On Thursday I scratched a line through an item on my bucket list: stand in the centre of Ponte City. (I’d been invited on a photo walk by the iStore to mark the start of this year’s iPhoneography competition. We were given a MINI and sent out to capture our city in all her Insta-glory. I love my day job.) It’s a rite of passage if you live in Johannesburg. You can’t really call yourself a Jozi girl if you haven’t stood among the rubble and debris in the core of the 54-storey concrete cylinder that is Ponte’s tower and look up.
It was not what I expected.
I was thinking litter-strewn passageways tattooed with graffiti, busted lightbulbs still rooted in their sockets, out of order elevators with dangling cables, the residents a mix of dreadlocked artists and cocky drug dealers… but no. Ponte tower and the parking garage wrapped around it is a ghost town. We only bumped into one person as we climbed down the rusted steel staircase to the uneven, rocky floor in its centre.
I grew up listening to tales of how people who lived in the apartments throw all their trash out their windows, to land with a wet plop in the muck of trash and decomposing take-aways in the core. It’s not like that at all. In fact, it almost looks like a production crew carefully styled the floor at Ponte’s heart with carefully spaced items you’d expect: condom wrappers, broken glass, used nappies, tin cans. Like it’s a movie set. It felt surreal to actually stand somewhere that I have only seen through the eye of my imagination.
Inevitably, I imagined Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City. With that book she pretty much cornered all literary references to Hillbrow’s urban decay – I feel like I’m breaching some kind of copyright even attempting to capture the mood of Ponte in words here. So I’ll fast-forward straight to the bit where I share my clichéd Ponte photos (PS: I saved the very best ones to enter into the iPhoneography exhibition. Fingers crossed. None of my entries last year made the cut.)
What other must-have Jozi experiences should I add to my list? I’ve partied in the steel skeleton of the old train station, taken in the view from the rooftop at Randlords, dug into a bunny chow in Fordsburg... but I’m wondering about the more unusual things to do and see in my city. Any suggestions, Joburg readers?