would trend. Although Tiger was excited and up to the challenge, he ran into a problem, ‘I had elaborate ideas of how I would use search and social-advertising campaigns but I soon realised that I didn’t have the Internet connection necessary to create such a campaign.’ Luckily for Tiger, he did have free access to the Twitter streets thanks to an internet provider, and he used this to start the #HelpTigerFindEmployment campaign. Two hours and 2 296 tweets and retweets later, the hashtag was trending and connecting Tiger to hundreds of users, ‘I used the hashtag to engage with followers on the issue of youth unemployment. I think that’s why I was able to rally so much support – the hashtag meant that one more young black South African would be hired, which is a big deal.’ The Webfluential team was impressed and Tiger got the job, well-deserved media attention and some food for thought around the challenges facing young people in the job market.
The late-night stop for coffee and a bite to eat is as much a part of the going-out tradition as the dancing, boozing and rock ‘n’ roll. When we hit a late-night café, we are creatures of the night. Not for us the bedtime curfew. To us it matters not what tomorrow’s commitments are. Right now we’re out on the jol and we’re going to get a Gatsby. At Golden Dish, say. To hell with tomorrow’s client meeting. We’ll use extra deodorant. We just don’t want the good times to end, and that’s the joy of the late-night eatery. It’s a special bonus, an extras clip at the end of the DVD that is your night out on the tiles. Often wee-hours catering professionals are so well schooled in ordering protocol that you can be eating before you even realise you’ve ordered. Bless these warriors of the all-night party campaign! Late-night bistros come in many forms, but they are equally magical come 1.30 a.m. when you’ve got munchies that won’t quit. Upscale, mediocre, or plain health risk, somehow these considerations have little to do with a place becoming a venue of legend. Cadiz in Loop Street is in no danger of earning a Michelin star, but it’s one of the first late-night options that people mention. The De Freitas family has been running Cadiz since 1970 and the place is a fixture of the Cape Town nightscape. Marcio de Freitas has been managing the takeaway and Tavern with his dad for the past 11 years. ‘Cadiz is about friendly service and conversation,’ he says. ‘People leave their problems at the door.’ ‘There’s no discrimination here. We can have cops and crooks sitting right near each other. As well as political rivals. We’ve had Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis having a drink next to some oke who’d peed in his pants. Everybody’s welcome here.’ Today, Cadiz runs a tavern that closes at 2am, and the takeaway serves the locals in the nearby Bo-Kaap. But Cadiz had a run of 30-odd years when it was the only 24-hour eatery in Cape Town city centre, serving night owls who’d just spilled out of the bars and clubs. ‘Not a week goes buy without someone telling me about their memories of Cadiz,’ says Marcio. ‘There was a lady in here the other day who must have been 80 years old telling me how she remembers smashing a greasy burger on the pavement outside, feeding the street kids…’ ‘Guys tell me that before they went into the army, they’d come to Cadiz for their last burger before they got on the train for basic training at 5am. It’s great that people have those kinds of memories. And the burgers still taste the same!’ ‘We’re unpretentious and friendly, we have regular customers and you can always find some good conversation here, day or night,’ says Marcio. ‘We’re a definitely a Cape Town institution.’ And then he laughs. ‘I’m just not sure what kind of institution… maybe a mental institution.’ Cadiz no longer has the monopoly of the late-night trade. Some Cape Town night crawlers swear by venues like Mr Pickwick’s, Food Inn and Mohammad’s food stall on Long Street. ‘There are more late-night chow spots than you can throw a bag of salmonella at,’ quips comedian Martin Evans. In Johannesburg you might have visited the Northcliff Bimbo’s, or one of a dozen Andiccio24 outlets, but few venues have better experience of late-night catering than Johannesburg’s legendary all-hours restaurant Catz Pyjamas. Owner Natasha Coetzee opened her doors in 1994 and hasn’t closed them since! The 24-hour restaurant in the heart of Melville serves food all day and all night, and not just greasy snacks for the desperate. Catz Pyjamas has an attractive menu and a relaxed, upscale atmosphere that belies its status as the last word in all-hours nightlife. ‘We have a rather rare on-consumption licence from the old days,’ says Natasha. ‘We call last rounds at 3am and close the bar at 3.15am. We clear away the drinks at 4am.’ Just about everyone who’s anyone on the Johannesburg social scene will have climbed the steep staircase to Catz Pyjamas’ first-floor restaurant. The internationals also make an appearance. ‘We’ve had U2 in here,’ she says, nodding at the table where they sat. ‘Faithless have been here, and local stars like cast members from Isidingo and Strictly Come Dancing are often in here.’ Catz Pyjamas styles itself ‘the original 24-hour bistro’ – a quality restaurant that just happens to never close. But anyone who’s spent time there after the witching hour will know that Catz is often a bit left of centre. You might meet a worse-for-wear Dutch academic determined to seduce your wife. Or a web developer eating a bacon-and-eggs breakfast at midnight! ‘We were here before the all-night drive-throughs and the 24-hour pizzerias,’ says Natasha. ‘We’ve seen the neighbourhood change and we’ve changed with it. Now we offer catering and 24-hour delivery as well.’ Down in Port Elizabeth, the very idea of such a restaurant is pure fantasy. The PE crew have never been as culinarily blessed as those in the bigger cities. Clubbing veterans remember unglamorous outlets like Rio Hamburger Hut, La Fiesta, Dagwood’s and Popo’s Snack Den. But innovative jollers have always been able to find a creative solution to the late-night munchie challenge. ‘What we used to do, when we had bucks,’ recalls a party artist we’ll call Anton Havenga, ‘was book a room at the Beach Hotel, order up room service chow and dop, then take the goeders and bail via the swimming pool!’ There are indeed many ways to skin the late-night cat. But however you do it, it will continue to occupy a warm place in your heart, if not your digestive system, for many moons to come. French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte first noted that an army marches on its stomach. So let’s salute our nation’s late-night eateries, which keep the party army provisioned and fighting fit. You will not be forgotten. A luta continua!Tweet
Cape Town-based Mike Bruton designs science centres and museums by day, but nurtures an interest in simple technologies and how they have evolved over time and in different cultures. He has a collection of over 600 different clothes pegs from around the world – made from plastic, wood, wire, metal, stone, bone, seed pods, and so on, and in all sorts of colours. He finds it fascinating that ‘clothes pegs come in many different designs in order to achieve the same main objective – to keep clothes on the line. New ways of making clothes pegs are being developed continuously as new materials become available and new crimping mechanisms are devised. They are classic examples of human innovation and have been in use by indigenous people for thousands of years, such as those made from dried plant seeds.’ His largest clothes peg is 30cm and the smallest is 3mm. ‘The oldest is a medieval peg made by the Vikings in Sweden and the second oldest is a 19th-century cloven wooden peg from rural England. I also have dried-seed pegs used by the Khoisan in northern Botswana and by the Aborigines in Australia, and bone pegs from Iceland.’ When he travels abroad, he takes a bag of new pegs with him and then wanders around the suburbs of foreign cities swopping new pegs for old, local ones. ‘Mediterranean countries are good hunting grounds as the locals hang up their washing over the street,’ he explains. ‘Most people are fascinated by the hobby and some have even sent me pegs from abroad, but the most prized one of all is probably a peg hewn from a solid piece of marble.’
