Among the oldest of the city‚Äôs suburbs, and for years home to Johannesburg‚Äôs Jewish and Portuguese communities, the eastern suburb of Bezuidenhout Valley (better known as Bez Valley) has changed dramatically in recent years, with whites moving out of much of the old housing to make way for township and immigrant blacks. Cyrildene, to the northeast of Bez Valley, has become the city‚Äôs new Chinatown, with a fascinating collection of Chinese supermarkets, businesses and authentic restaurants along Derrick Avenue.
Most visitors to this area, however, come to Bruma Lake, an artificial stretch of water that has proved a disappointing attraction save for its popular and lively flea market. Nearby, and safe for walkers, joggers and picnickers, is one of Jo‚Äôburg‚Äôs more accessible green spaces, Gillooly‚Äôs Farm, a park set around a dam. The park is overlooked by a dramatic koppie that can be climbed in twenty minutes.
The suburbs immediately south of the city centre were traditionally the preserve of the white working class. After the repeal of the Group Areas Act in 1990, blacks started moving in; unusually in contemporary South Africa, many are wealthier than the original residents.
The Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum
Some 15km south of the city centre along the M1 is the excellent Apartheid Museum, featuring separate entrances for “whites” and “non-whites” (your race is randomly assigned): truly a world-class museum, delivering a sophisticated visual history that is distressing, inspiring and illuminating. The museum offers a nuanced insight into the deep social damage wrought by apartheid – and by colonial policies that long preceded it – and helps to explain the persistence of poverty and racial tension in the new South Africa. On the other hand, the museum’s visual account of the jubilant advent of democracy serves to remind us how miraculous the transition was.
Give yourself plenty of time to view the permanent exhibition of photographs by Peter Magubane of the 1976 Soweto uprising, and don’t miss the exhilarating short documentary on the State of Emergency during the mid-1980s, when a wave of mass demonstrations and riots, though violently suppressed, shook the resolve of the regime.