The Joburg performance

Since I arrived in Joburg I haven't written much. There's something about being a newbie-at work and a new city-it's unsettling and exciting all at once. Joburg was never on my to-do list and now I'm here. The city of gold, the land of milk and honey.

I thought I had it all figured out:my small town life where I could walk everywhere and have no need for a car. A simple life. That dream was crushed when I couldn't or didn't get a job in the Eastern Cape and I listened to the friends who urged me to leave the bubble. And I did. First to Cape Town and now to Joburg. There's an expectancy in Joburg, a feeling that anything can happen, whether it's good or bad.

Many have written about the vibe, gees and spirit in Joburg. The fast-paced lifestyle. Ambition. Crime and violence. The list goes on. I can feel it in most places, especially when I'm stuck in traffic on Jan Smuts Avenue or getting lost in Braamfontien or Sandton. There's a hustle happening in almost every corner. Sometimes it feels like a performance. The Joburg performance. The busyness. Constantly bumping into people you know and promising each other you'll meet up. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. 

I started writing this post while waiting for the Hair Soiree to begin. This was the first event hosted by the Feminist Stokvel because hair is political and black girls and their issues and bodies matter. The event was the epitome of Joburg life: a room full of people who were familiar and unfamiliar. My favourite thing about Joburg is that as much as I don't fit in, I feel normal here. I don't feel like my blackness is special or exceptional or a burden. I'm not the spokesperson for my race because blackness has a voice in Joburg and the voice is varied. The voice is also accompanied by a scream that as much as Joburg is the land of opportunities, there's also a great injustice in the face of all the privileges around us.

Joburg isn't trying to be anything but itself. It's not trying to shame Cape Town (Cape Town does that with little assistance). Joburg is honest about what it means to live in South Africa. The arrogance of privilege and the anger of those who lack that privilege is pervasive. The ostentation of Sandton and the pretentiousness of Maboneng and the poverty in Alex- these experiences are all here. 

As someone who has only been here a few months I'm excited by the prospect of deciding to what extent I'll join the performance and what role I will play.


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