Laurence Hamburger, a commercial film director based in Joburg, admits that although he’s probably obsessive by nature, it’s the innate fear of things being forgotten or forsaken by a world that seems happy to dispose of everything that drives him to collect news posters. Yep, those sometimes hilarious, other times heartbreaking bulletin boards tied to street poles you might encounter more than once at a robot or stop street, depending on the traffic situation. A collection was published a few years ago called Frozen Chicken Train Wreck. It sold out last year and will be reissued in time for the sequel, More Textbook Lies, in October this year. It will contain new posters he has collected since the first book, as well as contributions from other collectors. He says, ‘I like objects that carry a narrative…’ As a History student, he became aware of the relevance of pop-culture artefacts – comics, toys and posters – as historical indicators of a period in time. He felt the need to salvage the South African news headline posters that were being discarded every day and started collecting them seven years ago with a book or some other kind of curatorial medium in mind. He chooses ones that carry a layered meaning, are witty – using word play particular to South Africa – or represent the times we’re living in quite pertinently, and in so doing preserve something that may come to have historical significance in the future. Hamburger once drove around Joburg in the middle of winter for two hours looking for a specific poster. He couldn’t remember where he’d seen it but had to find it somehow, managing to both break up and make up with his girlfriend during the journey.
Dusan Milanovic has turned collecting into a day job. He’s an autograph dealer in Gauteng who locates, sources, and authenticates autographs, and he’s been at it since the 80s. For him, it’s about nostalgia, what it means to own something few others would, and the quest of finding that elusive item. Once he drove to Standerton from Joburg and back on the same day (a four-hour trip), just to view a presidential autograph collection. Joburg-based TV and media personality Maps Maponyane will travel much further to feed his obsession for retro watches. He has a more than 10-strong Casio watch collection consisting of retro classic pieces still in working order. He says, ‘I have an old-school analogue piece – the strap is brown crocodile leather, it has a gold frame and a white dial. I travelled to Turkey to track it down.’ He enjoys the old-school classic feel they give as accessories and admits that he lacks a bit of self-control when it comes to purchasing fashion items. When he’s not collecting watches, he loves hats, old hook umbrellas and limited-edition All Stars sneakers. ‘I suppose all of my collections are sartorial – things I can wear and use on a regular basis. I enjoy fashion a lot.’ Capetonian sneakerhead Hayden Manuel also has no problem catching a long-haul flight to get his hands on a new acquisition. He works as a social media and content strategist for some of the biggest brands in South Africa. He says he’s one of those guys that really doesn’t like a lot of things but when he does find something he likes, he tends to develop a ‘ride or die’ mentality. He calls it the ‘Pursuit of Freshness’. ‘It’s a Cape Flats thing. We always look at what shoes people are wearing, so you can’t come out here “weak” if you want to be taken seriously.’ He’s been curating his collection since he was a kid. ‘I’ve sourced rare pairs from all over the world, especially older models from the late ’90s, which I couldn’t get when I was a kid.’ ‘I think the most extreme legal thing I’ve done for my sneaker obsession was going to Tokyo this year for two weeks of sneaker-hunting. If you’re into sneakers and streetwear, Tokyo is the place to go. I had heard of some mythical vintage stores with crazy stock rooms; there weren’t even many pictures of them online but I decided to go anyway. I think I had a buying average of nearly three pairs a day over two weekends because I found these rare vintage gems all over. I went stupid! Good thing I developed a taste for noodles ‘cause that’s pretty much all I can eat for the next six months.’ His passion and knowledge is paying off in other ways too. It’s led to a great, long-term, multifaceted relationship with Nike, which is very rare for a non-athlete. He’s also worked on projects with other sneaker brands, which is a dream come true for him. A streetwear label ‘They Know’ developed with business partner Paul Ward sold out within hours of launching and with no marketing. I asked him to count how many pairs he owns. ‘I’m not sure of the exact number but I have a few pairs of the rare Air Yeezys that go for between R30 000 and R50 000 a pair.’ Who said that collecting sneakers couldn’t become as lucrative as collecting art?
For most of us, being a collector has nothing to do with financial gain – it is an emotionally driven action, often with people collecting objects they can connect with positively and emotionally at particular times in their lives. - Dr Rebbecca Spelman, psychologist, quoted in The Telegraph
Before it starts to sound as if collecting is a guys-only club, I feel I must include a confession. I once had a sort of Martha Stewart inclination for teapots – enamel, ceramic, porcelain, bamboo, stainless steel, etc. I might have had around 20 at one stage. I find the ritual of tea drinking more suited to my temperament than this whole business of running-with-coffee-cup-in-hand urgency, but other than that, there was no real motivation for it. Teapots are just really pretty. After once trapping one too many guests in the kitchen during a festive cocktail or dinner party, always with a few shamefully punchline-free anecdotes about the collection, I quickly gave up the pursuit as a sincere apology to them all. Anthea Pokroy’s collection definitely makes for more entertaining dinner conversation. She collects gingers. Yes, as a self-proclaimed ‘Ginger Collector’, the artist who lives in Joburg collects redheads through pictures documenting their ‘gingerness’. According to a video talk posted on nicework.co.za, she’s even created a ‘Ginger Manifesto’ that encourages gingers to have children with one another to keep the ginger gene pool pure. So far, she has thousands of portrait photos from around the world in her database. It’s her way of highlighting the legitimacy of the ‘community’, which still gets ridiculed today. She collects gingers as a way to fight against their discrimination and accompanying stereotypes. Over a period of two-and-half years, she took over five hundred photos of redheaded men, women and children, locally and internationally. And the collection is growing as people learn about her from word of mouth and contact her to be ‘collected’ too. A ginger herself, what intrigued her was ‘an appreciation of the unique and romantic colour palette of a redhead’. And it was a way to connect with herself and others and to explore systems of inclusion and separation. She spent many hours sourcing the gingers for her collection – she stalked people in bars, shops, clubs, doctors’ rooms, shops and on the street. She once spotted someone while driving, pulled over, jumped out and approached them to take part. Anthea’s also made a trip to Breda, in the Netherlands for Redhead Day to gather more subjects. Her collection is certainly keeping people connected to the world around them.
Located on the east coast of the Crownlands, overlooking Blackwater Bay, the capital is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. It will make you forget everything you’ve heard about Westeros. When to go: The city is currently enjoying an 8 000-year-long summer, so April to June for more comfortable temperatures. Ignore locals muttering about winter coming. Getting around: Take a brisk month-long jog from Winterfell, and then bike or walk within the narrow city streets. Where to stay: Head to Flea Bottom for budget-friendly options like Eel Alley Inn or try The Broken Anvil, which is a stone’s throw away from the Gate of the Gods. What to do: Don’t miss the Ancient Dragons’ Skulls Exhibition at the Red Keep. Shop for souvenir Iron Thrones on Armoury Row, and lemon cakes at the Flour Bazaar. Cultural tip: There are no ATMs but if you do run out of cash, try to find a Lannister to borrow from; they always pay their debts, perhaps they’ll pay yours?
Lynton Levengood is a concept artist and illustrator. He has a special love of dragons. See more of his work.
After years of poor reviews by Tolkien Trips, Mordor has always struggled on the tourism front. However, it’s becoming an increasingly popular destination for adventure travellers and vintage-jewellery collectors. When to go: A sub-Middle-Earth climate makes Mordor a year-round destination. Typically hot and riddled with fire and ash, January to March are the best months for sightseeing. Getting around: To quote a famous Captain of the White Tower, ‘One does not simply walk into Mordor,’ so it’s best to pay extra for a private Nazgûl shuttle. Travelling with an experienced guide is recommended. Where to stay: Escape the noise at The Hotel Barad-dûr. Rates include a slap-up braai on the edge of Mount Doom. A few hours basking at the Cracks of Doom will give you the right level of volcanic tan to pass as a local; just remember to stay hydrated. What to buy: Shop for fair-trade art produced by the freed slaves of Núrn, or pick up hand-carved gold rings for next to nothing. Cultural tip: Learn about the ongoing post-Sauron rebuilding efforts at Shelob’s Lair. The three-hour tour helps support The Men of Gondor’s revitalization efforts, but whatever you do, don’t mention the war.Moray Rhoda is a designer and illustrator. His love of illustration and storytelling started when he was exposed to comics and TV cartoons at a young age.
