By Tammy Sutherns
I attended a monthly ‘girls’ dinner’ last night in the heart of Joburg’s city revival – the Maboneng Precinct – recently and was delighted by the food and the company. Maboneng is also one of my favourite things about Joburg. Even a friend’s comment about her parents not being happy that we had travelled into the city at night as “girls” could not deter my mood.
The funny thing about the trendy spot is that aspirant young individuals enjoy food, music and art on the border of some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Joburg. In South Africa we have one of the most alarming disproportionate relationships between the wealthy and the poor – the rich are very rich and the poor are very poor. Sipping champagne and eating caviar in Sandton is quite a sickening thought when a little kid, sobbing his eyes out and covered in grit stands at your car window.
Maboneng, however, I feel is redefining enjoyment in the city. It is no longer about excessive splurging and ridiculous meals that cost more than my monthly car payments. It’s about simplicity, culture and ambience. It is not a slap in the face to the neighbours living in squalor.
What’s more is it is repositioning our concept of Joburg’s inner city, despite some people’s views that it is still an unsafe place to travel to. The city is no longer merely associated with crime and grime, but instead with something quite innovative, unique and quite honestly, beautiful.
So yes, as us ‘girls’ sat at a table in the middle of Joburg eating the most delicious Ethiopian food (our whole bill coming to what one meal may have cost in Sandton), it was one of the most enjoyable dinners we have had all year. We had each travelled into the city at night – alone – and were all the better for it. I even stopped at a garage to ask how to get back on the highway on my way home. The garage attendant, who wrote directions down for me, was one of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered.
I’m not saying be reckless with one’s safety, I’m just saying as women, we especially need to get out of our comfort zones and redefine our spaces.