Set off on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to the Scottish Highlands with its windswept hills, acromantula-filled forests, and majestic view of Hogwarts Castle. When to go: Visit in November to December, when Hogwarts students are long gone and the Gurdyroot harvest is in full swing. Getting around: Although the village is serviced by the Hogwarts Express, finding Platform Nine-And-Three-Quarters can be a bit tricky. Where to stay: For the best of authentic Hogsmeade, try and stay at least one night at Shrieking Shack, a working farmhouse traditionally run by werewolves and banshees. Book well in advance and prepare to pay higher prices for a room with a secret en suite tunnel. Where to dine: Take your appetite and gold galleons (no credit cards accepted) to Noakenuts for a bunting-inspired menu. Follow dinner with a Firewhiskey at the Three Broomsticks. What to buy: Don’t miss the Organic Farmers’ Market held every last Saturday of the month, and do stock up on free-range Chocolate Frogs at Honeydukes.
Birders are in for a treat in this unspoiled corner of Wonderland. The endless forest, a National Park since 1865, teems with Jubjub birds and Bandersnatches but it’s the people that make it a truly special place. When to go: Spring is generally the best time to visit. Daily opening and closing times vary with the season, and sometimes park staff are... erm, late. Getting around: Sail down the hole on a guided tour with experienced outfitters White Rabbit Tours. Where to stay: The Queen of Heart’s Castle is a regal, 22-room boutique hotel set in manicured gardens. A complimentary continental breakfast (jam tarts, etc) is included. Where to dine: Eating out is primarily an al fresco affair in the park – look out for the ‘Eat me’ or ‘Drink me’ signs. For more formal dining, do reserve a table at Mad Hatter’s. Cultural tip: The local population is predominantly insane, so spontaneous unbirthday celebrations and random beheadings are to be tolerated.
Despite what their collective name might imply, entrepreneurs Nandi Dlepu, Thithi Nteta, Tumi Mohale and Vuyiswa Mutshekwane of The Other Girls are definitely not to be ignored, and if you count yourself among Jo'burg’s young and stylish, you’ll know that their monthly brunch, The WKND Social, is the highlight of the city’s social scene. A pop-up with a difference, The WKND Social takes good food, good music and especially well-dressed people to interesting spaces, such as the historical Constitution Hill, Ithuba Arts Gallery, and The Museum of African Design. The event is made up of two parts: a brunch with expertly selected food and cocktails, followed by an after-party accompanied by the sounds of nostalgic hip-hop, ’90’s tunes, R&B and whatever else the festivities dictate. This idea was born on a group trip to New York where The Other Girls attended events such as the popular Everyday People Brunch. ‘We got a taste of the NYC brunch party culture and decided upon our return to create an event that would hopefully capture some of the magic we experienced there,’ says Tumi. Part of this magic comes from the different places that host The WKND Social, each of which is chosen to create a new and interesting experience. ‘Our venues are always spaces that are visually appealing, still on the “up-and-coming” list and, most importantly, can accommodate our ever-increasing number of guests,’ explains Vuyiswa. The challenge of building the brand over the last three years has not been without its hurdles, and the team has faced difficulties ranging from cash-flow issues to last-minute cancellations. But The Other Girls have tackled these issues head on using their individual outlooks to find solutions that have resulted in one successful party after another. ‘The reward is always in putting on another great event and seeing support for our brand and the attendance grow each month,’ says Thithi. And who will you find sipping cocktails at each event? In the words of The Other Girls: ‘Only the best-looking people in Jo'burg.’ Guests flaunt their designer pieces, vintage finds and overall sense of style, making a visit to The WKND Social any street-style reporter’s dream! And if you’ve come unprepared, you might find yourself thinking, as Farai Mafurirano did, ‘I should have put more creative effort into my outfit, because everyone looked so dope!’ But the crowd is more than just fashionable, it is also an eclectic mix of young people who have taught The Other Girls a few lessons about the spirit of Jo'burg. ‘We are truly a unique bunch and easily some of the most fun-loving, carefree and tolerant people in the world. It’s made us really proud of our city,’ concludes Nandi. So what are you waiting for? Whether you are proud Jozi citizen or just passing through, the trendy soirée that is The WKND Social should now be high on your to-do list!
It all began for Sivan Miller with a mystical shot of mother nature showing off as the sun set over Camps Bay. Tell us about your photographic journey. I’m a self-taught photographer. My first digital camera was a present from my mum and I’d mostly take snaps around Cape Town. Things got kind of serious when I was 16 and Oprah Winfrey saw one of my photos and featured it in her magazine, O. When I started learning my craft it was very different to how it is now. It involved lots of reading, and fine details were the key to my success. Nowadays, I have a strong vision of what I want to create, and to move forward I need to put these ideas into actions and execute them. What gear do you use? I use a Canon Body 5DMK3 and a variety of lenses while shooting. But all Canon. What’s an average day in the life of Siv like? I start my day with a fresh coffee or caffe mocha from vida. If I’m shooting, I’ll be on call from 6.45 a.m. and on non-shooting days there’s editing, client meetings and loads of admin. I do find it hard to relax and not work, and I am always thinking about new ideas for clients and personal projects. But I keep it balanced with a bit of yoga, CrossFit training, swimming and skateboard sessions. Whose work has influenced you the most? American portrait photographer Annie Liebowitz. I also get inspired by paging through high-end fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Oh, and also Eastern-inspired movies, which are very cultured, extremely stylised, and have amazing cinematography. Who should we be following on Instagram? Me at @sivan_miller. Also Mert and Marcus, two fashion photographers who work together on a collaborative basis. Their account is pretty rad. Where do you see yourself in five years? Overseas, shooting internationally – the big dream is to shoot for Vogue.
The street is a canvas, and it’s up to the individual skater how they’ll interpret it. Most of the time they’ll do this by taking on obstacles. However, it’s the growing number of skaters who, say, pick up a paintbrush, that makes one contemplate whether their chosen board sport has any sort of correlation to art. And why not? Both open your mind and are about nonconformity and expression. Both are about surprise and function and having fun. Both require a patience and dedication that most people just aren’t prepared to invest in. Sure, not all skaters are artists, in much the same way that not all artists skate, but there is definitely a stronger inclination than with most other subcultures. Former pro-skateboarder Jaime Hayón has gone on to become one of the world’s most influential and talented contemporary designers, studying at Fabrica in Italy where he worked on the United Colors of Benetton campaign as Oliviero Toscani’s right-hand man. He broke out on his own, eight years later, first with his collection of designer toys, ceramics and furniture, followed by interior design and installations. He explains his progression: ‘For me design takes the same intuitive approach as I had to my skateboarding. It’s how you use your surroundings. And the skateboarding style in which you develop and use your tricks is really similar. One project takes me to another project. Something like a table can lead to a toy, which might lead to a lamp. I find inspiration everywhere.’ This is exactly what skating is: looking at the world with different eyes and being able to transition from a 10-stair rail to a technical flip trick to a stylish slide. It’s all about the moment and using all the colours in your palette. There’s also the risk factor. Jaime left school at 16 to pursue a career in professional skateboarding. He did all the tours, appeared in all the magazines and was sponsored by a bunch of companies. Then he decided to do something else with his life and left Spain for California where he worked on skate parks, a skill he likens to architecture, because, ‘if a transition isn’t precise, you could actually kill yourself’. On the subject of skate parks, South Africa’s Marc Guy Baker started skating when he was just 10 years old and almost immediately started building his own obstacles. Today he owns a company that specialises in these types of structures, Timber Mill Designs, and was most recently hired by California Skateparks to help build the bowl for the Van Doren Invitational. So what does Marc think of Cape Town’s brand-new skate park underneath the Jutland Avenue bridge in the Gardens? ‘I think it’s great that the city is finally taking skateboarding seriously, putting itself on par with cities like Barcelona. Unfortunately the city has yet to realise that skate parks need to be build by someone who at least knows how to stand on a skateboard. Civil-engineering companies have built the three skate parks in and around the city to date, and in my opinion they are poor. Would you have a podiatrist do open-heart surgery on you? Just because they are both in the medical field doesn’t mean they specialise in the same things, and the same goes for constructing skate parks.’ Skaters look at things differently to most people. Which is why it’s so important that they create their own art, instead of having things force-fed on them. It’s like Jaime says: ‘If you observe differently, everything can become something else. It’s really great, man. Anything can happen if you see it with another vision, and use the right ingredients.’ Someone who views the world with different eyes is Jason Dill, who you may remember as the dirtbag kid from the first season of The Osbournes. After Dill was done with the show, he came down to Cape Town to decompress for a few months, staying at the Mount Nelson Hotel. The juxtaposition of the high-end hotel suite and the spoiled-brat untidiness of it all was a sight to behold – the floordrobe littered with Polaroid photographs that he then turned into collages. ‘I get really frustrated with the system,’ says Dill. ‘I get really frustrated with the whole extreme side of what we were doing. Don’t pollute people with your fucking music. We did a show in Durban at the concrete park and they played The Beatles. My friend said, “Did you realise how much people were landing tricks during that song?” and I was like, “Dude”. They think that we want to hear fucking Smash Mouth when all we want to hear is the Amélie soundtrack. Everyone wants this extreme deodorant-commercial music and we just aren’t fucking about that.’ Perhaps that’s why skaters take to art, so that they can be the ones who put out an honest representation of their lifestyle instead of some rad dad at an advertising agency. Casey Neistat grew up skateboarding and now lives on the Internet. The New Yorker makes movies that become television shows for HBO, or premier at Cannes or are grabbed up as commercials. However, if he had no responsibilities, he’d spend all his time making DIY, low-fi films doing things like crashing his bike on NYC’s bicycle lanes for YouTube, which get so many eyeballs that Nike gave him a round-the-world ticket and Mercedes Benz handed him a car – both accompanied by briefs to make a Casey Neistat film for them. The punk-rock, DIY ethos is pivotal to skateboarding. So your town doesn’t have a skate park? Use your surroundings! Casey explains it as embracing one’s limitations. ‘This yields a new style, a new genre that nobody has ever seen. A decade ago it wasn’t really an option. Most people would use that as a viable excuse to not pursue a lifestyle they really want: “I couldn’t, I had a kid. I couldn’t, I didn’t go to college. I couldn’t, I don’t have the skills.” Excuses are the easy road. To leverage those reasons to do something great is more productive.’ Adrian Day is a shareholder in Session Skateboarding Magazine. He’s responsible for Nike’s skate brand, Nike SB, owns South Africa’s core skate shop Baseline and is the frontman of Bilderberg Motel. Somehow, he still finds time for skate trips and, since 2003, has made 14 pilgrimages to Barcelona. ‘The city was revamped for the 1992 Olympics with a lot of clean architecture that was perfect to skate. Skateboarding is a real interaction with a city space. The more interesting a spot or structure is, the more scope there is for a creative outcome.’ No other sport has such an impetus decor-ating its equipment. This is purely aesthetic and will not result in better performances. In fact, after several sessions the graphic will be an impressionistic blur of colour scratched away from contact with surfaces. It’s disposable and quickly destroyed, so why even bother? ‘It’s important because it may represent a rider, idea or brand,’ says Adrian. ‘It’s a platform for humour, controversy, and aesthetics. Most companies’ artwork is associated with that company. There’s a great resurgence of controversial artwork coming out again, which gives kids more ideas to contemplate aside from what they are taught at school or shown on the brainwash box.’ Adrian explains that the organic relationship between skateboarding and art goes back to the Z-Boys days, the connection with the Vato Venice spray style and these skater’s identities. Marc says that when he and his friends aren’t riding, they’re putting their minds to good use with different artistic outlets, ranging from graphic design and photography to entrepreneurship and furniture design. Skateboarding is a lifestyle, and always will be. It could also be that skateboarders are more exposed to art, and by their nature are more artistically inclined than, say, a guy who’s into weightlifting. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the part of the brain that allows a skater to turn a bench into more than just a seat that results in so much artistic output. Ultimately, it’s how both attract the social outcasts, getting them to isolate themselves and practise their craft obsessively until they’re at a point where they’ve found their own distinct style, and can perform at a level that they’re happy with, and channel their imagination into something tactile that expresses who they are.
It takes all kinds to view the world and the Instagram generation is constantly finding new ways of doing it. Urban exploration is one of them – a subculture of people who go off, camera in hand, into the dark corners of cities, getting into places that are off limits to capture unique perspectives of their environment. Urban exploration has been around for decades and keeps dropping new sub-subcultures that push even harder and go even further. A relatively recent one is rooftopping. The term was coined by Jeff Chapman in his 2005 book Access All Areas: a User’s Guide to the Art of Urban Exploration. While urban explorers zoom in on details, rooftoppers go the other way. They climb buildings to shoot stomach-churning photographs and videos of the landscape down below. Many of the climbs involve bending or breaking rules and part of the thrill is dodging guards or getting past security. Then there is the rush of getting to the top without gear or protection, stepping out and getting a view that previously was for authorised personnel only. Russian photographer Vitaliy Raskalov and friends call themselves On The Roof and have climbed buildings in more than 50 countries. Once they get to the top, they strike poses over edges or balancing on towers and cranes, shooting videos that have become hugely popular online. Fearless adrenalin addicts like them are everywhere – Vitaliy says he has met some from Canada, the Ukraine, France, Australia, Cape Town, Hong Kong and London. The trending ones get sponsorships from companies such as Nike, Nissan, Canon, Reebok, Adidas and Mercedes. Vitaliy gets contracts from big brands. Humza Deas, a New York teen specialising in climbing bridges, sells his prints for $250 each. Canadian Tom Ryaboi shot to viral fame in 2011 with a pic he called “I’ll Make You Famous”, which shows the feet of his friend Jennifer Tse dangling over the edge of a Toronto skyscraper. Within 24 hours his image had attracted 25 000 views on Flickr and the next morning he had interview requests from around the world. “As much as I love taking, sharing and looking at photos taken from rooftops, it is not the only thing up there,” he wrote on his blog. “There is a sense of freedom that cannot be described. Feeling the city from an unobstructed view is magical and worth all the associated risks.” In some parts of the world it seems rooftoppers are forgiven their trespassing. But in February, Tom and two friends were arrested for allegedly breaking in to the observation deck of a Toronto building. And in the UK, for instance, rooftoppers can’t even post their pics online without getting into trouble. Last October, the On The Roof troupe climbed the uncompleted 632 metres of the Shanghai Tower, hijacked the signal to an enormous LED screen on another building and showed a video of their stunt with the message “What’s Up Hong Kong” and their logo. That seems like nothing more than a gag, but rooftopping has also been used to make more serious statements. A daring Russian known as Mustang Wanted has used it for political protest, painting the Soviet star on a Moscow building in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Rooftopping is controversial, but the disapproval doesn’t seem to be about people risking life and limb for kicks. It is more about the fact that these outlaw Instagrammers, as they’ve also been called, break rules. Some might say we live vicariously through their antics. Rooftopping also provides us with a thrilling view of the cities we live in and always see from the same perspectives. The new wave of rooftoppers might be going too far, though. Canadian photographer Neil Ta thinks so and gave it up last year. ‘Something changed fundamentally when it became less about just going up and having a good time with friends and more about who can take the photo of the other person in the most precarious situation,’ he wrote on his blog. ‘Danger sells. There was a market for our images and whoever had the most “vertigo-inducing” photo reigned supreme.’ Rooftopping can be art, protest or adventure. But it is nearly always risky – and the risks should be weighed before you try it. For the moment, though, a spectacular shot of your feet (or a friend) dangling over an edge high above the world can make you famous.
A still evening – the streets and the air recently scrubbed by a thunderstorm. In downtown Johannesburg, wedged between the intelligentsia of Wits and the heaving ghetto blocks of Hillbrow, a congregation of 50 or so cyclists waits. It’s not the Lycra-wearing mobile advertising billboard crowd of pro peloton riding R50m worth of carbon fibre, although there are some. And it’s not fixie-hipsters with waxed ‘taches and horn-rimmed glasses mended by Elastoplast, although there are some. A Lycra boy jiggles his legs, primed, energy pent up like the steam in a locomotive. A tatted-up lady in a three-quarter length onesie checks that her wheel nuts are tight. Like the punters, there’s a vast cross section of machinery. Composite Tour de France replicas, 1980s steel classics, mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes (road bikes with off-road tyres, smaller gears and beefier brakes) and track bikes, (which have only one fixed gear and no brakes at all – the only way to slow it down is to pedal slower, or push back). ‘Guys, thanks for coming. There’s a neutral zone till after we cross Jan Smuts. The racing is fast, but please stick with others for safety. Remember, this is Joburg – a red light doesn’t mean the cars will stop.’ Melvin Neale, the honcho organiser, always makes a cursory speech regarding housekeeping. Some half listen to this weekly announcement in case there’s any new information – most have been here before. The few that haven’t are tucked under the wing of someone who has. ‘Please point out obstructions and potholes in the road to others – it’s dark.’ Neale ends with a perfectly contextualized suffix: ‘And have fun!’ A homemade air cannon fires off an empty cola bottle to send them off. Within seconds, the bunch is sprinting as fast as it can go. The few at the front push hard – only around 12 are capable and willing to risk it all for a spot on the leaderboard. In unison, the pack leans deep into the first corner, stops pedalling at the last possibly millisecond before gouging shoes into the tarmac. They brush past the apex, then wrench the bikes upright to get back on the power again, ASAP. It’s an elegant string of riders – a perfect line, defined by the forces of aerodynamics and physics. The skill of MotoGP riders, the nerve of base jumpers and the power of two horses (riders can churn out up to 1600W in a sprint) combined. Johannesburg city centre at night. High speeds. Skinny tyres. Traffic. No brakes. Each of these individually would spell danger. The sum of which could define a pure form of insanity, but totally justifiable. It’s the Jozi Hustle – a 25km urban night-time bike race that’s as terrifying as it is magnetic. It’s barely legal, and would surely be monitored more closely, if the police didn’t have other priorities. Why!? Well, it’s a valid question. The participants have so much to lose. They’re mostly middle-class folk with families and colleagues who depend on them. What is it about that irresistible urge, that fascination with surfing the fine line between a thrill and potentially catastrophic misfortune? There can only be a complex answer to this, the essence of which still lies shrouded, deep in the mysteries of the human psyche. Are our lives today so insulated from any real risk that we’re irresistibly drawn to the raw-edged possibility of injury or death? Why would we rather forget our suburban comforts and seek out danger? It’s not for the cash. The winner earns only a branded cap or T-shirt. Founder Melvin Neale is a successful attorney. Co-founder Greg Gamble (his real name) is a highly regarded furniture designer. The two own Hunter Cycling. Now incarnated as a bike shop in Mellville, it began as just the race’s central meeting point in Braamfontein. ‘We started it because we loved biking in an urban environment, interacting with the city and the cars. Plus night-time adds another dimension to the experience.’ Regular winner Julius Cobbett knows these streets – and this race – well. Cycle racing is all about that – craft and bluff often winning over brute force. Cobbett rounds the penultimate bend perfectly positioned in the line of riders. A rider at the front fancies his chances of holding a go-for-broke effort to the finish line. Cobbett knows this is not possible. A second before it’s too late, Cobbett swings out of the bunch’s slipstream and breaks into an all-out sprint – 20 pedal strokes of agony to the line. Another T-shirt to add to his collection. Back to the question ‘Why?’. The world has always been a dangerous place, right from when we became skilled at navigating the risks to garner fresh deer carcasses to feed the clan each fortnight. Today, if we don’t have it in our modern daily lives, we’ll seek it out. We’re pre-programmed for peril, so we simply have to answer the call. We surf in dangerous waters, ski on vertiginous slopes and ride the Jozi Hustle to claim back our verve. Another regular, Floh Thiele, recalls, ‘Every week, at the end of the race, there are riders bragging about how close they came to a devastating crash. It adds an extra camaraderie to it all.’ Our simplistic theory goes a long way to explaining the race’s lore and lure. We crave danger – that small pocket of consciousness where our senses are heightened, our focus narrows to tunnel vision and we feel hyper-alive. For proof, search ‘Jozi Hustle GoPro’ on YouTube.
Journalist Julius Cobbett is the winningest rider in the event’s three-year history. The rider who comes last takes the DFL floating trophy – a bare rim, to which each holder attaches something new: rubber duck, binoculars, handlebars, compass, sex toy… Amazingly, only two minor traffic accidents have occurred, involving: 1. A photographer’s motorbike. 2. An intoxicated pedestrian. There have, however, been a number of crashes involving just the riders. Contestants may ride any type of bike they like. Many regulars claim to ride a different one each week.
Back in 2000, young Antipodeans Tom Doig and Tama Pugsley discovered that there were two towns in Mongolia named 'Moron' (spelt Mörön or MØPØH). After that, a single question burned in their hearts and minds. How could they not cycle from Mörön to Mörön? It had to be done, and they were the two morons for the job. They finally set off 10 years later, completed their daft mission and wrote a book about it. We caught up with Tom Doig long after the dust had settled. Picture: Tama Pugsley
Tell us a bit about your journey?
In short, my best mate, Tama, and I cycled 1 487km across northern Mongolia from a small town called Mörön to a smaller town also called Mörön. To make sure it wasn't too easy, our training before the ride consisted of raising our tolerance for consuming straight spirits and eating as much meat as possible. We bought a couple of steel-framed mountain bikes in Beijing the night before our train left for Ulaanbaatar, thinking it'd be 'hilarious' if they broke midway between Möröns. The ride itself took us 23 days, doing between 50kms and 110kms a day. Basically, we rode like beasts, sweated a lot, and slept in a too-small tent.
What the hell were you thinking and did you plan to write a book?
I always thought it would be a great idea, but that didn't mean I had any intention of actually doing it. Luckily for me, Tama is practical, determined and quite well paid. He did most of the organising, and lent me $1 000 so I could buy the mountain bike - I still haven't paid him back.
The combination of the mystique of Mongolia - land of wide-open steppes, bloodthirsty medieval warriors, galloping stallions, all those delicious clichés - and the fact that there were not one but two towns named Mörön were pretty potent fuel for our jaded first-world imaginations. In order to keep our ill-informed and largely inaccurate dream of Mongolia alive, we did as little research as possible beforehand.
Meanwhile, we kept a blog during the trip, because that's what 'young' people do these days, isn't it? Of course, most of the 500-person villages we pedalled through didn't have internet cafes, so the blog was composed in three or four massive outpourings when we made it to a city. On our 'rest day' in Erdenet, after riding for nine days straight, I bashed out something like 6 000 words in six hours. It was some of the most excited, breathless, Jack-Kerouac-on-Benzedrine-molesting-a-typewriter diary writing I've ever done - because for once in my comfortable suburban life, I had something to write about! So no, I wasn't planning to write a book about it at the time.
How much of the trip was actually 'all about the bike', and will this become a must-ride route for mountain-bike enthusiasts after reading the book?
Before we left, Tama and I had joked about how 'rugged' and 'brutal' it was going to be, but I had no real idea what I was getting myself into. Because of shonky planning, our first proper day of riding was 100km, including a 600m vertical climb just after breakfast - we ran out of water before we got to the top. By lunchtime, I was distressed and desperate and begged Tama to hitchhike to Lake Khövsgöl instead. But no, we stuck at it. The ride took 13 and a half hours, I think. We finished the day (at 11pm) in a state of adrenalized shock and disbelief. It was one of the greatest days of my life.
But there were also long periods, perfect minutes that stretched out for whole afternoons, where I'd find a rhythm, and just ride through wild-flower meadows - or fly down the gently sloping hills - and it was exquisite.
I definitely daydream about receiving an email from some young upstart telling me he or she has cycled our Mörön to Mörön route, and done the whole thing in like 15 days instead of 23. This would be crushing, but also extremely flattering. I've actually logged our trip manually into Strava, so if someone does the ride with a GPS with long-life batteries, we'll know about it!
I hope that one day the Mörön to Mörön ride will become a pilgrimage akin to the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain and France - but with more horse milk.
What were you most looking forward to before the trip?
I think I was most looking forward to the experience of putting on my skeleton-print spandex unitard and competing in the bökh - Mongolian wrestling that's a cross between sumo and prison sex. Bökh is the highlight of the Naadam Festival at Lake Khövsgöl. Unfortunately, we got to the festival late, and what happened instead was a bit …
well, it's on page 80.
What were you most looking forward to after the trip?
During the trip, Tama and I obsessed about getting back to Ulaanbaatar, smoking a joint out the hostel window and watching the last couple of episodes of The Wire. Unfortunately, the wild weed I had picked in Selenge didn't dry properly in the bottom of my pannier bag, and the final episode of The Wire wouldn't play on the cheap Chinese DVD I'd bought! It was awful.
Have you advanced the art of misadventure travel writing?
I hope so! There is a proud, if shabby, tradition of misadventure travel writing, that includes Eric Newby in the Hindu Kush mountains, Hunter S. Thompson in Las Vegas, Spalding Gray on holiday in Thailand … some would say Odysseus was the first great misadventure traveller, and that misadventures are the only real adventures - all the rest is just theme-park stuff. It might sound a bit macho and stupid, but I do think you learn a lot by purposefully putting yourself in harm's way and seeing how you cope with it.
What strongly held belief did you have before that you do not have now?
Tell you what, before the trip I was 31 years old and still living pretty much the same lifestyle as when I was a 19-year-old student. I thought that was how I wanted to live for the rest of my life: camping in a house, a perpetual Bohemian scumbag artiste. However, after a month of roughing it in a tent in Mongolia, I realised that Mörön to Mörön was just an intensification of my life back in Melbourne. And I had had enough! When I got back, I got a semi-respectable part-time job, moved in with my girlfriend, and paid money for furniture, instead of just scavenging it off the side of the road. In short, I sold out. Or grew up.
Also, I now firmly believe that endurance sports are awesome. I used to think marathon runners and triathletes were appalling, brain-dead corporate monsters in the throes of midlife crises. Now, I'm really into all of it.
Did you try to explain to the locals why you were doing this trip? And how would you rate the Mongolian sense of humour after the explanation?
We did sometimes try to explain what we were up to. Unfortunately, our Mongolian was very muu - I think that means 'bad'? And our Lonely Planet phrase book was pretty crap.
'Mörön' means 'river' in Mongolian, which isn't particularly funny - well, it depends on the river.
The most common reaction to our explanation was an eye roll. This seemed like all we deserved. If we met a local on a horse or motorbike, they'd look at our bikes, look at their own horse/motorbike, look at our bikes again, and shake their head, and/or spit. Again, this seemed appropriate.
Tell us something interesting about Mongolian people? One thing that blew us away was the thriving Mongolian hip-hop scene. We met a teenage boy on a bus from Ulaanbaatar to Mörön who had all sorts of awesome Mongolian hip-hop on his iPod. He played us some - the production was surprisingly professional, with proper scratching and sinister high-pitched loops in the Wu-Tang style. It was almost of a US hip-hop standard, and not enjoyably laughable like, say, Filipino or Aussie hip-hop. I asked the teen who was the best rapper in Mongolia. 'Opozit,' he said incredulously, as if that was a very stupid question. What was the best and worst thing you ate and drank on the trip? The best thing I drank, again and again, was the Chinggis Gold vodka - $4 for a 500ml bottle, and it was the purest of wheat vodkas, perfect for sipping. It really took the edge off after carrying your bike through a swamp or what have you. The worst thing I ate was some dried fermented mare's milk, a curds-ish thing called aarts. It tasted like rancid yoghurt with needles in it, and it gave me the most epic case of projectile-vomit food poisoning I've ever had. After the trip, do you think this kind of cycling adventure deserves to be rated alongside 'The Three Manly Sports'? Every year in Mongolia a festival called Naadam is held on independence day. The highlight is 'The Three Manly Sports' - archery, horse riding and bökh wrestling. The wrestling, like I said before, is a cross between sumo and prison sex. We were hoping to wrestle some official Mongolian champions at Naadam, but we got there a day too late to register. But I don't think that many Mongolians would think that cycling deserves to be a fourth 'Manly Sport'. The Mongolian perspective is that cycling is an inferior and stupid form of horse riding. And they're probably right. How do you go about Third World travel writing in a sensitive way? Ha, I'm probably not the right person to ask how to write in a 'sensitive' way! I'd say my sensibility is more harsh, hopefully self-aware, comedy. As a rich, white tourist travelling to a poor Third World country, I feel like it's important not to lose sight of your own whiteness, richness, and general privilege. If you're going to tell the unvarnished truth (as you see it) about the locals you're gawking at, you've got to make sure you're even more brutally honest about your own failings. As a tourist, I think that's the best you can do. The more principled, ethical option is to be a proper anthropologist, live in a country for years, learn the language, do your homework, etc. But that takes ages. Where to next for you and Tama? You do know there's a town named Morón in Cuba? There is a Morón in Cuba! Worse, there's a University of Morón in Buenos Aires, just 6 000 kilometres to the south! Part of me would love nothing more than to cycle from Morón, Cuba, to the beach, paddle a raft to Colombia, and mountain bike through the Andes and/or Amazon jungle until we reached Argentina. But I am very scared that we would be killed by gangsters, and that we would deserve it. I am even more scared that if I did do a trip from a South American Morón to another South American Morón, I'd have to write a book about it … and Morón to Morón II just wouldn't be as good as the first one. It would be contrived, disappointing, anti-climactic, self-parodying. And I've got no idea how I could compete with the shower masturbation scene from the original book.
Mörön to Mörön: Two men, two bikes, one Mongolian misadventure is available from Amazon and Moron2moron.
So, you've become a solopreneur? Well done! The freedom to pick and choose what work you do, the clients you want, and the ability to ultimately control your own career and financial destiny are unbeatable. Throw in the freedom to dictate your own working hours and to take leave when you want (assuming you can afford it) without some pencil-pushing company-admin dick counting the days, and chances are you will never look back. Welcome to the pack. The evolution of the new freelancer typically starts at home. To save on overheads, you 'work' from your kitchen in your pyjamas, checking the fridge for pickles you might have missed five minutes previously, and driving your other half (should you have one) or your cat (should you have one) insane. After a few months of this, in an effort to improve your appearance (ie appear less feral), you decide to take a desk in a shared office. The future is bright and peachy, like Monica Bellucci's butt in a disco dress. After all, what's not to like? A space with other like-minded souls, where together, but separately, you will create beautiful freelance things, do yoga and drink tea, and breathe fresh plant air from your pot plants and generally be rad like those clever-looking people in Apple adverts. Like those digs days, only cleaner, more professional, and with more computers and stuff. Right? Not quite. Just as you had no control over the halitosis of the lifer in the cubicle next to yours at Snore Inc., so too will a shared space of entrepreneurs come with its own human-relations challenges. Keep an eye out for these archetypes when it comes time to choosing shared office space.
THE RELUCTANT ADMIN She found the space, she brokered the lease, she vetted you for the spare desk and, after avoiding you for weeks, eventually invited you to revel in the splendour of shared office space. Now the smiles have faded and Robyn carries the pained expression of a professional gimp. Life is one long unwelcome S&M admin session in which she's trapped. All she wants to do is design cutlery/manage movie pets/play World of Warcraft, yet she finds herself chasing broke freelancers for rent, humming along to the Telkom helpline Pan pipes and doing line-speed checks for the obnoxious Artiste who is unhappy because she has important files to upload (read play on Pinterest).
THE ARTISTE 'Hello dahling! What's that...? No, I'm in early.' (It's 11am.) 'Yes, I'm at the studio.' Moët is a designer/photographer/curator of collective art nothingness. You've asked a few times what it is she does, but her responses sound like wine-label poetry. The office she shares with you she calls her studio. Her easel and palette - a MacBook Air. Her muse - a blank space and Sun Ra. Her look - a Prince Valiant haircut, black shawl over black clothes, red lipstick and a habit of laughing through her nose. Her voice mimics Zooey Deschanel via Nataniël's bored take on Checkers boerewors.
THE CONVERSATIONALIST Ant is a nice chap, really nice. In fact, you could be friends, but Ant never does any work. He's always there for you when you want a coffee, even when you don't want a coffee. In fact, he's just always there, waiting for you to raise your head from your screen to catch your attention and ask you something. It could be anything - the weekend's rugby, this new Nick Cave song or those delightful open-ended hypotheticals like, 'Would you rather get Ebola for a day or the plague for a week?' Blink and your day is over with very little done except a lot of airtime with Ant.
THE BIG-BUSINESS BOGFLY Fresh from quitting his marketing job at a big multinational, Warren has not yet learnt that big-office politics and tactics do not come into play in a shared space. Forming alliances over whose turn it is to buy the milk, insisting that his name is bigger on the office door because traditionally names starting with W get overlooked, name-dropping that he worked with Koos Bekker and boasting about the angel investors he has lined up for his WhatsApp-like app ('but it's not the same, oath bru'). All this falls on deaf ears. Literally. Everyone else has their headphones on to avoid the Conversationalist.
THE GHOST> 'No, Spike's not here. I think he's surfing. No, I'm not sure when he will be back. Try calling him.' The problem with sharing space with a ghost is that, other than scaring the bejesus out of you with the occasional visit to the office or that trail of naartjie skins or nut shells to show he was ever there, his constant absence combined with the fact that people know he has office space with you, means that you will always be playing secretary. In time, you will have placards or cue cards glued to your desk, informing all who seek Spike that he passed away on his surfboard. But, it's OK, 'it's how he would have wanted to go'.
THE DON DRAPER This chap is a good-looking yet supposedly functional alcoholic - suave and constantly hammered. Your liver aches for him, but goddammit you can't help but admire how, like an eternal 20-year-old, he manages to do it all again the next day, hangover be damned. The only change he brought to the office was a drinks trolley and the breath of an old man after a lifetime of whiskies and G&Ts. He calls women dolls, but somehow he gets away with it. What does he do? Something that involves flying business class and entertaining clients with escorts. Perhaps he launders money for the mob, or maybe he's an evangelical preacher. Whatever the case, Don is mysteriously flush all the time, which makes him fun to leech off when the largesse spills over.
Curious colleagues aside, sharing office space is the way to go. It forces you to get dressed, leave the house and go to work. The separation of work and home is important. It draws a line between when you're on the clock or not. Equally, the act of actually going to work is a big one, especially when you are suddenly your own boss and in charge of your own hours. Without that kind of structure or some form of discipline, you can easily find yourself asking for your old job back. An added bonus with shared office space is that the admin person tends to select people he or she wants in the office to complement the mix, and working with other solopreneurs is a surprisingly effective way to expand your network and drum up jobs. For example, a typical shared office of web designers, writers, photographers, PR people or marketers all need each other at some stage in the game. The fact that you sit two desks away and seem to be competent makes it easier for someone to rope you in. Most importantly, though, sharing office space restores the best part about working for someone else - the interaction with real, living, breathing people that no Skype conference call can replace. Sure, you may all have different professions, but even that variety adds something to the mix when you take a moment to step away from the headphones and chat. Who knows, you might get fresh perspective on a work hurdle that's had you stumped for a while. Maybe you won't and, instead, will spend an afternoon chatting hypotheticals with The Conversationalist, but then you would have done that in your old office anyway, so don't be too hard on yourself.
THE BUREAUX Location: The Woodstock Exchange, 66 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town. Offers: Eight unique office spaces, lounge areas, shared meeting rooms and Wi-Fi. There are private suites for SMEs requiring lock-up offices with shared meeting and kitchen facilities. Cost: Choose between renting on a month-to-month or short-term basis, or taking a longer-term, fully serviced office suite with a three-month notice period. Perk: The art installations, exhibitions and collaborations taking place in the open space of the building. Visit: The Bureaux Contact: Email
LA MACCHINA WORKSPACE Location: 1st Floor, 84 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town. Offers: A flexible open-plan setting for creatives and entrepreneurs located conveniently in the heart of the city. Also offers a private telephone room. Cost: R2 700 per desk, per month. Perk: A stiff bourbon after a long day on the ground floor. Visit: La Macchina Workspace Contact: Email or phone 021 424 0946
THE COMMON ROOM Location: 49, 6th Street, Parkhurst, Johannesburg. Offers: Desk space, Wi-Fi, coffee, boardroom facilities, networking opportunities, reception services, print and scanning facilities. Cost: Depends on how many days a month you'll need, and how many people will be working from the space. Price plans start from a R50 hourly rate. Perk: If you sign up for a six- or 12-month contract, you get your last month free of charge. Visit: The Common Room Contact: Email or phone 076 752 2723
THE OPEN Location: 4th Floor, The Main Change Building, 20 Kruger Street, Johannesburg. Offers: Hot desks, dedicated spaces, meeting rooms, lounge, phones, high-speed internet, reception and a coffee bar. Cost: Too many options to mention. Packages start at R1 500 (excluding VAT) and day vouchers start from R225. Individuals and SMEs can tailor their packages. Cost for usage of facilities depends on your tier. Perks: A nine-hole putting green, and you're in Maboneng. Enough said. Visit: The Open Contact: Email or 010 900 2000
Being born in one country and spending most of your life bouncing between a few others can lead to a bit of a personal crisis. You're caught in a tangle of languages, customs and cultures from which you attempt to construct some kind of identity. You're also brought up in a home that is a cultural fort of sorts, where the rules often contrast with those of your surroundings. Growing up becomes a curious struggle to bridge the two worlds, one that ends with setting up your own culturally dubious safehouse. But, as confusing as it can be, growing up as an expat kid does make for a fascinating experience. Firstly, there are the multiple language barriers. While some pick up their native language before they're extracted, others leave the motherland while the language isn't yet fully formed. The resulting situation is one where you're taught English at school; the playground is home to a new language spoken by your peers; and at home your parents speak your native tongue only to each other because, hey, you're in a foreign country so you might as well be fluent in a lingua franca. In the end, your first, and often only, language is English, peppered with various vernacular terms and exclamations that you've adopted from your peers. This can be both funny - and problematic to explain - if you're black and have lived in Africa your entire life. Then there's the parenting, which isn't exactly battle hymn of the tiger mom (and dad), but comes very close. 'When in Rome' doesn't quite apply, as your parents are, for the most part, still determined to raise you as if you'd never left, lest you do, say or wear something 'embarrassing' on the rare visit home. So forget those shorts that Seventeen is raving about (and anything else that flaunts your knees for that matter), those pre-teen slumber parties and definitely the co-ed school dances. Ditto for friends of the opposite sex. You may have embraced the concept of platonic friendships but, for your parents, this is and will continue to be a major culture shock. All this is a bit awkward to explain to your friends at first, but soon enough they get used to the strange customs that govern your household. A bit of leniency is possible, but as with all things in life this doesn't come easily and has to be worked for - a fact drilled into you from the moment your passport is stamped. Good grades can be exchanged for weeklong field trips, iPods and time spent with those friends that your parents don't particularly approve of. All is possible, and plenty can be forgiven if you're willing to live the almost hermit-like life of an overachiever; doing so indicates to your parents that you're actually making the most of the opportunities that they created by leaving everything and everyone they know. In the end, this really is what it's all about. Most expat parents essentially give up all that is familiar to them in order to open doors for their offspring that would otherwise not even exist. As you get older, you realise that what you sometimes perceived as extreme parenting was actually just your folks trying to retain some connection to a place they never stopped belonging to, but to which you grew increasingly foreign. You accept your role as mediator between them and their adopted country, become comfortable with your ambiguous place in the world and start to appreciate the unique outlook that comes from living between worlds and cultures.
Imagine a holiday in the middle of the coldest continent on the planet – you can soak up the sun at a summer high of -5°C, relax in the great white outdoors, or go all Bear Grylls and abseil from ice cliffs, or take lessons in technical mountaineering or kite-skiing. The milder options include visiting an emperor penguin colony or exploring ice caves. Home base is Camp Whichaway, situated on a 50-metre cliff. No shivering in mummy sleeping bags or melting snow for drinking water here – instead you’ll find luxurious tents and snug fibreglass pods. The adventure awaits after a five-and-a-half-hour flight from Cape Town in an Illyushin 76 jet. Could this be real? We checked with Simon Richman of White Desert about a holiday that seems equal parts eco, extreme and extravagant.
How did you get this job? What was on your CV? I used to be a British Army physical-training instructor, and have extensive snow and mountain experience. I was lucky enough to be recommended to join the White Desert team. I also make a great cup of coffee, so that must have swung things my way!
White Desert founder, Patrick Woodhead, said: ‘Only scientists and the odd polar explorer have been able to access the incredible beauty of Antarctica’s interior. We wanted to change all that.’ Who do you get more of – adrenaline junkies or penguin huggers? Good question! I’d say a bit of both, as simply being in the Antarctic gets your adrenaline going. The open vistas and fresh, pure air are invigorating. The outdoor activities, like hiking, cross-country skiing and climbing, are really amazing. In terms of hugging penguins, that’s a ‘No’. Our camp is environmentally friendly and it’s important that we do not impact on the wildlife. Penguins are decidedly tough and hardy. Their beaks are razor sharp, too. The Adélie penguins near the camp walk over 80km over frozen sea ice to get there. That’s super impressive with their little feet.
What are Camp Whichaway’s best features? It is lavishly furnished and has a gorgeous view of a glacier and a frozen lake. Guests are made extremely comfortable in their private en suite pods, and the food is prepared daily by a cordon bleu chef. I’d say the best feature is the staff (I would say that, wouldn’t I?) – a dynamic and energetic group. We have French Alpine guides and South African staff. They’re super-friendly, knowledgeable and passionate, and relish being able to share their love of Antarctica with the guests.
How many daylight hours do you have to play outside? The camp is only operational during November, December and January, when the weather is milder and there is more light. The sun stays up all day, so you get 24 hours of light in the summer months. It takes a bit of getting used to – going to bed when the sun is still up.
There aren’t any pics of icicled beards, frost-bitten noses or people flailing about in snowstorms on your website. How tough are the conditions? Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest of all the continents, and the weather can be ferocious. We realise that our guests are on holiday, and our aim is to keep them as comfortable and safe as possible. We haven’t yet had a guest who has requested to brave a snowstorm. Guests are equipped with snow boots, which can handle temperatures of -50°C, and other cold-weather gear, and all activities are planned in accordance with conditions.
Are there any night sounds, or just white noise? There are no insects in Antarctica at all, so you won’t get woken up by mosquitoes, that’s for sure. No car alarms either. The only animals are seals, incredible emperor penguins and skuas. We often get visits from the skuas – basically they are what you’d get if you crossed an eagle with a seagull. They prey on other birds and penguins, as well as scavenge the coast and sea for anything they can find. The only other noise is the wind. On a still evening, it is the quietest place I have ever been to.
About those penguins – how close can you get before they go into fight-or-flight mode? There are no big predators on land aside from leopard seals along the coast, and the skuas don’t readily attack grown penguins, so the penguins are usually very relaxed. The Antarctic treaty is very strict in terms of ensuring that wildlife is not disturbed, so you are not allowed closer than five metres to the little guys in tuxedos. That said, they will happily sit and let you take photos of them.
Guests can plan a bespoke holiday with extra thrills. What’s the most challenging special request you’ve dealt with? If you want to fly a hot-air balloon over Antarctica or ski to the South Pole, we can help you. On the last trip, we had a couple who wanted to get married in Antarctica, so they came down for just one day to tie the knot. Making sure the wedding cake was in pristine condition after the flight and the drive to camp was a challenge.
What are the chances of slipping into a crevass and being flattened into a frozen patty? Well, there are crevasses in Antarctica, but we keep guests out of them. All guests are always well briefed about their surroundings. We avoid any chance of the frozen outcome!
Any chance of standing on the actual South Pole? Of course. The South Pole trip is one of the unique adventures we offer. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and does come with a big price tag. But if you think that more people have climbed Mount Everest than been to the South Pole, it’s an amazing thing to do.
Any essentials to pack for the trip? There is a very long and extensive clothing list for Antarctica. My New Zealand merino wool icebreaker thermals and T-shirts were an absolutely brilliant base layer. They keep you warm, but not too hot and they don’t smell. Even after a whole month down there, they came up smelling like roses. Want to sniff?
What would you say to people who call this kind of adventure ‘trophy tourism’? They can call it what they want, but no animals die for a trophy and the only shots taken are with cameras. White Desert is also 100 percent wind and solar powered and we offset all our carbon emissions. We feel that the right kind of people seeing the last great wilderness will help preserve it for future generations of coffee drinkers. Being this close to nature has inspired a lot of our guests to be more aware of nature closer to home and to be more environmentally responsible in their everyday lives.
The White Desert experience: only four eight-day trips from November to January (maximum of 12 guests). Price: 39 400€ for ‘Mountain & Emperors’ and 59 000€ for ‘Emperors & South Pole’ trips. Includes flight from Cape Town. White Desert